Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources
Page: 45This time there was no such universal quivering of the leaves throughout the whole tree as there had been before. But after a while Jason observed that the foliage of a great branch which stretched above his head had begun to rustle as if the wind were stirring that one bough, while all the other boughs of the oak were at rest.
"Cut me off!" said the branch, as soon as it could speak distinctly; "cut me off! cut me off! and carve me into a figurehead for your galley."
Accordingly, Jason took the branch at its word and lopped it off the tree. A carver in the neighborhood engaged to make the figurehead. He was a tolerably good workman and[Pg 80] had already carved several figureheads in what he intended for feminine shapes, and looking pretty much like those which we see nowadays stuck up under a vessel's bowsprit, with great staring eyes that never wink at the dash of the spray. But (what was very strange) the carver found that his hand was guided by some unseen power and by a skill beyond his own, and that his tools shaped out an image which he had never dreamed of. When the work was finished it turned out to be the figure of a beautiful woman, with a helmet on her head, from beneath which the long ringlets fell down upon her shoulders. On the left arm was a shield and in its center appeared a lifelike representation of the head of Medusa with the snaky locks. The right arm was extended as if pointing onward. The face of this wonderful statue, though not angry or forbidding, was so grave and majestic that perhaps you might call it severe; and as for the mouth, it seemed just ready to unclose its lips and utter words of the deepest wisdom.
Jason was delighted with the oaken image and gave the carver no rest until it was completed and set up where a figurehead has always stood, from that time to this, in the vessel's prow.
"And now," cried he, as he stood gazing at the calm, majestic face of the statue, "I must go to the Talking Oak and inquire what next to do."
"There is no need of that, Jason," said a voice which, though it was far lower, reminded him of the mighty tones of the great oak. "When you desire good advice you can seek it of me."
Jason had been looking straight into the face of the image when these words were spoken. But he could hardly believe either his ears or his eyes. The truth was, however, that the oaken lips had moved, and to all appearance, the voice had proceeded from the statue's mouth. Recovering a little from his surprise, Jason bethought himself that the image had been[Pg 81] carved out of the wood of the Talking Oak, and that, therefore, it was really no great wonder, but, on the contrary, the most natural thing in the world, that it should possess the faculty of speech. It should have been very odd indeed if it had not. But certainly it was a great piece of good fortune that he should be able to carry so wise a block of wood along with him in his perilous voyage.