Long ago the goddess Eos fell in love with Ares, the god of war, and like so many others, he could not resist the beauty of this goddess of the dawn. Rosy-fingered Eos dressed in long robes of saffron, and sitting upon her throne she glimmered and cast a look upon Ares he could not resist.
Alas, Aphrodite heard news of Ares' love, and bursting with jealousy, she cast a curse upon Eos: The goddess of the dawn would never stop falling in love.
And so it was that time after time, Eos fell in love with mortal men. This was a sad fate for a goddess, for mortal men do not live forever as goddesses do. But of all the tales of heartbreak, there was no sadder story than the tale of Tithonus.
Tithonus was a proud young man, a prince of Troy, handsome and brave, and the moment Eos saw him, she fell deeply in love. That was her way, but this time she decided she must carry him away with her, and so she brought him to her palace, away from his homeland.
Naturally Tithonus loved Eos. Who could resist the love of such a beautiful goddess? Just as she does today, in those years long ago, Eos woke the world each morning with curling rings of light, and every morning she mystically brought the world out of darkness. Whenever Tithonus looked at her, he felt a glow, the way so many people feel at dawn -- as buoyant as an April morning on those days when the first buds begin to bloom.
Tithonus and Eos lived together happily, and they had two sons, Memnon and Emathion, who also became famous among men and gods. All seemed well, but as time passed, Eos remembered something she had forgotten: Mortals do not live forever.
Eos began to mourn the future. How would she survive without her love? She could not imagine such a life, and so she asked the greatest god of all, Zeus, to grant Tithonus immortality.
"Please," Eos pleaded, "let my beloved Tithonus live forever." Her eyes filled with tears, her skin flushed, and even Zeus was moved, and so he granted her request.
Now Tithonus was immortal.
Never was there a happier man. Loved by a beautiful goddess, he was a proud father and ruler of a bountiful land, and Eos too was joyful, but they hadn't realized one thing.
Tithonus would live forever, but even Zeus did not have the power to make him a god. And so, as time passed, Tithonus, like all mortals, began to age. First Eos noticed the wrinkles upon his brow, and as the years passed, his muscles began to grow weak, his arms and legs grew slender, his hair grew gray and thin. Even the light of his beloved Eos no longer gave him the strength it once had.
When Eos understood Tithonus's fate, the sight of him filled her with such sadness that she could not bear to look at him. So she left him alone and traveled, falling in love with others.
Eos fell in love with other mortal men and other gods, and when she returned to Tithonus she would see her once-handsome beloved withering away. Day after day, he grew older. Like a shadow he roamed silent palaces of the gods of the east, thinking of long-ago days, remembering Eos' wish for his immortality, and ashamed of his desire for it.
How arrogant he had been. He hadn't thought of the future. In his youth he had never even imagined waste, and now here he was wasting away. Even love and beauty and power could not save him. Soon he wanted to be like other mortal men. He wished for the return of the natural order of life.
Some mornings when a soft breeze parted the clouds, he looked down at the dark world where he had once lived, and again he looked at Eos. Seeing her mysterious glimmering face and her exquisite light, he remembered the way she had once loved him. He watched with longing as the gloomy darkness below parted, and the rosy light of his beloved Eos warmed the world. This made him still sadder, for her warmth and glow were now lost to him, and he began to sing, "Give me back my mortality." But even the gods could not grant this request.
And now the rosy shadows of Eos bathed him in coldness as he looked down at his wrinkled feet, and cried out to Eos: "Every morning you renew your beauty, but I am a fool, a fool who desired to be different from his fellow men, and now I cry to you, forever. I will never stop singing this song. I sit here remembering what I cannot be."
Eos could bear this no longer, and so she used her powers to transform this shell of a man into a cicada. She watched as he emerged from the ground, his body pale but fresh as he shed his old skin, wings spreading where once there were arms, and that voice, singing on, and on, and on.
"Tell Me a Story 2: Animal Magic," the second CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.
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