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Weeping Willow

The origin of the willow tree based in Greek Mythology

By Shelby R PerezPublished 10 months ago 4 min read

In the city of Trichonida, there lived a young woman who was called Willow. Her family were not rich but they were happy with what little they had. Their house was just big enough for the three of them and surrounded by flowers, Willow and her mother would weave into wreaths to sell at the market while her father sold their vegetables. Every day Willow would walk to the bank with two buckets to collect water and relax on the wet grass, if the day wasn’t too hot and every day she would water each vegetable and flower with care with one bucket and use the other bucket to drink and make stew for herself and her parents.

One day, as she was resting on the bank after a long day she looked around and thought, perhaps I should plant a tree by the water, so I could rest against it and hide from the heat of Apollo’s sun and breeze from the four winds.

She smiled to herself as she imagined the cool shade. She wondered what tree would root best. Something with fruit? Something with flowers?

As she was thinking, the sound of footsteps startled her back to awareness. She turned and saw men in leather armor marching towards the bank. Their bronze shields and weapons frightened the girl and as one of the men looked over at her she become so terrified she immediately stood and ran back to her house. However, she saw more soldiers at her door and her father stood before them. When he saw his only child racing toward him, the man tried to smile, but he was clearly upset by something.

“My child,” he said in his raspy voice. “My dear Willow, you must take care of yourself and your mother now for I must join the army and go to war.”

Poor Willow and her distraught mother watched as her father went away with the soldiers. For days the two women cried for fear of what would happen to the man they loved so dearly. Still, she obeyed her father’s order and cared for the house, took the vegetables and her wreathes to the market with her mother. Now every day she prayed to the gods for her father’s safe return home. Alas! He never returned to the little house by the bank. Their grief was so great that no matter what Willow did, the flowers would no longer grow, for she cried so much her tears had salted the earth, and though some of the vegetables remained, her mother would not eat. Business had also failed in the market because Willow’s beautiful face was always covered in tears that landed on the produce making them too salty and bitter. Then, one evening, upon returning from the market, basket still full of vegetables, Willow saw her mother laying on her cot, motionless and turning cold. She buried her dear old mother that night and stayed vigil. Her tears never stopped flowing as she placed the last wreath atop her grave; the flowers long dead and withered.

All through the night, Willow stayed by the grave, and prayed again to the gods, this time for her mother to join her father in Elysian, for she had no money left to place under the old woman’s mouth. All night she prayed and pleaded for Chyron, the ferryman to take her mother across the Styx despite having no silver.

Even as Apollo’s chariot ascended with the sun, Willow did not cease her prayers. Only once the sun had reached mid morning sky did a soldier approach.

“I remember you from the bank when we came to recruit your father. You were so lovely then. I wish to dry your tears and restore your beauty by sparing you your grief and ask that you become my wife. I had asked your mother the day before while you were at market and she agreed, provided I take great care of you. I agreed and left, but had not thought she would die so soon nor that I would ask like this, but now that both your parents are gone, there is nothing left for you here.”

Shocked and inconsolable at the man’s harsh words, Willow did as she had before and raced away as fast as she could, this time from her house to the bank she had once found solace at.

At last, exhausted and overcome, she fell upon the bank, leaning over the cool water. Willow wept and pleaded with the king and queen of Hades to let her see her parents again.

“If only I had something to offer. But then, perhaps mother and I could sit on the shore of the Styx together.”

Heavy with despair, Willow remembered she had still yet to plant a tree to offer shade on the bank. Leaning further down toward the inviting current she realized that her legs were now rooted to the earth. The change was almost instant. She felt her skin become tough and her blood thicken, making her body feel more heavy and sleepy. The tears continued to pour from her eyes and into her hair until they solidified, stretched and flattened, attached to each dark strand until they touched the surface of the water, causing ripples in the reflecting surface.

When the soldier went to search for Willow he found a new tree on the shore. It’s slender branches hung around the bent trunk like a veil, dyed yellow from the many flowers blooming along them.

~happy ending~

It was these branches that caught the attention of Hermes of Cyllene, who then brought them to Dread Persephone and Stalwart Hades. Fascinated by the elegant flora, the queen requested Hermes to ask Helios what he had seen.

Upon learning of the tree’s origin and the poor girls fate, Queen Persephone asked her husband to take the lovely willow branches as payment for the ferry into Elysian. Hades agreed, and Willow’s soul was lead to her mother on the shore of the river styx, a bundle of her own branches tucked into her arm to give to Chyron.

Finally, after so much pain, the family was united in the fields of Elysian and a second willow tree grew beside their new little house.


About the Creator

Shelby R Perez

I am a college student and lover/writer of fiction and poetry, especially Fairytails and mythology. I am working to become a published author, using my love for myths and legends to reintroduce gods, spirits, demons and heroes.

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