5. Jason and the Argonauts
Winner of the Pier Paolo Vergerio international prize, Padua 1989
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Jason, heir to the kingdom of Iolcus, has been pushed aside by the usurper Pelias. To win the throne, he agrees to voyage across unknown seas to Colchis and carry off the Golden Fleece, which brings men wealth and happiness...
"Jason and the Argonauts” is the first surviving account of a voyage by fearless seafarers, and it differs from other stories of its kind in that it comes to us from a time before recorded history. We are fortunate that this is so, for thus we hear it from the mouths of poets and story-tellers who were expert in their art. With their soaring imagination, they have wrought a tale which has held readers down the centuries with the same breathless delight which surely captivated those who first heard it from some minstrel’s lips, almost three thousand years ago.
5. Jason and the Argonauts
Ages: 12 and up
ISBN-10: 9604250663, ISBN-13: 9789604250660
THE GOLDEN FLEECE
Next day, Cytisorus and his brothers led Jason to the palace of Aeëtes. With them was Augeias, another son of Helius, who was anxious to meet this king who was also his brother. At the previous evening’s meeting they had come to the conclusion that the best course was for them to present themselves before Aeëtes and tell him boldly that he must give them back the golden fleece. They would tell him they were willing to perform any services he might wish, even at the risk of their lives, providing they received the fleece in exchange. In this way they would make it clear to him that they had not come to snatch it like bandits, but like honest men who deserved to achieve their aim.
What the outcome of this meeting would be, however, none of them could predict. After all, it was bordering on rashness for them to appear before the mighty Aeëtes and tell him they had made a journey of such length with the sole purpose of relieving him of the object he most valued in this world. But then had not the whole mission been a rash one from beginning to end? And would their courage fail them at the very last moment? Not at all. So they boldly set off for the city.
As they approached the gates of Aea, a thick mist enveloped them, sent by Nephele to prevent their being seen by anyone at this dangerous juncture. Cytisorus and his brothers knew the way by heart, of course, and so the whole company reached the palace unobserved, while the mist broke up as soon as they entered the great courtyard.
The court of the king of Colchis now rose up in all its glory before the admiring eyes of Jason and Augeias. It was said to be the work of the great craftsman Hephaestus who built it to please Helius, the father of Aeëtes. They were especially impressed by a splendidly-carved fountain with four heads, this too the work of the tireless god; but even more impressive than the fountain itself was what flowed from its mouths. Milk gushed from one, wine from another, aromatic oil from a third, while from the fourth ran water which, as Cytisorus explained, poured out hot in winter and in summer cold as crystal. And all these were samples not only of the wealth of Aeëtes, but of the golden fleece’s magic powers.
The first to see the new arrivals was Chalciope. With a cry of joy, she ran to embrace the sons she had feared to be lost for ever. But before long the great doors of the palace opened and Aeëtes himself appeared. As soon as he saw Chalciope’s sons, and with strangers, too, his face darkened.
“I packed you off to Greece!” he shouted angrily. “Why have you returned?”
“We came back because our ship was wrecked,” replied Cytisorus. “We were saved by these fearless men, whom we took for foreigners; they are not foreigners at all, however, but fellow-countrymen of ours from Greece.”
“I am your brother, from Elis,” announced Augeias, going forward with a smile to embrace him.
But stepping back in an unfriendly fashion, Aeëtes asked them curtly:
“How did you get here? What do you want from me?”
Excerpted from "Jason and the Argonauts" by Menelaos Stephanides
Copyright © by Dimitris Stefanidis. All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
A word on mythology
The one-sandalled man
The voyage to Colchis
The golden fleece
The terrible voyage home
A dream unrealised
The tragic fate of Medea