Folktale Friday: Pygmalion and Galatea


Today, I’m going to talk about Pygmalion and Galatea, one Greek myth with a happy ending.

Pygmalion was a famous sculptor on the island of Cyprus, who gave each of his creations a truly lifelike appearance. He was deeply devoted to his art and didn’t really spare a thought to anything else, least of all women. In each version of the tale I’ve read, a different reason is given for Pygmalion’s indifference to women- in one, it was because he was revolted by the faults he constantly found in them; in another, he declared that he was not interested in women after seeing the Propoetides prostitute themselves. In any case, Pygmalion vowed to never marry.

One day, he carved a statue of an incredibly beautiful woman, and he was so enchanted by his own creation that he couldn’t take his eyes off of her, and he fell in love. The statue was named Galatea in later versions. He dressed her in fine clothes and gave her fine jewelry and ornaments, and became obsessed with her. Pygmalion adored the statue, and desired her as his wife; he spent his days and nights staring at her.

Eventually, a festival for Aphrodite was held in Cyprus, where Pygmalion lived, so he went and made offerings to her; he prayed that she would give him one like the statue as his wife. Aphrodite, who was attending the festival and listening to peoples’ prayers, heard Pygmalion’s prayer, and feeling his sincerity, she went to go see the statue that he loved so much. Amazed by how beautiful the statue was, and how much it looked like her, she decided to grant Pygmalion’s wish.

When he returned to his home, Pygmalion went straight to Galatea, hoping. It slowly dawned on him that Aphrodite had heard his prayer and granted his wish- the statue was coming to life right there.

Over time, their love grew and blossomed, and after a time, they were married with Aphrodite’s blessing. Eventually, they had a child, Paphos, and they lived happily ever after.

Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, and My Fair Lady, were both based off of this myth. I think what makes me really happy about this myth is that it has a happy ending- no one dies horribly, everyone finds love, a dude gets the statue he was in love with- wait, that last part might not be so good. But, it’s a nice myth to read about.

(Got a myth or fairy tale you want me to cover? Leave it in the comments!)

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