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Melampus

by J.C. Boyle
Melampus was the cousin of Bellerophon. He loved the animals, and he once saved two baby snakes his servants were about to kill. In return, the snakes gave Melampus the ability to understand what all animals said.

One day Melampus was walking around Pylos when he heard that the king was offering a reward if someone could cure his son from a strange sickness he had suffered since he was a toddler. Melampus went to the palace and started right away. He first slaughtered an ox, then waited behind a tree to see if the vultures who would eat the ox knew what to do. One of the vultures said that they had not eaten a feast this big since the king made a sacrifice and his son was scared by the bloody knife. When the king threw the knife away to comfort his son, the knife hit a tree and the nymph of the tree was hurt and angry. She cursed the boy, saying he would be sick until the knife was removed from the tree and the rust from it mixed with water. Then, the nymph promised that the prince would become well if he drank the rusty water.

Melampus removed the knife, mixed the rust with water and gave the drink to the prince to drink. The prince was well soon, and the king was overjoyed.

"Well, now you can pick your reward!" the king exclaimed. Melampus answered that he wanted two-thirds of the kingdom, one third for himself and the other for his brother, Bias.

The king hesitated for a moment, but then saw his son playing with his friends and granted the request. All was well for a while, but one day Melampus was kidnapped and put in a tiny, wooden cell. He heard some termites on the roof saying, "My jaws are aching! When will we be done gnawing through this roof?" and then heard another exclaim, "It will be done by morning!" Melampus shrieked and begged his captors to put him in another cell. He made such a fuss that they granted his wish. When the roof fell down the next morning, they thought he might be a prophet and the gods would be angered if they continued to imprison him. So they let him go, and he lived the rest of his life in peace.


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