Pygmalion Revisited

This preface before revisiting the myth may be critical to your understanding of the stories that I post in the cycle of "Pygmalion Revisited".

I have been considering a series of stories based on the myth of Pygmalion for quite some time now. I think it is time to start. But you need to know a few things about this book in which each chapter is an independent short story with a common theme. I estimate they will run between 7,000 and 20,000 words, so pretty much a good chapter worth. The stories will all revolve around the love between an artist and his or her artwork. Not all will have the happiest of endings, but each will be a romantic story that may involve one or more sexual episodes. In the first story, the sex is limited, but it is very sensual. There is no posting schedule for this series so don't expect one every week. Each story stands alone and I'll add them as I finish them.

Many authors have riffed on the story of Pygmalion. The most famous in the English language is probably George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion on which the popular musical My Fair Lady was based. This is an example of the story with both a happy and a bittersweet ending. In Shaw's version, Eliza Doolittle leaves Henry Higgins and makes her own way in society, marrying Freddy Sanford-Hill, and opening a flower shop. Shaw held that Galatea, the sculpture embodied in Eliza, could only be truly considered alive if she were independent of the sculptor, Henry. In the musical, she returns to Henry and fetches his slippers. Well, we all want a happy ending. Each means something a little different.

You should have a passing familiarity with the story of Pygmalion. Our most dependable source for the story is from an epic poem by Ovid titled Metamorphosis (some 135,000 words) that recites most of Greek and Latin mythology in a single narrative. You can read the English translation of the 800-word segment that deals with Pygmalion at .10.tenth.html#373. Frankly, making sense of Ovid's poem might be challenging. To our contemporary ears, the language is certainly stilted at best, and you need to read at least a story before "Pygmalion" and probably one after to fully make sense of it all.

Here is the very short version:

Pygmalion is a sculptor on the island of Cyprus, probably sometime in the third or fourth century B.C. He has become disgusted with the behavior of the priestesses of Aphrodite who have turned their back on the goddess and have become common prostitutes, selling their bodies in the name of love. Pygmalion himself is devoted to the goddess and swears off all women and refuses to take a wife.

He carves a statue from ivory. This is an obvious problem with the Ovid rendition, for it is a life-size statue and I have difficulty imagining any animal that could yield an ivory tusk or tooth that size. It probably means a piece of ivory-colored marble of which we have many examples in Hellenic and pre-Hellenic sculpture—some of which the English actually left in Greece. The statue is so lifelike and so beautiful that Pygmalion begins to treat it as if it were real, dressing it, putting jewelry on it, and even kissing and fondling it. He creates a bed for it and a soft pillow for its head.

At the festival of Aphrodite, Pygmalion brings his sacrifice and prays that the goddess might bring him a wife who is "the living likeness of my ivory girl." The sacrifice is accepted. When he gets back to his studio, he repeats his ritual of kissing and fondling his statue and discovers the lips warm and her breast pliable. She opens her eyes and he names her Galatea. They are married and have two children according to the story, the first ten months later. Aphrodite turns the unfaithful priestesses to stone.

Of course, that hardly seems to do justice to the story. So what follows in the first story is my own romantic telling of the classical tale of "Pygmalion," trying to stick as close to the original intent as possible. The story is set in ancient Cyprus and I have done my best to be true to the culture and the time, but I live now, not then, so I made no attempt to stylize the language. It's contemporary.

I've used a few Greek terms that I've tried to make sure are adequately explained in the context. I should also note that the names of the tools the sculptor uses are Italian. Live with it. I couldn't find Greek equivalents of the Italian names used today.

So here goes. Enjoy!

Chapter 1 »

Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Romantic / Heterosexual / Slow /