| Stories of the Ancient Greeks|
|by Charles D. Shaw|
|Delightful collection of both mythological and historical stories of the ancient Greeks, in language simple enough for younger listeners, yet appealing to all ages. Provides an excellent introduction to ancient Greece, beginning with 32 of the best-known myths, and then continuing with 32 short stories of the historical era, arranged in chronological order. An extensive pronunciation guide is included. Ages 8-11 |
THE GOLDEN FLEECE
HE Argo was headed for Colchis, where the Golden Fleece
was kept in a sacred grove. The danger her crew had to
meet was at the opening of the Euxine or Black Sea,
where two islands floated about, sometimes knocking
against each other and crushing everything caught
between them. When these clashing rocks were reached
the sailors let go a dove they had on their ship. She
flew between the islands and only lost one or two
tail-feathers. Jason seized the favorable moment of
the rebound. The crew rowed hard and pulled the ship
through with very little damage.
At Colchis the king said they could have the Golden
Fleece, but there were two or three little things that
must be done first. He had two bulls whose feet were
brass and whose breath were fire. Would Jason kingly
yoke them to a plow?
Then there were the teeth of that dragon which Cadmus
had killed. If they were sown, armed men would be the
harvest. Would Jason like to do a little farming of
Jason said that he had no objection. He would do
anything necessary to get the Fleece. A day was fixed
for these trials, and Jason went away from the palace.
 In the garden he met the king's daughter, Medea. She
was young and handsome, but she was a powerful witch.
She liked the young stranger and promised to help him.
She taught him some magic words to say and gave him a
charm that would conquer everything.
On the day of the trial the king had a throne set up in
the field, and crowds were standing around. The keeper
of the bulls let them go, and they came rushing into
the open space where Jason stood. When they drew near
he spoke the magic words. The bulls stopped short.
They did not paw the ground, and their breath was not
quite so fiery. Jason walked up to them, spoke kindly
to them, patted their sides, and slipped a yoke over
their necks. He led them quietly to the plow, hitched
them up, and plowed the field.
THE FIERY BULLS
A servant handed him the dragon's teeth, and he sowed
them in the furrows. Men sprung up with helmets on
their heads, shields on their left arms, and swords in
their right hands. They came at Jason, who fought them
for a little while, but finding them too many picked up
a stone and threw it among them. Immediately they left
Jason and began to fight among themselves. When the
battle was over, not one of them was living.
The king was not pleased, but told the heroes that they
should have the Golden Fleece the next day. That night
Medea came to them as they were sleeping at their ship,
and told them that her father meant to bring an army in
the morning and burn the Argo.
There was moonlight that night, and Jason and Medea
went together to the grove where the Golden Fleece was
 hanging. This was the skin of a ram which Hermes
had given to a woman to help her save her two children
from another woman who hated them. The children were
placed on the back of the ram, which started off
through the air. As they were crossing the
Dardanelles, between Asia and Europe, the little girl,
Helle, fell into the sea, which was afterwards called
the Hellespont, or Helle's Sea. The boy held on, and
the ram carried him to Colchis. The beast was
sacrificed to Zeus, and its skin with the golden wool
was hung up in a sacred grove. A dragon was set to
watch it, and he never slept.
Medea began to walk around and around before him,
singing and waving her hands, and throwing over him a
great drug that would make him sleep. To his own great
surprise the dragon began to nod. First one eye shut,
then the other, then both. They opened again quickly,
but only for a little while. There was that strange
young woman who made him dizzy with her walk and sleepy
with her song. A pleasant smell came from the cool
liquid with which she sprinkled him. The dragon shut
his eyes and opened his mouth. He did not speak, he
snored. He laid his heavy head down on the grass.
Jason stepped over him, took the Golden Fleece, threw
it over his shoulders, and hurried with Medea to the
ship. The rowers pushed off from the shore and rowed
away from Thessaly. Jason took his kingdom and lived,
a good ruler, for many years.
Jason's father was old and weak. The hero wanted him
to be younger and stronger. He said to Medea, "My dear
wife, you can do many things. Can you
 take some
years of mine and add them to my father's life?"
"I can do better than that," she answered. "I can make
his life longer, but yours need not be shorter."
She went out at night and said wonderful words to the
moon, the stars, and all the gods of woods and caves,
of rivers and winds. A chariot drawn by flying
serpents came through the air and landed at her feet.
She stepped into it and rode far away to gather strange
herbs. This she did for nine nights until she had
enough for her use. She lit a fire and boiled the
herbs with many other strange things. Where the liquid
bubbled over and fell on the ground, a dry olive branch
which it touched was covered with leaves and olives,
and the grass grew greener and stronger.
Jason laid his father down on a bed of soft herbs, and
Medea cut the old man's throat. When all his blood was
gone, she poured in the magic liquid. As it filled his
veins, his white hair and beard turned black, his pale
and wrinkled face grew smooth and rosy, his limbs were
round and strong. He stood up and said, "I am young
again. I shall be twenty-one to-morrow."
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