Below is one of Stephen Fry’s shortest chapters in his book Mythos. Even though I’m reading them out of order, his sequel to this book really motivated me. So far this book has not been a disappointment. I hope I’m not breaking any rules by posting the whole, short chapter here. But I got as much fun out of typing it as I did reading it. Indeed. This text really took me for a loop. Even though it may or may not be just another retelling of a story told many times, Fry’s writing is fantastic.
From the book Mythos, chapter Apollo Reads The Signs, by Stephen Fry:
“Hermes may or may not have known it, but on his first night on earth he had travelled quite a distance. All the way from his birthplace on Mount Cyllene north through the fields of Thessaly and as far as Pieria, where he had found and rustled the cattle. And back again. In baby steps that is quite a distance. §What Hermes certainly could not have known was that the white cattle belonged to Apollo, who prized them highly. When news reached the god of their disappearance he set off in a fury to Pieria in order to follow what he assumed was a vicious gang of thieves to the their lair. Wild dryads or fauns gone to the bad, he imagined. They would regret taking property from the god of arrows. §He lay down in the cattle’s field to examine the ground with all the thoroughness of an experienced tracker. To his astonishment the brigands had left no useful traces at all. All he could see were random brush marks, meaningless whorls and swirls and–unless he was going mad–one tiny infant footprint. Any impressions that might have been formed by the cow’s hoofs seemed to be heading, not away from the field, but towards it! §Whoever had stolen the cattle was mocking Apollo. They were practised and expert thieves, that much was clear. His sister Artemis was the most skilled hunter hew new: would she dare? Perhaps she had devised some cunning way to conceal her tracks. Ares didn’t have the wit. Poseidon wouldn’t be interested. Hephaestus? Unlikely. Who then? §He noticed a thrush preening on a branch not far away in one smooth action drew his bow and brought the creature down. Slitting open the crop the god of oracles and augury peered forward to read the entrails. §From the colouration in the lower intestine, the kink in the right kidney and the unusual disposition of the thymus gland it was clear at once that the cattle were somewhere in the Arcadia, not far from Corinth. And what was that clot of blood on the liver saying to him? Mount Cyllene. And what else? So! It had been a baby’s footprint after all. §Apollo’s usually smooth brow was drawn into a frown, his blue eyes blazed and his rose-red lips compressed themselves into a grim line. §Revenge would be his.”