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23 The Myth of Baucis and Philemon: A New Reading of George Sand’s Indiana (1832) Marilyn Mallia Modern Languages Jean-Bernard Restout’s 1769 painting, ‘Baucis and Philemon Offering Hospitality to Jupiter and Mercury’ (Courtesy of Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours). The myth of Baucis and Philemon is ‘one of the best-loved stories’ 1 in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and has been appropriated and transmuted by a number of writers, including Goethe, Proust and Beckett. 2 The source of its attraction is its portrayal of a love which endures in old age until death, as embodied by the kind and virtuous couple in Ovid’s story. The second important element in the myth is the utopian dénouement, which presents Baucis and Philemon harmoniously tending the gods’ temple. In a tradition of mythology that often deals with aggression and conflict, this story stands out in having ‘the sort of kindly warmth which some of Ovid’s readers would like to find in more of his myths […]’. 3 However, the utopian space of the couple is envisaged as needing a third party to dynamise it, giving rise to the third key element in the myth, namely what the Greeks call xenia : entertaining the stranger who may turn out to be a god in disguise and who dispenses a 1. M. Gamel, ‘Baucis and Philemon: Paradigm or Paradox?’, Helios , 11 (1984), p.117 2. See S. Agusta-Boularot, Dictionnaire Culturel de la Mythologie Gréco-Romaine, Sous la Direction de René Martin (Paris: Nathan, 1992), p.59 3. G.K. Galinsky, Ovid’s Metamorphoses: An Introduction to the Basic Aspects (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975), p.197 reward for hospitality. 4 By offering shelter to the disguised Zeus and Hermes, Baucis and Philemon are rewarded with exemption from the flood that the gods unleash upon their inhospitable neighbours. They are also allowed to die at exactly the same moment. My claim in this paper is that all of these mythological elements are present in George Sand’s Indiana , a novel which both extends and complicates these three themes of the harmonious couple, utopia and xenia . First of all, the virtuous couple in ‘Baucis and Philemon’ is paralleled in Indiana ’s final solution, which presents a harmonious dyad. The novel tells the story of its eponymous heroine, a young, beautiful creole from the Île Bourbon married to the much older and brutish Colonel Delmare. The ill-matched couple live on a country estate in France with Indiana’s cousin Ralph. In spite of a number of tribulations, and the seductions of the aristocratic cad Raymon, the novel ends with Indiana and Ralph as the idealised couple, living in their ‘Indian cottage’ in a secluded part of the 4. See T. Hsiu-chih, ‘The Stranger’s Friendship on the Battlefield: The Performance of Xenia in the Iliad’, Humanitas Taiwanica , 69 (2008), p.185-229
24 island of Bourbon. This utopian ending, which has earned Sand accusations of sinning against the norms of the nineteenth-century realist genre, 5 is a further link to mythology, the domain of invraisemblance . Sand presents this utopian space as an open one, as Ralph and Indiana dedicate themselves to freeing slaves and caring for the poor. They also offer shelter to a young

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