In 5th grade students recently wrote their own myths. In conversation with Mr. Chertudi, I (Mr. Gildersleeve) asked a few questions about those myths, which you’ll see at the close of this article. And of course, Mr. Chertudi sent us a myth to read; this one, which you’ll see immediately below, comes courtesy of Charlie Walsh.
Always Looking Down
By: Charlie Walsh
“Please take pity on Prometheus. Every day, I wake and catch sight of his liver being used as a bird feeder. I am not able to stand by and witness this inhuman act any longer. So please, forgive Prometheus for his actions and free him.
That was the letter Hermes, the Greek messenger god, was delivering from Athena to Zeus.
Hermes inspected the letter, as he does with all letters, and thereafter planned to rescue Prometheus in hopes of winning Athena’s heart.
Hermes soared to the mount on which Prometheus was chained and questioned him.
Hermes asked, “Why were you sentenced to this cruel fate?”
Prometheus replied, “I wronged Zeus continuously. I gave the fire of the gods to man. I also dishonored Zeus by making an unworthy sacrifice.”
“Is there a guard watching?” asked Hermes
Prometheus answered, “Yes, the guard will conclude his lap soon and return here.”
“Then we must make haste.”
Hermes hacked at the chains until they crashed to the ground as loudly as if Poseidon had dropped his trident. He then flew Prometheus quickly away.
When the guard finished his circumambulation, he alerted Zeus of Prometheus’s absence. Zeus looked down from Mount Olympus, where all can be seen. He spotted Hermes with Prometheus and came for them, like a lion hunting its prey.
“You think you can escape from me?” Zeus viciously shouted. Zeus threw Hermes to the ground, exclaiming, “Weak! Weak!”
Zeus searched him, and discovered Athena’s missive. But after he read the letter, to appease Athena and keep the gods at peace, he decided to let Prometheus go. However, he did not let Hermes off so easily. He banished Hermes to the moon and treated him like a beast. Zeus forced Hermes to relinquish his godly powers. Just as Zeus intended, Hermes, now on the moon, began to suffocate.
After Athena watched this scene unfold, she felt it was time to confess her feelings for Hermes. She noticed his generosity and felt sympathy for him. She engraved his likeness into the moon, so he may watch over earth for eternity. This is why when you look up at night, you will see Hermes, the man on the moon, looking down, always.
In conversation with Mr. Chertudi:
What myths have students read of late that would influence their own, self-written myths?
Mr. Chertudi: Most recently students read the myth of Romulus and Remus. When we had started writing myths of our own, we had also been reading myths such as those of Echo and Heracles (although that latter myth may be considered more of a "legend").
Why should one - in this case, a 5th grader - read a myth?
Mr. Chertudi: Well, there are many reasons, but I suppose one reason that I have highlighted with the myth of Romulus and Remus is that the myths tell us more about the ancient Romans than perhaps the "real history" does. The real history of Rome is pretty murky anyway. But we learn a lot about the Romans by the types of stories they told about themselves. In other words, mythology gives us insight into the values of a culture in a way that the straight facts of history cannot.
Lastly, why write a myth?
Mr. Chertudi: We have read many myths that attempt to "explain" some aspect of the natural world, so I posed this challenge (to write a myth) to my students. What are they to get out of it? Most practically, they got practice in how to punctuate dialogue which we had been practicing in grammar class. However, the larger point is that we are trying to imitate the greats. In trying to compose a myth, we learn firsthand from the great storytelling that has endured for thousands of years.