In this, TSAT #43, our seventh anniversary issue, we have chosen as our 25th Classic tale an excerpt from the only Latin novel which has survived to the present day completely intact: Chapters 16-7 of Book One of The Golden Ass, by Lucius Apuleius (ca. 123-170), scion of a wealthy and powerful family in what is now Algeria. Apuleius was educated in Carthage, Athens, and Rome; married a rich widow, not entirely for her money; was widely regarded as a genuine sorceror; wrote voluminously on a wide range of subjects; was a priest in the service of no less than three deities (Aesculapius, Isis, and Osiris); had statues erected in his honor; and was so well-regarded by the people of Carthage that they still spoke of him 250 years after his death. Our text is taken from William Adlington's 1566 translation, cleaned up a bit so as to be more comprehensible to the contemporary reader.

Go here for more information on Lucius Apuleius, or here to read the complete novel.

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Logo for the story "The Golden Ass"
by Lucius Apuleius

The Sixteenth Chapter
How Fotis brought Apuleius to see her Mistress enchant.

On a day Fotis came running to me in great fear, and said that her mistress, to work her sorceries on such as she loved, intended the night following to transform herself into a bird, and to fly whither she pleased. Wherefore she willed me privily to prepare myself to see the same. And when midnight came she led me softly into a high chamber, and bid me look through the chink of a door. There I saw how she put off all her garments, and took out of a certain coffer sundry kinds of Boxes, of the which she opened one, and tempered the ointment therein with her fingers, and then rubbed her body therewith from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head.

And when she had spoken privily with herself, having the candle in her hand, she shook the parts of her body. And behold! I perceived a plume of feathers did burgeon out, her nose waxed crooked and hard, her nails turned into claws, and so she became an Owl. Then she cried and screeched like a bird of that kind, and willing to prove her force, moved herself from the ground by little and little, 'til at last she flew quite away.

Thus by her sorcery she transformed her body into what shape she would, which when I saw I was greatly astonished! And although I was enchanted by no kind of charm, yet I thought that I seemed not to have the likeness of Lucius, for so was I banished from my senses, amazed in madness, and so I dreamed waking, that I felt mine eyes, whether I were asleep or no. But when I was come again to myself, I took Fotis by the hand, and moved it to my face and said, "I pray thee while occasion doth serve, that I may have the fruition of the fruits of my desire, and grant me some of this ointment. O Fotis I pray thee by thy sweet paps, to make that in the great flames of my love I may be turned into a bird, so I will ever hereafter be bound unto you, and obedient to your commandment."

Then said Fotis, "Will you go about to deceive me now, and inforce me to work my own sorrow? Are you in the mind that you will not tarry in Thessaly? If you be a bird, where shall I seek you, and when shall I see you?"

Then answered I, "God forbid that I should commit such a crime! For though I could fly in the air as an Eagle or though I were the messenger of Jupiter, yet would I have recourse to nest with thee; and I swear by the knot of thy amiable hair, that since the time I first loved thee, I never fancied any other person! Moreover, it comes to mind that if by the virtue of the ointment I shall become an Owl, I will take heed to come near no man's house; for I am not to learn how these matrons would handle their lovers, if they knew that they were transformed into Owls. Moreover, when they are taken in any place they are nailed upon posts, and so they are worthily rewarded, because it is thought that they bring evil fortune to the house. But I pray you (which I had almost forgotten) to tell me by what means when I am an Owl, I shall return to my pristine shape, and become Lucius again."

"Fear not," quoth she, "for my mistress hath taught me the way to bring that to pass. Do not think that she did it for any good will and favor, but to the end that I might help her, and minister some remedy when she returneth home. Consider I pray you with yourself, with what frivolous trifles so marvelous a thing is wrought; for by Hercules I swear I give her nothing else save a little Dill and Laurel leaves, in Well water, the which she drinketh and washeth herself withal." Which when she had spoken she went into the chamber and took a box out of the coffer, which I first kissed and embraced, and prayed that I might have good success in my purpose. And then I put off all my garments, and greedily thrust my hand into the box, and took out a good deal of ointment and rubbed myself withal.

The Seventeenth Chapter
How Apuleius (thinking to be turned into a Bird) was turned into an Ass,
and how he was led away by Thieves.

After that I had well rubbed every part and member of my body, I hovered with mine arms, and moved myself, looking still when I should be changed into a Bird as Pamphiles was. And behold, neither feathers nor appearance of feathers did burgeon out, but verily my hair did turn in ruggedness, and my tender skin waxed tough and hard; my fingers and toes losing the number of five, changed into hooves; and out of mine arse grew a great tail. Now my face became monstrous, my nostrils wide, my lips hanging down, and mine ears rugged with hair; neither could I see any comfort of my transformation, for my members increased likewise, and so without all help (viewing every part of my poor body) I perceived that I was no bird, but a plain Ass.

Then I thought to blame Fotis, but being deprived as well of language as of human shape, I looked upon her with my hanging lips and watery eyes. She, as soon as she espied me in such sort, cried out, "Alas! poor wretch that I am, I am utterly cast away. The fear I was in, and my haste hath beguiled me, but especially the mistaking of the box, hath deceived me. But it forceth not much, in regard a sooner medicine may be gotten for this than for any other thing. For if thou couldst get a rose and eat it, thou shouldst be delivered from the shape of an Ass, and become my Lucius again. And would to God I had gathered some garlands this evening past, according to my custom! Then thou shouldst not continue an Ass one night's space, but in the morning I shall seek some remedy."

Thus Fotis lamented in pitiful sort. But I that was now a perfect ass, and for Lucius a brute beast, did yet retain the sense and understanding of a man. And did devise a good space with myself, whether it were best for me to tear this mischievous and wicked harlot with my mouth, or to kick and kill her with my heels. But a better thought reduced me from so rash a purpose; for I feared lest by the death of Fotis I should be deprived of all remedy and help. Then shaking mine head, and dissembling mine ire, and taking my adversity in good part, I went into the stable to my own horse, where I found another ass of Milos, sometime my host. I did verily think that mine own horse (if there were any natural conscience or knowledge in brute beasts) would take pity on me, and proffer me lodging for that night; but it chanced far otherwise. For see, my horse and the ass as it were consented together to work my harm, and fearing lest I should eat up their provender, would in no wise suffer me to come nigh the manger, but kicked me with their heels from their meat, which I myself gave them the night before.

Then I being thus handled by them, and driven away, got me into a corner of the stable, where while I remembered their uncourtesy, and how on the morrow I should return to Lucius by the help of a Rose, when as I thought to revenge myself of mine own horse, I fortuned to espy in the middle of a pillar sustaining the rafters of the stable the image of the goddess Hippone, which was garnished and decked round about with faire and fresh roses. Then in hope of present remedy, I leaped up with my fore feet as high as I could, stretching out my neck, and with my lips coveting to snatch some roses.

But in an evil hour I did go about that enterprise, for behold the boy to whom I gave charge of my horse, came presently in, and finding me climbing upon the pillar, ran fretting towards me and said, "How long shall we suffer this wild Ass, that doth not only eat up his fellows' meat, but also would spoil the images of the gods? Why do I not kill this lame thief and weak wretch!" And therewithall looking about for some cudgel, he espied where lay a fagot of wood, and choosing a crabbed truncheon of the biggest he could find, did never cease beating of me poor wretch, until such time as by great noise and rumbling, he heard the doors of the house burst open, and the neighbors crying in most lamentable sort, which enforced him being stricken in fear, to fly his way. And by and by a troupe of thieves entered in, and kept every part and corner of the house with weapons. And as men resorted to aid and help them which were within the doors, the thieves resisted and kept them back, for every man was armed with a sword and target in his hand, the glimpses whereof did yield out such light as if it had been day.

Then they broke open a great chest with double locks and bolts, wherein was laid all the treasure of Milo, and ransacked the same. And when they had done, they packed it up and gave every man a portion to carry. But when they had more than they could bear away, yet were they loath to leave any behind, but came into the stable, and took us two poor asses and my horse, and laded us with greater trusses than we were able to bear. And when we were out of the house, they followed us with great staves, and willed one of their fellows to tarry behind, and bring them tidings what was done concerning the robbery; and so they beat us forward over great hills out of the way.

Howbeit at last Jupiter administered to me an unhoped remedy. For when we had passed through many towns and villages, I fortuned to espy a pleasant garden, wherein beside many other flowers of delectable hue, were new and fresh roses! Being very joyful, and desirous to catch some as I passed by, I drew nearer and nearer; but while my lips watered upon them, I thought of a better advice more profitable for me, lest if from an ass I should become a man, I might fall into the hands of the thieves, and either by suspicion that I were some witch, or for fear that I should utter their theft, I should be slain. Wherefore I abstained for that time from eating of Roses, and enduring my present adversity, I did eat hay as other Asses did.

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