Under the olive-tree she sat down beside him, and told him all that had happened in Ithaca while he was away, and all that he must do to win back his kingdom and his Queen.
ADAPTED BY MARY MACGREGOR
HOW THE CENTAUR TRAINED THE HEROES
Now I have a tale to tell of heroes who sailed away into a distant land, to win themselves renown for ever in the adventures of the Golden Fleece.
And what was the Golden Fleece?
It was the fleece of the wondrous ram who bore a boy called Phrixus and a girl called Helle across the sea; and the old Greeks said that it hung nailed to a beech-tree in the War-god’s wood.
For when a famine came upon the land, their cruel stepmother wished to kill Phrixus and Helle, that her own children might reign.
She said Phrixus and Helle must be sacrificed on an altar, to turn away the anger of the gods, who sent the famine.
So the poor children were brought to the altar, and the priest stood ready with his knife, when out of the clouds came the Golden Ram, and took them on his back and vanished.
And the ram carried the two children far away, over land and sea, till at a narrow strait Helle fell off into the sea, and those narrow straits are called “Hellespont” after her, and they bear that name until this day.
Then the ram flew on with Phrixus to the northeast, across the sea which we call the Black Sea, and at last he stopped at Colchis, on the steep sea-coast.
And Phrixus married the King’s daughter there, and offered the ram in sacrifice, and then it was that the ram’s fleece was nailed to a beech in the wood of the War-god.
After a while Phrixus died, but his spirit had no rest, for he was buried far from his native land and the pleasant hills of Hellas.
So he came in dreams to the heroes of his country, and called sadly by their beds, “Come and set my spirit free, that I may go home to my fathers and to my kinsfolk.”
And they asked, “How shall we set your spirit free?”
“You must sail over the sea to Colchis, and bring home the Golden Fleece. Then my spirit will come back with it, and I shall sleep with my fathers and have rest.”
He came thus, and called to them often, but when they woke they looked at each other and said, “Who dare sail to Colchis or bring home the Golden Fleece?”
And in all the country none was brave enough to try, for the man and the time were not come.
Now Phrixus had a cousin called AEson, who was King in Iolcos by the sea. And a fierce and lawless stepbrother drove AEson out of Iolcos by the sea, and took the kingdom to himself and ruled over it.
When AEson was driven out, he went sadly away out of the town, leading his little son by the hand. And he said to himself, “I must hide the child in the mountains, or my stepbrother will surely kill him because he is the heir.”