Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book on Kindle

The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, by Otto Rank, [1914], at

p. 23


The famed Greek legend of the birth of Paris relates that King Priam of Troy had with his wife Hecuba a son, named Hector. When Hecuba was about to bear another child, she dreamed that she brought forth a burning log of wood, which set fire to the entire city. Priam asked the advice of Aisakos, who was his son with his first wife, Arisbe, and an expert in the interpretation of dreams. Aisakos declared that the child would bring trouble upon the city, and advised that it be exposed. Priam gave the little boy to a slave, Agelaos, who carried him to the top of Mount Ida. The child was nursed during five days by a she-bear. When Agelaos found that he was still alive, he picked him up, and carried him home to raise him. He named the boy Paris; but after the child had grown into a strong and handsome youth, he was called Alexander, because he fought the robbers and protected the flocks. Before long he discovered his parents. How this came about is told by Hyginus, according to whose report the infant is found by shepherds. One day messengers, sent by Priam, come to these herders to fetch a bull which is to serve as the prize for the victor in some commemorative games. They selected a bull that Paris valued so highly that he followed the men who led the beast away, assisted in the combats, and won the prize. This aroused the anger of his brother Deiphobus, who threatened him with his sword, but his sister Cassandra recognized him as her brother, and Priam joyfully received him as his son. The misfortune which Paris later brought to his family and his native city, through the abduction of Helen, is well known from Homer's Iliad, as well as from countless earlier and later poems.

A certain resemblance with the story of the birth of Paris is presented by the poem of Zal, in Firdausi's Persian hero myths. 1 The first son is born to Sam, king of Sistan, by one of his consorts. Because he had white hair, his 

p. 24

mother concealed the birth. But the nurse reveals the birth of his son to the king. Sam is disappointed, and commands that the child be exposed. The servants carry it to the top of Mount Elburz, where it is raised by the Seemurgh, a powerful bird. The full-grown youth is seen by a traveling caravan, whose members speak of him as "whose nurse a bird is sufficient." King Sam once sees his son in a dream, and sallies forth to seek the exposed child. He is unable to reach the summit of the elevated rock where he finally espies the youth. But the Seemurgh bears his son down to him; he receives him joyfully and nominates him as his successor.


23:1 Ibid., translated by Schack.

Next: Telephus