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Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

Later writers tell of an army of Pygmies which finding Hercules asleep made preparations to attack him, as if they were about to attack a city.  But the hero, awaking, laughed at the little warriors, wrapped some of them up in his lion’s skin, and carried them to Eurystheus.

Milton uses the Pygmies for a simile, “Paradise Lost,” Book I.: 

     “... like that Pygmaean race
    Beyond the Indian mount, or fairy elves
    Whose midnight revels by a forest side,
    Or fountain, some belated peasant sees
    (Or dreams he sees), while overhead the moon
    Sits arbitress, and nearer to the earth
    Wheels her pale course; they on their mirth and dance
    Intent, with jocund music charm his ear. 
    At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.”

THE GRIFFIN, OR GRYPHON

The Griffin is a monster with the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle, and back covered with feathers.  Like birds it builds its nest, and instead of an egg lays an agate therein.  It has long claws and talons of such a size that the people of that country make them into drinking-cups.  India was assigned as the native country of the Griffins.  They found gold in the mountains and built their nests of it, for which reason their nests were very tempting to the hunters, and they were forced to keep vigilant guard over them.  Their instinct led them to know where buried treasures lay, and they did their best to keep plunderers at a distance.  The Arimaspians, among whom the Griffins flourished, were a one-eyed people of Scythia.

Milton borrows a simile from the Griffins, “Paradise Lost,” Book ii,: 

    “As when a Gryphon through the wilderness,
     With winged course, o’er hill and moory dale,
     Pursues the Arimaspian who by stealth
     Hath from his wakeful custody purloined
     His guarded gold,” etc.

CHAPTER XVII

THE GOLDEN FLEECE—­MEDEA

THE GOLDEN FLEECE

In very ancient times there lived in Thessaly a king and queen named Athamas and Nephele.  They had two children, a boy and a girl.  After a time Athamas grew indifferent to his wife, put her away, and took another.  Nephele suspected danger to her children from the influence of the step-mother, and took measures to send them out of her reach.  Mercury assisted her, and gave her a ram with a golden fleece, on which she set the two children, trusting that the ram would convey them to a place of safety.  The ram vaulted into the air with the children on his back, taking his course to the East, till when crossing the strait that divides Europe and Asia, the girl, whose name was Helle, fell from his back into the sea, which from her was called the Hellespont,—­now the Dardanelles.  The ram continued his career till he reached the kingdom of Colchis, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, where he safely landed the boy Phryxus, who was hospitably received by Aeetes, king of the country.  Phryxus sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, and gave the Golden Fleece to Aeetes, who placed it in a consecrated grove, under the care of a sleepless dragon.

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