Once upon a time in a land that knew war there lived a little boy with his family. His family knew all too well the turmoil that was caused by living in such an area. People from here and there disagreed with one another.
One night the father brought someone home with him. It was a little girl, and her name was Anastasia. She was not much younger than the boy. The father had promised the girl’s father, through a bond of friendship, that they would be friends no matter what. The little girl had lost her parents, and the man had agreed to watch over this child as his own.
The family lived together for a time, several years passed. The boy would often carry Anastasia with him. One night two men came to the house. They had dinner, and things seemed fine. They went upon their way, and the father served as a guide for a while. Soon other people showed up. They killed the two men and killed the father. They said the family had harbored robbers. The mother, the boy, and Anastasia had to leave.
They went and lived somewhere else for a while, which wasn’t far away. There they met someone named Aphtanides. Aphtanides was kind to the family and became a good friend to the boy. He was a fisherman. The family grew to miss their home, so they went back. It had been destroyed, but they rebuilt it. Anastasia grew into a beautiful young woman.
Aphtanides went away to the sea and had many things to tell the young man when he returned. Aphtanides and the young man agreed to perform the vow of friendship that the boy’s father had performed years before. It was a solemn occasion, and they took it seriously.
The two friends talked, and Aphtanides asked the young man to reveal the desires of his heart. The young man loved Anastasia and wanted her for his wife. It turns out that Aphtanides also loved Anastasia, but as he had taken a vow of friendship with the young man he let him have Anastasia. Anastasia was married to the young man, and he remained friends with Aphtanides.
There is quite a bit of history in this story. The town this boy lived in was most likely Naupaktos, but Hans might have had something else in mind. Naupaktos is a town in Greece, near Delphi and Mount Parnassus, as mentioned in the story. The city is also called Lepanto. What this story says about the area is true. It was a war-torn area. There are several reasons the area experiences so much turmoil. During the days of the Oracle, as in the Oracle at Delphi, people sought to have control over the oracle. Supposedly, there was a crack in the Earth from which emitted gasses that induced trance-like states. This is where the tradition of the Oracle supposedly came from. An old woman got high, and the priests interpreted what she said as Apollo’s word.
As time went on, the area became a battleground for other reasons. As you know, the Ottoman Empire expanded over vast portions of the Earth for a while. The Ottoman empire only got as far as Lepanto. They suffered a terrible defeat in the Gulf of Lepanto, which caused their expansion to slow.
The idea that there were Turks still ruling over some Greek people in this story is probably not far from some of the things that happened. There would have been bloodshed and people killing other people for not very good reasons.
This story is longer than many of Hans’ stories, so a summary does not do it justice, but the theme here is friendship. Aphtanides loved the same woman his best friend loved. Instead of trying to take her, he let his friend have her. That takes some dedication. That takes a whole lot of dedication.
You can make a relationship work with anybody if you try hard enough. Heck, you could probably make a relationship with a soda can work, but you would have to try really, really, really hard. We are not all that tough. Liking someone makes a relationship a whole lot easier. Both of these young men liked Anastasia. They were not going to have to try very hard for that relationship to work, but their friendship was the relationship they valued more.
Aphtanides chose to be the one who gave the girl up because his best friend liked her. He had sworn this oath of friendship, and he paid a heck of a price for it.
I guess you could say the theme of this story is, “Besties for life,” but one of them is going to be sadder than the other one.
I don’t know how I feel about this guy giving up the woman he loved. It seems awfully sad. I know he did it for noble reasons, but I would have preferred him to be happy, especially since Anastasia had essentially been the other guy’s sister.
Marry your adopted sister? Yeah or Nay?
Would you give up what felt like the love of your life because your best friend loved him or her?