Bibliographic Information (best version for telling): 

“Baucis and Philemon” from the book Wisdom Tales from Around the World, by Heather Frost.  August House, Inc. Little Rock Arkansas, 1996.


Ethnic Origin:  Greece


Running Time: 7-8 minutes with introduction and conclusion


Power Center(s):

q  Rudeness of villagers answering their doors (Reason: I received the word rude two weeks ago when we practiced emotions in class, and I want to get better at that emotion and try it in a performance)

q  Baucis and Philemon begging for forgiveness and then chasing the chicken (Reason:  I think begging is an emotion I feel comfortable with doing, but chasing the chicken is something that will be going out on a limb for me, but it is an action I want to try because you said to sometimes, show, don’t tell)

q  Peacefulness of Baucis and Philemon making their wish together (Reason: Peace may be the hardest emotion to show or because their wish is so touching, it may be the easiest.  I am choosing it because personally I was touched by their wish.)


Characters:  Zeus, Hermes, Baucis, Philemon, villagers answering the doors




Synopsis:  One morning Zeus and Hermes decided to disguise themselves as beggars and go into a village to see how mortals treated strangers in need.  They stopped at several different houses and were met by rude villagers who offered nothing, but insults.  At last, they came to a small hut where an elderly couple lived, Baucis and Philemon.  The elderly couple invited the meek beggars to join their dinner of bread and water. Zeus and Hermes were delighted to find some kind villagers.  When Baucis poured their water, it came out as wine and the elderly couple realized that they were in the presence of immortals.  Baucis and Philemon began begging for forgiveness because they did not offer the gods a better meal, like their chicken.  Baucis and Philemon began chasing their chicken to kill it for dinner, when Zeus told them to let the chicken live and granted the elderly couple one wish for their generosity.  The couple wished never to feel the pain of separation.  Consequently, when they died, they were transformed into trees that had entwined branches forever.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/Flavor:

·         The villagers’ insults, “Here is my hospitality, I will sweep you away” and “Begone, flea-bitten beggars.”

·         When Philemon says, “We will kill the old chicken!  Allow us to make amends.  We are unworthy!  We have served the immortals food that is too simple.”

·         When Baucis and Philemon make their wish together, “We wish to be together always.  When we die, let us die at the same moment so that neither of us will suffer the pain of separation.” 


Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?)

This story is appropriate for an adult audience.


Piaget:  The audience I have chosen would be in the Formal Operational stage.  The formal operational thinkers would be able to think abstractly and construct theoretical thoughts.  Thus, a story about a god and goddess and their supernatural powers (granting wishes and turning water to wine) is appropriate. Also, Baucis and Philemon’s wish included thinking forward about death.   Their request is beyond concrete thoughts.  Their wish to always be together and die at the same moment so neither one endures suffering is a selfless theoretical thought that even many young and middle-aged adults still need time to contemplate.


Erik Erikson: This audience would be in the Young Adulthood stage, (ages 19-40) called Intimacy vs. Isolation.  The audience members, in this stage may have intimate feelings for a significant other.  Not resolving these feelings could possibly lead a person to feel the suffering of isolation. Those in the audience that have been involved in relationships can identify with Baucis and Philemon.  Although Baucis and Philemon display a relationship already beyond the Young Adulthood stage.  If there were audience members in the next stage, Middle Adulthood, they would be at the Generativity vs. Stagnation level.  This level is when each adult finds a way to satisfy and support the next generation.   Baucis and Philemon are kind enough to let strangers in and to feed them, a way of supporting the next generation. They say, “we do not have much, but what is our is yours.”  Baucis and Philemon have “parent-like” qualities that they share with Zeus and Hermes, another element of the Middle Adulthood stage.  They care about them, want to give them nourishment and provide shelter for them.  Finally, one could argue that even though no one in the audience has probably reached the final Erikson stage, Maturity (65 to death) that the characters, Baucis and Philemon, exhibit this stage when they choose their wish.  Their wish is a culmination of reflection on life and a feeling of fulfillment of true love, to never feel the pain of separation in the after life. This is true to the Ego Integrity vs. Despair at the final Maturity stage.


Kohlberg:  Finally, this story would be appropriate for adults in Kohlberg’s stage Five, called Post-Conventional. (social contract orientation), where everyone takes responsibility for his/her actions  Baucis and Philemon act with empathy when the beggars arrive at their door.  Kohlberg has designed moral scenarios in which he looks for empathy.  Kohlberg has been criticized for addressing the individual, not the common good of the community.  In this story, Baucis and Philemon are completely driven by their harmonious relationship as one, not as individuals.  The wish they choose shows true morality and higher order moral thinking.  Would a wish you make at 30 years old, be the same wish you would make at 40 years old?  70?  The following is a common Kohlberg scenario that is appropriate for adults:  Your wife needs medication for a life-threatening illness and you don’t have the money to buy it.  You asked the local pharmacist if you could pay in increments, but he refuses.  What would you do?  Applying this to the story characters, what would Philemon have done?  This scenario could leave post-conventional thinkers to reflect upon the question, “Does morality equal justice?”  Rarely, do people reach Kohlberg’s final Post-Conventional sixth stage called, “Universal Ethical Principle Orientation.”  Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Mother Theresa have reached this stage.  Do you think Baucis and Philemon did?


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)

·         Metamorphoses by Ovid. The Story of Baucis and Philemon.  See

·         Roman Myths.  Baucis and Philemon.  See`grandpa/romyth.html


For Further Reading about Baucis and Philemon stories:

·         There is a painting at the North Carolina Museum of Art called Jupiter and Mercury in the House of Philemon and Baucis (1645) Oil on canvas. Artist: Jacob Jordaens.

·         Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art.  By James Hall.  Harper and Row Publishers, New York. 1974. (Pages 244-245 are Philemon and Baucis)

·         There is an incredible list of resources at`delucej/bparts.html. This site includes paintings, stories, drawings, and musical dialogue.


Brief comparisons of all versions/variants in terms of language, rhythm, tellability, flavor, content, etc.  Stress the differences in style rather than those of content.


            The Ovid version is Roman and it uses the names Mercury and Jupiter. The Greek stories use the names Zeus and Hermes.  The Ovid version is in a poetry/prose type format.  Every two lines rhyme and the language (thou, thy, ere, o’er) reminds me of Shakespeare.  Some examples include, “Not far from thence is seen a lake, the haunt. Of coots, and of the fishing cormorant.”  This version has rhythmic and lyrical language that would be appropriate for adults.  This version requires a lot more background information about Roman gods and places.  For instance it says, “ Then Lelex rose, an old experienc’d man, and thus with sober gravity began” and “Ixion’s son.” It took me a long time to read and make sense of each couplet.  Ovid’s version has many more details, which adds to the flavor.  For an experienced storyteller, this would be an incredible version to know.  For a beginner storyteller, I think the prose version is more difficult in tellability because there are specific lines to know and remember.  It would be harder to improvise. 

The Roman Myths version is significantly shorter.  I feel as if it is more of a summary, than a complete version.  The tellability is not very interesting.  Although, this version does contain a flood and the elderly couple hurries to a nearby mountain because a flood was about to destroy their evil neighbors.  The ending is not as powerful.  It states that Baucis was turned into an oak tree and Philemon was changed into a lime tree.  There is no mention of their branches being entwined.  The strength of the elderly couple’s relationship is not developed. 

            Again, none of the versions had pictures.  I purposely continued not to want pictures in order to try and help me create my own visual pictures.  I am happy with the version I picked, the Wisdom Tales story.  It had the right balance of details and development of characters, especially the devotion between Baucis and Philemon.