LESSER-KNOWN GREEK MYTHS
The Myth of Mallardia
The all-knowing, all-seeing Zeus ventured one day to the base of Mount Olympus, where a band of water nymphs was frolicking in a pond. As he was wont to do, Zeus took the form a young woodsman and stood in a grove of fig trees until one of the nymphs took notice of him. Naked, she covered herself and approached the young man. “Woodsman,” she said, “why do you stop your work and watch us?”
“Because I am in awe of your beauty,” Zeus replied.
“You are beautiful as well,” the nymph said.
“How do you call yourself?”
“My name is Mallardia,” the nymph said. “And yours?”
Unwilling to reveal his true identity but reluctant to lie, Zeus transported himself and the nymph instantly to the top of the mountain.
Finding herself suddenly in Zeus’s chamber, Mallardia exclaimed, “Surely, you are not merely a man!”
“Would you find me any less beautiful if I were not a man?” Zeus said.
“I don’t know,” said the nymph. “I cannot say. I have never before set eyes on a god.”
“Who is to say I am a god?”
“No mortal could have taken me from the fig grove to this palace in the blink of an eye.”
“Your beauty is equaled by your wisdom,” Zeus said, embracing Mallardia.
Moments later, the goddess Pallas Athena strode down the hallway, seeking Zeus’s counsel. Finding the door open, she entered, only to discover Zeus and the nymph locked in full embrace. “Forgive me, sire!” She gasped. “I did not mean to interrupt your pleasure!”
“Pleasure?” Zeus bellowed. “There was no pleasure here!” And as quickly as he had brought Mallardia to the mountaintop he transformed her into a common waterfowl, as well wiping her true nature from Athena’s memory. “Why have you come here, Pallas Athena?” He asked.
“I do not recall, sire,” whispered the bemused goddess.
In the garden, Athena found Hera, queen of the gods and consort to Zeus, among the lotus flowers. “Athena, you are ashen as a ghost,” said Hera.
“Forgive me, queen, but I have just seen Zeus in congress with a duck.”
“In congress? I beg you, explain.”
“Zeus and the duck, you know…” Pallas Athena made a vulgar gesture with her two hands.
Hera gave a great shrug. “I don’t know what to make of him. The business about the swan was one thing, and now it’s ducks.”