Fairy-Tale Files, published once weekly, feature three variations of a fairy tale chosen by one of Fairy Tale Review’s editors, interns, or past contributors.
Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, is perhaps one of the most well known of the Greek deities. In Callimachus’s version of one popular myth, the hunter Actaeon comes upon the virgin goddess bathing in a clearing. As punishment for his indiscretion, Artemis transforms Actaeon into a stag, totem of the goddess, and, in doing so, the hunter becomes the prey. Set upon by his own hunting party, Actaeon is torn apart, piece by piece, by his own hounds.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning collection The Stories of John Cheever, the author incorporates the Actaeon myth under the guise of Artemis’s Roman counterpart, Diana, in his story Goodbye, My Brother. The story explores the usual Cheever fare—suburban ennui and revelry, which, in this case, includes a lot of drinking, backbiting, and, of course, swimming. In the final scene of the story, the nameless narrator turns his gaze to the ocean view of the family’s New England estate: “My wife and sister were swimming—Diana and Helen—and I saw their uncovered heads, black and gold in the dark water. I saw them come out and I saw that they were naked, unshy, beautiful, and full of grace, and I watched the naked women walk out of the sea.” One wonders if Actaeon experienced a similar reverence before his unfortunate demise.
In her 2012 concept album In the Time of Gods, Dar Williams revisited several Greek myths, rendering each within a modern context. For the sixth track, Crystal Creek, Williams turned her attention to the Actaeon myth. In this rendition of the story, Artemis observes a group of men “staring drunken through their sights” as she guards Crystal Creek. When one of the hunters spots her naked, the goddess asserts that she must “show the world that he [is] not a true hunter.” Click here to watch Dar Williams perform “Crystal Creek” from In the Time of Gods.
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by Fairy Tale Review Associate Editor Benjamin Schaefer.