The Music of the Gods
Extract from the book The Music of the Gods:
In the days before the rise of Zeus, when the fearsome Titan Cronus ruled over gods and men, a goddess sat upon a rock, holding a little girl in her arms. The name of this goddess was Rhea, and she was Cronus’ wife. Her face was sad and her expression thoughtful – and with good reason: She wished to save her children from her husband, whose one desire was to destroy them all lest they topple him from his throne. Now she held her little daughter Hera in her arms and racked her brains trying to think of a place where she could hide her.
It was the hour when the sun sinks towards its rest, and a breathtaking view spread itself before her. As she gazed out upon the magnificent sunset a thought suddenly crossed her mind. She remembered that beneath those parti-coloured clouds lay the fairest land in all the world, the land of the Hesperides. There lived the three daughters of Hesperus and Night, and now the time had come when she had need of them.
The land of the Hesperides lay far away, its shores beyond the reach of man; and it was not until much later that it was visited by the mythical heroes Heracles and Perseus. Above all, Cronus’ affairs never carried him so far afield; he had never visited the land of the Hesperides.
“That is where I shall hide my daughter,” Rhea cried, and swift as the wind she set out for the distant, brightly-coloured West.
The journey to that earthly paradise was enchanting; the further west she journeyed, the more beautiful everything around her became. Sky, earth, and sea were all bathed in countless colours, and when she stepped down into the land of the Hesperides, its radiance seemed to enfold her like an aura, holding her momentarily spellbound. Happy indeed are the Hesperides, the goddesses who live and rule in that place.
The three sisters came happily forward to meet her, but as they drew nearer their faces fell at the sight of Rhea’s troubled and anxious expression. She laid the child gently at their feet and then, sobbing, embraced them one by one.
“Unhappy mother that I am,” she cried. “For years now I have been losing my children. Their own father swallows them for fear that they will one day cast him from his throne, just as he overthrew his own father, the once-great Uranus. Thanks to Zeus, I now see them again, for he forced Cronus to bring them forth into the light once more, but alas! I fear that I must lose them yet again. Cronus is in real danger now, and who knows what schemes he may be plotting to do away with them for a second time? And so, kind godesses, I am now bringing you my daughter, Hera. A prophecy foretells that she will become foremost among goddesses, revered by mortals and immortals alike. Here, in this faraway land, Cronus will never come to do her harm.”
The Hesperides received little Hera gladly, and Rhea, her fears now laid to rest, set out once more for Greece.
The Hesperides brought Hera up with all the loving care of true mothers. They joined in her games, and taught her countless things about the gods, nature and the world.
Hera grew into a girl so beautiful that the birds and the beasts of the forest were dazzled when she passed. Yet her beauty did not turn her head. She was fond of study and learning, and wished to become a goddess worthy and capable of aiding both gods and mortals; and so she asked the Hesperides ceaseless questions on every subject under the sun. These fond foster-mothers took her for walks, showed her the sky and the earth, and explained how the winter comes, and the spring, and then the summer. They would often take her to a mountain, show her the clouds and the sea and explain how thunder and lightning and storms are caused. When night fell, they would show her the starry sky and teach her to pick out the constellations. Hera never tired of listening to all the Hesperides had to tell. She had now learned all the mysteries of the skies and felt immortal power stirring within her. She loved the sky, and would exclaim with girlish simplicity: “Oh, how I would love to be Queen of the Heavens!”(…)