Galatea, One of the Most Famous Nymphs in Mythology
This is a different Galatea from the myth about a statue that comes to life. The sea nymphs in mythology were usually referred to as a group, with only a couple being named individually. They were the daughters of Nereus (a sea god) and Doris (herself a nymph), and there were 50 of them! As a group they were called the Nereids. In any case, on with our story:
Polyphemus was a Cyclops, a giant with one eye in the middle of his forehead. He was a rough character, dirty, messy hair, very bad disposition and ugly, too. On his island he kept sheep and ate any men who happened to land there. Or at least he did, until one day he fell in love with Galatea, one of the most beautiful nymphs in mythology. From then on he was a changed man, or tried to be. He cleaned up his appearance as well as he could, and was considerably less blood-thirsty than before. He was even helpful, at times. But this didn't do him any good because Galatea was in love with Acis, a Naiad.
One day while Galatea and Acis were together they heard Polyphemus singing. He was over a mile away but Galatea heard him plainly. He was singing about his love for her, how beautiful she was and how cruel to reject him. He spent some time singing about what he would do to Acis if he caught him, and how Galatea would fall in love with him afterwards. In this dejected mood, Polyphemus wandered around his island until, by luck, he happened to see Galatea and Acis together. Frightened, Galatea jumped into the sea and was safe, but Acis could not enter the salt water and began to run. Polyphemus chased him, and grabbed up the top of a mountain and threw it at him. For the most part he missed, but enough still landed on Acis to crush him to death.
Galatea saw all this, and did the only thing she could to help Acis. Nymphs in mythology were minor gods, and Galatea used her magic to call on Acis' grandfather, the river god, to send Acis his powers. Soon the blood that came from under the mound of dirt changed from red to clear. It began to gush and became a river, and a new Acis rose from it. True to his heritage, he was now a river god, and the river still bears his name.
This was the end of the romance between Galatea and Acis, because he was a fresh water river and she a sea nymph. All the Nereids were salt-water nymphs in mythology. The Naiads were fresh water, usually associated with ponds, rivers, lakes and fountains.
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