Three Old Men of Painswick, The
DESCRIPTION: "Oh! Painswick is a healthful town." A traveler sees a very, very old crying -- because, it turns out, his father has been abusing him! Further investigation reveals that even the man's grandfather is alive. The traveler flees this place of ancient folk
EARLIEST DATE: 1872 (Notes & Queries, according to Briggs)
KEYWORDS: age humorous travel father
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
ADDITIONAL: Katherine Briggs, _A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language_, Part A: Folk Narratives, 1970 (I use the 1971 Routledge paperback that combines volumes A.1 and A.2), volume A.2, pp. 216-218, "The Three Old men of Painswick" (1 text)
NOTES [247 words]: It is not clear whether this is a song or a poem; I suspect the latter, but better to include it just in case.
Briggs notes a number of analogies to this tale, especially Irish. But the oldest version known to me of the story of the man who ages forever but never dies is from Greek mythology: the story of Tithonos. The earliest version is probably from the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. In the Loeb Classical Library translation (Hugh G. Evelyn-White, translator, Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns and Homerica, Loeb, 1914), pp. 421-423, lines 218-238 read, in part,
"So also golden-throned Eos rapt away Tithonus.... And she wend to ask the dark-clouded Son of Cronos [i.e. Zeus] that he should be deathless and live eternally; and Zeus bowed his head to her prayer and fulfilled her desire. Too simple was queenly Eos; the thought not in her heart to ask yough for him and to strip him of the slough of deadly age. So while he enjoyed the sweet flower of life he lived rapturously with golden-throned Eos... but when the first grey hairs began to ripple from his comely head and noble chin, queenly Eos kept away from his bed.... [W]hen loathsome old age pressed full upon him... she laid him in a room and put to the shining doors. There he babbles endlessly, and no more has strength at all, such as once he had in his supple limbs."
Later versions of the tale end up with Tithonos turned into a grasshopper or cicada. But the key point is that he was immortal but continued to age. - RBW
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