Created Jan 2005 • Last modified 22 Jul 2005

In tenth-grade English, I was required to write a short story from a third-person limited perspective in which (a) the protagonist is in love with another character and (b) the feeling isn't mutual but (c) the protagonist thinks otherwise. Retelling the myth of Daphne seemed like a natural choice.

Apollo slouched dejectedly on his throne on Mount Olympus. Everything seemed very dull. The supplicants at his oracle in Delphi kept asking him the same old boring questions ("Am I fated to kill my father, marry my mother, or both?"), and he'd already led the chorus of the nine muses a million times before, and Helios made a big fuss every time Apollo commandeered his chariot. In the absence of anything better to do, the god of light, music, and reason decided to take his father's advice: when in doubt, get a new wife.

And so, Apollo moseyed on down to the world of mortals and perused the land, searching for a woman of beauty striking enough to befit his most esteemed divine rank. Soon enough, he found what he was looking for in Daphne, a ravishing young nymph. She was going about her nymphly duties—things as ambiguous to the gods as the psychology of human women to Freud—when Apollo sidled up to her. Before she could react to his presence, he flashed the most awesome Olympian grin he could muster and said:

"Hey baby, how about you and me?"

The result was rather disappointing. Daphne's eyes popped open like a frightened deer's, and she took a few quick, nervous steps backwards. No biggie. thought Apollo. She's just overcome with my unparalleled manliness and dashing physique.

Undaunted, he approached her again, a little closer this time, keeping his deific smile at full strength. "Don't worry, honey bunch." he said soothingly. "I just want you to be happy. With me."

No, this wasn't going quite as it was supposed to. By now, Daphne should already have been melting in his arms. But she obviously didn't intend on following the rules. She bit her lip and, without further ado, turned 180° and zoomed away as fast as she could possibly go.

This rather threw Apollo off his guard. What's the matter with her? Why is she playing so hard to get? Well, it wasn't like he was going to give up, or something. Sure he could just find some other nymph, but he had a reputation to uphold. And so, the god whom the Romans dared not rename pursued his object of affection.

Daphne played very hard to get, indeed. After a while, even Apollo's divine legs began to tire of chasing, while the nymph's speed seemed unabated. But she looked even more beautiful when she ran, and that motivated him to keep going, despite how she still failed to respond to the many pickup lines he shouted at her as he thought of them.

Eventually, just as the real slayer of Achilles was about to collapse, Daphne came to a river and stopped. "Please! Save me!" she shouted at the river. Apollo, entranced by the music of her voice and completely ignoring what she was saying, eagerly leapt upon her. Finally, finally! he thought happily, as he threw his arms around her… trunk?

"Oh, Stix!" He seemed to be embracing not a lovely young woman, but a tree. It was a laurel. A beautiful laurel, to be sure, but a tree nonetheless. Apparently, she been speaking to her father, the river god, who had done his best to protect her at such short notice by changing her form to one in which her maidenhood was permanently protected.

"Alas!" cried Apollo as his face fell. "Dear nymph, you have greatly deprived me. I see now," he began, hoping that he wouldn't see Zeus chuckling behind his beard in the near future for this, "that you refused to decorate my harem. At least, if you will, please decorate my orchard."

Daphne did not respond.