|by Charles Kingsley|
|Stories of the heroes of ancient Greece, told in fine poetic prose. Includes accounts of Perseus who slew Medusa the Gorgon, Jason who sought the Golden Fleece, and Theseus who slew the Minotaur. By preserving the Greek spirit in the retelling of these myths, Kingsley gives us plain strength and seriousness, courage, steadfastness, and beauty. Dozens of attractive illustrations by T. H. Robinson enliven the text. Ages 9-12 |
HOW JASON LOST HIS SANDAL IN ANAUROS
 AND ten years came and went, and Jason was grown to be a
mighty man. Some of his fellows were gone, and some were
growing up by his side. Asclepius was gone into Peloponnese,
to work his wondrous cures on men; and some say he used to
raise the dead to life. And Heracles was gone to Thebes, to
fulfil those famous labours which have become a proverb among
men. And Peleus had married a sea-nymph, and his wedding is
famous to this day. And Æneas was gone home to Troy, and
many a noble tale you will read
 of him, and of all the other
gallant heroes, the scholars of Cheiron the just. And it
happened on a day that Jason stood on the mountain, and
looked north and south and east and west; and Cheiron stood
by him and watched him, for he knew that the time was come.
And Jason looked and saw the plains of Thessaly, where the
Lapithai breed their horses; and the lake of Boibé, and the
stream which runs northward to Peneus and Tempe; and he
looked north, and saw the mountain wall which guards the
Magnesian shore; Olympus, the seat of the Immortals, and
Ossa, and Pelion, where he stood. Then he looked east and saw
the bright blue sea, which stretched away forever toward the
dawn. Then he looked south, and saw a pleasant land, with
white-walled towns and farms, nestling along the shore of a
land-locked bay, while the smoke rose blue among the trees;
and he knew it for the bay of Pagasai, and the
 rich lowlands
of Hæmonia, and Iolcos by the sea.
Then he sighed, and asked: "Is it true what the heroes tell
me, that I am heir of that fair land?"
"And what good would it be to you, Jason, if you were heir of
that fair land?"
"I would take it and keep it."
"A strong man has taken it and kept it long. Are you
stronger than Pelias the terrible?"
"I can try my strength with his," said Jason; but Cheiron
sighed, and said:—
"You have many a danger to go through before you rule in
Iolcos by the sea; many a danger and many a woe; and strange
troubles in strange lands, such as man never saw before."
"The happier I," said Jason, "to see what man never saw
And Cheiron sighed again, and said: "The eaglet must leave
the nest when it is fledged. Will you go to Iolcos by the
 sea? Then promise me two things before you go."
Jason promised, and Cheiron answered: "Speak harshly to no
soul whom you may meet, and stand by the word which you shall
Jason wondered why Cheiron asked this of him; but he knew
that the Centaur was a prophet, and saw things long before
they came. So he promised, and leapt down the mountain, to
take his fortune like a man.
He went down through the arbutus thickets, and across the
downs of thyme, till he came to the vineyard walls, and the
pomegranates and the olives in the glen; and among the olives
roared Anauros, all foaming with a summer flood.
And on the bank of Anauros sat a woman, all wrinkled, gray,
and old; her head shook palsied on her breast, and her hands
shook palsied on her knees; and when she saw Jason, she spoke
whining: "Who will carry me across the flood?"
 Jason was bold and hasty, and was just going to leap into the
flood; and yet he thought twice before he leapt, so loud
roared the torrent down, all brown from the mountain rains,
and silver-veined with melting snow; while underneath he
could hear the boulders rumbling like the tramp of horsemen
or the roll of wheels, as they ground along the narrow
channel, and shook the rocks on which he stood.
But the old woman whined all the more: "I am weak and old,
fair youth. For Hera's sake, carry me over the torrent."
And Jason was going to answer her scornfully, when Cheiron's
words came to his mind.
So he said: "For Hera's sake, the Queen of the Immortals on
Olympus, I will carry you over the torrent, unless we both
are drowned midway."
Then the old dame leapt upon his back, as nimbly as a goat;
and Jason staggered in, wondering; and the first step was up
to his knees.
 The first step was up to his knees, and the second step was
up to his waist; and the stones rolled about his feet, and
his feet slipped about the stones; so he went on staggering,
and panting, while the old woman cried from off his back:—
"Fool, you have wet my mantle! Do you make game of poor old
souls like me?"
Jason had half a mind to drop her, and let her get through
the torrent by herself; but Cheiron's words were in his mind,
and he said only: "Patience, mother; the best horse may
stumble some day."
At last he staggered to the shore, and set her down upon the
bank; and a strong man he needed to have been, or that wild
water he never would have crossed.
He lay panting awhile upon the bank, and then leapt up to go
upon his journey; but he cast one look at the old woman, for
he thought, "She should thank me once at least."
 And as he looked, she grew fairer than all women, and taller
than all men on earth; and her garments shone like the summer
sea, and her jewels like the stars of heaven; and over her
forehead was a veil woven of the golden clouds of sunset; and
through the veil she looked down on him, with great soft
heifer's eyes; with great eyes, mild and awful, which filled
all the glen with light.
And Jason fell upon his knees, and hid his face between his
And she spoke—"I am the Queen of Olympus, Hera the wife of
Zeus. As thou hast done to me, so will I do to thee. Call
on me in the hour of need, and try if the Immortals can
And when Jason looked up, she rose from off the earth, like a
pillar of tall white cloud, and floated away across the
mountain peaks, toward Olympus the holy hill.
Then a great fear fell on Jason; but
 after a while he grew
light of heart; and he blessed old Cheiron, and said—"Surely
the Centaur is a prophet, and guessed what would come to
pass, when he bade me speak harshly to no soul whom I might
Then he went down toward Iolcos, and as he walked, he found
that he had lost one of his sandals in the flood.
And as he went through the streets, the people came out to
look at him, so tall and fair was he; but some of the elders
whispered together; and at last one of them stopped Jason,
and called to him—"Fair lad, who are you, and whence come
you; and what is your errand in the town?"
"My name, good father, is Jason, and I come from Pelion up
above; and my errand is to Pelias your king; tell me then
where his palace is."
But the old man started, and grew pale, and said, "Do you not
know the oracle,
 my son, that you go so boldly through the
town, with but one sandal on?"
"I am a stranger here, and know of no oracle; but what of my
one sandal? I lost the other in Anauros, while I was
struggling with the flood."
Then the old man looked back to his companions; and one
sighed, and another smiled; at last he said—"I will tell
you, lest you rush upon your ruin unawares. The oracle in
Delphi has said, that a man wearing one sandal should take the
kingdom from Pelias, and keep it for himself. Therefore
beware how you go up to his palace, for he is the fiercest
and most cunning of all kings."
Then Jason laughed a great laugh, like a war-horse in his
pride—"Good news, good father, both for you and me. For
that very end I came into the town."
Then he strode on toward the palace of Pelias, while all the
people wondered at his bearing.
 And he stood in the doorway and cried, "Come out, come out,
Pelias the valiant, and fight for your kingdom like a man."
Pelias came out wondering, and "Who are you, bold youth?" he
"I am Jason, the son of Æson, the heir of all this land."
Then Pelias lifted up his hands and eyes, and wept, or seemed
to weep; and blessed the heavens which had brought his nephew
to him, never to leave him more. "For," said he, "I have but
three daughters, and no son to be my heir. You shall be my
heir then, and rule the kingdom after me, and marry
whichsoever of my daughters you shall choose; though a sad
kingdom you will find it, and whosoever rules it a miserable
man. But come in, come in, and feast."
So he drew Jason in, whether he would or not, and spoke to
him so lovingly and feasted him so well, that Jason's anger
passed; and after supper his three cousins
 came into the
hall, and Jason thought that he should like well enough to
have one of them for his wife.
But at last he said to Pelias, "Why do you look so sad, my
uncle? And what did you mean just now, when you said that
this was a doleful kingdom, and its ruler a miserable man?"
Then Pelias sighed heavily again and again and again, like a
man who had to tell some dreadful story, and was afraid to
begin; but at last—
"For seven long years and more have I never known a quiet
night; and no more will he who comes after me, till the
golden fleece be brought home."
Then he told Jason the story of Phrixus, and of the golden
fleece; and told him, too, which was a lie, that Phrixus's
spirit tormented him, calling to him day and night. And his
daughters came, and told the same tale, (for their father had
taught them their parts,) and wept, and said, "Oh,
 who will
bring home the golden fleece, that our uncle's spirit may
rest; and that we may have rest also, whom he never lets
sleep in peace?"
Jason sat awhile, sad and silent; for he had often heard of
that golden fleece; but he looked on it as a thing hopeless
and impossible for any mortal man to win it.
But when Pelias saw him silent, he began to talk of other
things, and courted Jason more and more, speaking to him as
if he was certain to be his heir, and asking his advice about
the kingdom; till Jason, who was young and simple, could not
help saying to himself, "Surely he is not the dark man whom
people call him. Yet why did he drive my father out?" And
he asked Pelias boldly, "Men say that you are terrible, and a
man of blood; but I find you a kind and hospitable man; and
as you are to me, so will I be to you. Yet why did you drive
my father out?"
Pelias smiled, and sighed: "Men have
 slandered me in that,
as in all things. Your father was growing old and weary, and
he gave the kingdom up to me of his own will. You shall see
him to-morrow, and ask him; and he will tell you the same."
Jason's heart leapt in him when he heard that he was to see
his father; and he believed all that Pelias said, forgetting
that his father might not dare to tell the truth.
"One thing more there is," said Pelias, "on which I need your
advice; for, though you are young, I see in you a wisdom
beyond your years. There is one neighbour of mine, whom I
dread more than all men on earth. I am stronger than he now,
and can command him: but I know that if he stay among us, he
will work my ruin in the end. Can you give me a plan, Jason,
by which I can rid myself of that man?"
After awhile Jason answered, half laughing,
 "Were I you, I
would send him to fetch that same golden fleece; for if he
once set forth after it you would never be troubled with him
And at that a bitter smile came across Pelias's lips, and a
flash of wicked joy into his eyes; and Jason saw it, and
started; and over his mind came the warning of the old man,
and his own one sandal, and the oracle, and he saw that he
was taken in a trap.
But Pelias only answered gently, "My son, he shall be sent
"You mean me?" cried Jason, starting up, "because I came here
with one sandal?" And he lifted his fist angrily, while
Pelias stood up to him like a wolf at bay; and whether of the
two was the stronger and the fiercer it would be hard to
But after a moment Pelias spoke gently—"Why then so rash, my
son? You, and not I, have said what is said; why blame me
for what I have not done? Had you bid
 me love the man of
whom I spoke, and make him my son-in-law and heir, I would
have obeyed you; and what if I obey you now, and send the man
to win himself immortal fame? I have not harmed you, or him.
One thing at least I know, that he will go, and that gladly:
for he has a hero's heart within him; loving glory, and
scorning to break the word which he has given."
Jason saw that he was entrapped: but his second promise to
Cheiron came into his mind, and he thought, "What if the
Centaur were a prophet in that also, and meant that I should
win the fleece!" Then he cried aloud,—
"You have well spoken, cunning uncle of mine! I love glory,
and I dare keep to my word. I will go and fetch this golden
fleece. Promise me but this in return, and keep your word as
I keep mine. Treat my father lovingly while I am gone, for
the sake of the all-seeing
 Zeus; and give me up the kingdom
for my own, on the day that I bring back the golden fleece."
Then Pelias looked at him and almost loved him, in the midst
of all his hate; and said, "I promise, and I will perform.
It will be no shame to give up my kingdom to the man who wins
Then they swore a great oath between them; and
afterwards both went in, and lay down to sleep.
But Jason could not sleep, for thinking of his mighty oath,
and how he was to fulfil it, all alone, and without wealth or
friends. So he tossed a long time upon his bed, and thought
of this plan and of that; and sometimes Phrixus seemed to
call him, in a thin voice, faint and low, as if it came from
far across the sea—"Let me come home to my fathers and have
rest." And sometimes he seemed to see the eyes of Hera, and
to hear her words again,—"Call on me in the hour of need,
and see if the Immortals can forget."
And on the morrow he went to Pelias, and said, "Give me a
victim, that I may sacrifice to Hera." So he went up, and
offered his sacrifice; and as he stood by the altar, Hera sent
a thought into his mind; and he went back to Pelias, and said—
"If you are indeed in earnest, give me two heralds, that they
may go round to all the princes of the Minuai, who were
pupils of the Centaur with me, that we may fit out a ship
together, and take what shall befall."
At that Pelias praised his wisdom, and hastened to send the
heralds out; for he said in his heart, "Let all the princes
go with him, and, like him, never return; for so I shall be
lord of all the Minuai, and the greatest king in Hellas."
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