Pygmalion & Galatea

...As for the loathsome Propoetides, they dared to deny the divinity of Venus. The story goes that as a result of this, they were visited by the wrath of the goddess, and were the first women to lose their good names by prostituting themselves in public. Then, as all sense of shame left them, the blood hardened in their cheeks, and it required only a slight alteration to transform them into stony flints.
When Pygmalion saw these women, living such wicked lives, he was revolted by the many faults which nature has implanted in the female sex, and long lived a bachelor existence, with out any wife to share his home. But meanwhile, with marvelous artistry, he skillfully carved a snowy ivory statue. He made it lovelier than any woman born, and he fell in love with his own creation. The statue had all the appearance of a real girl, so that it seemed to be alive, to want to move, did not modesty forbid. So cleverly did his art conceal its art. Pygmalion gazed in wonder, and in his heart there rose a passionate love for this image of a human form. Often he ran his hands over the work, feeling to see whether it was flesh or ivory, and would not yet admit that ivory was all it was. He kissed the statue, and imagined that it kissed him back, spoke to it and embraced it, and thought he felt his fingers sink into the limbs he touched, so that he was afraid lest a bruise appear where he had pressed the flesh. Sometimes he addressed it in flattering speeches, sometimes brought the kind of presents that girls enjoy: shells and polished pebbles, little birds and flowers of a thousand hues, lilies and painted balls, and drops of amber which fall from the trees that were once Phaethon’s sisters. He dressed the limbs of his statue in woman’s robes, and put rings on its fingers, long necklaces round its neck. Pearls hug from its ears, and chains were looped upon its breast. All this finery became the image as well, but it was no less lovely unadorned. Pygmalion then placed the statue on a couch that was covered with cloths of Tyrian purple, laid its head to rest on soft down pillows, as if it could appreciate them, and called it his bedfellow.
The festival of Venus, which is celebrated with the greatest pomp all through Cyprus, was now in progress, and heifers, their crooked horns gilded for the occasion, had fallen at the alter as the axe struck their snowy necks. Smoke was rising from the incense, when Pygmalion, having made his offering, stood by the alter and timidly prayed, saying: “If you gods can give all things, may I have as my wife, I pray--” he did not dare say: “the ivory maiden,” but finished: “one like the ivory maid.” However, golden Venus, present at her festival in person, understood what his prayers meant, and as a sign that the gods were kindly disposed, the flames burned up three times, shooting a tongue of fire into the air. When Pygmalion returned home, he made straight for the statue of the girl he loved, leaned over the couch, and kissed her. She seemed warm: he laid his lips on hers again, and touched her breast with his hands--at his touch the ivory lost its hardness, and grew soft: his fingers made an imprint on the yielding surface, just as wax of Hymettus melts in the sun and, worked by men’s fingers, is fashioned into many different shapes, and made fit for use by being used. The lover stood, amazed, afraid of being mistaken, his joy tempered with doubt, and again and again stroked the object of his prayers. It was indeed a human body! The veins throbbed as he pressed them with his thumb. Then Pygmalion of Paphos was eloquent in his thanks to Venus. At long last, he pressed his lips upon living lips, and the girl felt the kisses he gave her, and blushed. Timidly raising her eyes, she saw her lover and the light of day together. The goddess Venus was present at the marriage she had arranged and, when the moon’s horns had nine times been rounded into a full circle, Pygmalion’s bride bore a child, Paphos, from whom the island takes its name....

The story of Pygmalion and Galatea was written by Ovid in his 'Metamorphosis' and I got it from this site.
The image is the beautiful painting 'Pygmalion and Galatea' by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

Of course, there are tons of stories about objects being "kissed to life", but for some reason I like this one better than Pinocchio, the Golem, S1m0ne, weird science or any of the other ones. The idea of losing control of your own (perfect) creation, and therefore allowing for not so perfect behavior is fascinating: perfection includes the opportunity to be imperfect - and any good design allows it to be used for something else than the intended means.

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