Myth Monday: The Cat Who Loved a Man (Aesop’s Fable)
By Kara Newcastle
Centuries ago on the island of Cyprus lived a young man named Stamitos. He was extremely handsome and every girl and woman he passed would pause and gaze at him longingly, but not one of them caught his interest. Stamitos, in addition to being so handsome, was also incredibly picky, and he found something wrong with every woman he met. He roamed the length and width of the island, but he could not find a woman that met his exacting standards.
Indeed, the only female Stamitos had any affection for was his pretty little cat, Euphrasia. She was perfect to him in every way, from the way she placed each of her little round paws on the ground, to the way she sat on the windowsill. Stamitos loved playing with Euphrasia, cradling her in his arms, bringing home pretty little things to entertain her with. Not once did she scratch him, treated him indifferently, or watched him judging eyes. More than once Stamitos would sigh wistfully, run his hand along her arching back and say, “You are so beautiful and so perfect. You understand me so well, and you never hide your feelings from me. If you were a human woman, I would marry you.”
Little did Stamitos know but Euphrasia understood what he said, and for a moment, her heart soared, because she loved him as well. When Stamitos would say aloud that he would marry her if he could, Euphrasia wanted nothing more than to be human.
Now, it so happens that the island of Cyprus was sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and having Stamitos living there particularly frustrated her; no matter what she did, what beautiful, graceful, talented girl she moved into his way, Aphrodite could not cause Stamitos to fall in love. Hearing Stamitos say that he would marry his cat if he could, Aphrodite was at first outraged … but at the same time, she couldn’t help but pity Euphrasia the cat, who was so in love with the man that she prayed to become human for him.
Considering it briefly, Aphrodite decided that she would like to see what would happen, and answered the youth and his cat’s prayers.
Waiting for the moment Stamitos sighed those words again, Aphrodite extended her delicate hand and granted the wish. Before Stamitos’s astonished eyes, the sleek form of Euphrasia the cat vanished before him, and in her place stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It took a moment for each to come to their senses, but when they realized what had happened, Euphrasia joyously threw herself into Stamitos’s open arms. Within days they were married.
Aphrodite watched all of this with a mixture of amusement and satisfaction at having conquered the arrogant youth, but in time she began to wonder exactly how much had Euphrasia changed. Her body was different now, but what of her mind?
Desperate to know the truth, the goddess waited until the couple had climbed into bed together one night. As Euphrasia and Stamitos wrapped their arms around one another, Aphrodite chose that moment to release a mouse into their room.
Hearing the scurrying sounds across the wood flood, Euphrasia’s ears perked up. Rolling over in the bed, she saw the mouse rushing across the floor, and without a second thought, she lunged out of bed, pouncing upon the mouse with her hands and feet. Ducking her head down, Euphrasia bit the mouse through the neck, killing it.
Disgusted by what she had just witnessed, Aphrodite turned the woman back into a cat, knowing now that no matter how much a creature can change its outward appearance, its true nature would always shine through.