|A painting of Galatea and Polyphemus by French Painter Odilon Redon (1840-1916)|
Sicily, 4th BCE
Galatea the sea nymph was feeling radiant today. Acis was going to propose to her and even her parents had given their consent to their marriage. She swarm to the shore, where Acis had promised to wait for her. As she swam along, the happiness radiating from her gave birth to new flora and fauna in the water kingdom. A beautiful, pale blue light emanated from her and this attracted all the sea creatures towards her.
During that time, a Cyclops giant, Polyphemus was passing through and the blue light attracted his attention. He went up to the edge of the shore and saw a beautiful maiden swimming merrily amongst various shoals of sea creatures. She was a divine beauty and he immediately fell in love with her.
He waited for her to come out and then on bended knees declared his love for her. Seeing the one-eyed giant swooning with love, made Galatea burst into a laughter.
"Oh! you're really looking good as a slave," she mocked. Vanity for her beauty making her cruel. "What makes you think that I will fall in love with an one-eyed giant? Go and look for someone who looks like you?"
Polyphemus felt hurt for he truly had fallen in love with her. It was known during those times that when a Cyclops fell in love, it was for ever - unlike the Gods who were known for their capricious nature..
"Fair Maiden, I can give you anything that your heart desires."
But Galatea didn't want to hear anything and told him to go away. Heartbroken Polyphemus went away from there. But he returned the next day and from then onwards kept a watch over her from a distance. He blew the breeze when she fell asleep under the scorching sun or made the tree leaves fall over her when she shivered in cold. He became her invisible protector whom she never came to know of.
It was during one such watch that Polyphemus found out about Acis. Even though in his heart he knew he had no right over her, he became very jealous. The sight of the handsome youth made him very angry and he knew if he wanted Galatea he would have to fight for her.
So one day he waited for the right opportunity and finding Acis alone on the shore, he threw a huge boulder towards him, intending to crush him underneath the massive rock. But Acis saw the hurtling boulder coming towards him he shouted, "Galatea help!"
Luckily for him, Galatea was coming to meet him and hear his cry for help. Without thinking, she turned him into water before the boulder could hurt him. Galatea saved him from that attack but in her haste to save him she forgot that once any human turned into water, they could not change back.
Legend goes to say that the Siren's call the sailor's hear is Galatea lamenting her fate and if any man goes in search of her, hearing the Siren's call- she sees Polyphemus in them and kills them.
Galatea was a sea nymph who became the object of attention of Polyphemus, the monstrous Cyclops who tried to crush her young lover. This story became a very popular subject for the artists of the Renaissance.