Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Life of Hercules: The Early Adventures in the the Quest for the Golden Fleece

Ninth of a series. Here are the earlier posts:
Here is a drawing nobody has ever seen before.
Click on it so you can read the caption. Those who
have read v.6 will know what is happening.

       Robert Graves writes (section 149 of his Greek Myths):  "Heracles, after capturing the Erymanthian boar, appeared suddenly at Pagasae, and was invited by a unanimous vote to captain the Argo; but generously agreed to serve under Jason who, though a novice, had planned and proclaimed the expedition."  Even so, in my retelling of the epic, Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head yields the captaincy of the Quest ship to Is'a'pai'a. 
       And the first adventure in the Quest occurred on the island of Lemnos, where a year earlier the men had quarreled with their wives and taken foreign concubines.  In revenge, the Lemnian women murdered all the men, except the King, whom his daughter Hypsipyle (meaning High Gate) decided to spare, but only by setting him adrift in an oarless boat.  When the Argo appeared, the women made a decision to welcome the men and take them to their beds with the purpose of breeding a new and stronger stock.  They didn't tell the Argonauts the whole truth, saying only that they had been ill-treated by their husbands and so had exiled them.  Hypsipyle claimed Jason for her own.  Although Jason proclaimed that he would have to finish his quest first, the crew lingered, engendering many children.  The Quest might have ended there, except for Heracles, who was guarding the ship.  He finally strode angrily into the city and drove all the crew back to the Argo, after which the Quest resumed.  As a footnote, the King survived his oarless journey and was cast up on the island of Sicinos.  When the Lemnian women learned that Hypsipyle that spared him, they sold her into slavery, or she may have been abducted by pirates (now there is a tale in itself!)
       So how can this be adapted to a sexless termite society?  Well, if I tell you too much about that, it will ruin part of v.6 for you.  Suffice it to say that the name of the Mother of the island fortress of Thai'no'no'gwai is Pri'rak'vit'ta'tzi, which does mean "High Gate Mother"  And the society is composed entirely of female Alates.  How can that happen, you say?  You'll just have to read the book!  It forms a really exciting couple of chapter!
       After that, the Questers came to the realm of King Cyzicus, a good and noble ruler who became great friends with Jason. However, in a very sad event, as the Argo was sailing away from the King's realm, a storm blew them back, and, not knowing where they had landed, the Argonauts got into a fight with defenders, and Jason killed his friend Cyzicus.  You will find this sorrowful and ominous event portrayed quite accurately in my version, even to the dedication of an anchor stone.
       It was at this point that something happened that caused Heracles to leave the Quest.  Heracles had a companion named Hylas, whom he loved dearly.  Here is what Graves has to say about their relationship: "Hylas had been Heracles' minion and darling ever since the death of his father, Theodamas."  Of course, the implication was that they were lovers, an unremarkable relationship in ancient Greece.  At any rate, Hylas had set out to fetch water from the pool of Pegae on the island of Mysia and never returned.  Heracles was frantic, but all that could be found was Hylas' "water-pitcher lying abandoned by the pool side."  It seemed that "Dryope and her sister nymphs of Pegae had fallen in love with Hylas, and enticed them to come and live with them in an underwater grotto."  Heracles didn't reappear the next morning and finally the ship left without him.
       Heracles never found Hylas and ultimately resumed his own life, "after threatening to lay Mysia waste unless the inhabitants continued their search for Hylas, dead or alive."  And a touching after-note: "For Heracles' sake, the Mysians still sacrifice once a year to Hylas ...; their priest thrice calls his name aloud, and the devotees pretend to search for him in the woods."
      Here is where I did some conflating with later events, and if I tell you too much about that, it will seriously damage the impact the story, so ... I will proceed to the next adventure ...
      The Argonauts landed next on an island ruled by the "arrogant King Amycus, a son of Poseidon."  The King believed himself to be a great boxer (he used gloves studded with brazen spikes) and he was always challenging visitors to boxing matches.  If they declined, he would fling them over a cliff into the sea.  Polydeuces (one of the Dioscuri) was also an award-winning boxer and after a prolonged bout was able to defeat and kill Amycus in spite of the fact that the King used less than honorable tactics.
       So now you know why it is Ti'a'toig'a who fights the battle on the Cliff of Fear instead of Ki'shto'ba.  And since termites don't box, I made it a wrestling match.
       The Argonauts next encounter Phineus, a Seer who was blinded by the gods for prophesying too accurately.  He was also plagued by Harpies, who kept flying over his table, snatching the food and fouling it with their excrement.  Phineus refused to prophesy for Jason unless the Argonauts got rid of the Harpies for him.  After the Harpies were driven away, Phineus proceeded to give the Argonauts advice on how to navigate the remainder of the journey to Colchis, warning them of the Symplegades, the moving rocks in front of the entrance to the Bosporus that clash together and crush ships.  Jason defeated them by sending out a dove (or a heron) and following it through the maze.
       No mention is made at this point of the Cadmus's dragon's teeth that grow into Warriors when planted, but I introduced it here.  The story of Phineus and the Harpies grew into one of the most complex and moving sequences of my version of the myths.  And the Argonauts had many later adventures that I have omitted or that will be utilized in the sequel volume (if I ever get it written!)  I myself am not completely sure at this point how I'm going to adapt some of them.


  1. Your V6 version is an excellent adaptation of the Greek myths Lorinda and I'm straining at the leash for the sequel :D
    BTW how are things with you nowadays?

    1. You can keep up with my progress or lack thereof on Facebook if you have time. I guess I'm starting chemo next week. I had hoped for a little downtime before that happened, but it seems, no. I AM working on the sequel, off and on. I really wanted to get this blog post up, or people will think my blogs don't exist any longer. Thanks for being such a loyal supporter, Chris!