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Story summary: Baucis and Philemon

Zeus and Hermes hear a rumour of a valley in Phrygia where the sacred laws of hospitality are no longer observed. When, in disguise, they visit the valley in a terrible storm, a hundred times the gods are refused food and shelter; finally there is only one house left, the humble home of an elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon. They welcome the strangers warmly and generously share their meagre supplies.

When their wine jug keeps replenishing itself the mortals realise their guests are in fact gods. Ashamed by the meagre fare they have provided they decide to kill their prized goose. Before this can happen, the gods reveal themselves and show the old couple how they have punished their fellow citizens. The virtuous couple are rewarded with two wishes. Their requests are simple: firstly, a home to be a temple where they may worship the gods; and secondly, that they may die at the same moment. Their wishes are granted and at the moment of death they are transformed into trees, an oak and a linden, with their branches entwined in an eternal embrace.

Key themes

Hospitality
Reward and punishment
Interaction and confusion between gods and mortals

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