Select the desired text size

Jason and the Golden Fleece.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall.

Start of Story

"Look at him! only look at him!" said the man to his next neighbor. "Do you see? He wears but one sandal!" Upon this, first one person and then another began to stare at Jason, and everybody seemed to be greatly struck with something in his aspect; though they turned their eyes much oftener toward his feet than to any other part of his figure. Besides, he could hear them whispering to one another. "One sandal! One sandal!" they kept saying. "The man with one sandal! Here he is at last! Whence has he come? What does he mean to do? What will the king say to the one-sandaled man?" Poor Jason was greatly abashed and made up his mind that the people of Iolchos were exceedingly ill-bred to take such public notice of an accidental deficiency in his dress. Meanwhile, whether it were that they hustled him forward or that Jason of his own accord thrust a passage through the crowd, it so happened that he soon found himself close to the smoking altar, where King Pelias was sacrificing the black bull. The murmur and hum of the multitude, in their surprise at the spectacle of Jason with his one bare foot, grew so loud that it disturbed the ceremonies; and the king, holding the great knife with which he was just going to cut the bull's throat, turned angrily about and fixed his eyes on Jason. The people had now withdrawn from around him, so that the youth stood in an open space, near the smoking altar, front to front with the angry King Pelias. "Who are you?" cried the king, with a terrible frown. "And how dare you make this disturbance, while I am sacrificing a black bull to my father Neptune?" "It is no fault of mine," answered Jason. "Your majesty must blame the rudeness of your subjects, who have raised all this tumult because one of my feet happens to be bare."

When Jason said this the king gave a quick, startled glance at his feet. "Ha!" muttered he, "here is the one-sandaled fellow, sure enough! What can I do with him?" And he clutched more closely the great knife in his hand, as if he were half a mind to slay Jason instead of the black bull. The people round about caught up the king's words, indistinctly as they were uttered; and first there was a murmur among them and then a loud shout. "The one-sandaled man has come! The prophecy must be fulfilled!" For you are to know that many years before King Pelias had been told by the Speaking Oak of Dodona that a man with one sandal should cast him down from his throne. On this account he had given strict orders that nobody should ever come into his presence unless both sandals were securely tied upon his feet; and he kept an officer in his palace whose sole business it was to examine people's sandals and to supply them with a new pair at the expense of the royal treasury as soon as the old ones began to wear out. In the whole course of the king's reign he had never been thrown into such a fright and agitation as by the spectacle of poor Jason's bare foot. But as he was naturally a bold and hard-hearted man, he soon took courage and began to consider in what way he might rid himself of this terrible one-sandaled stranger. "My good young man," said King Pelias, taking the softest tone imaginable in order to throw Jason off his guard, "you are excessively welcome to my kingdom. Judging by your dress, you must have traveled a long distance, for it is not the fashion to wear leopard-skins in this part of the world. Pray, what may I call your name, and where did you receive your education?"

"My name is Jason," answered the young stranger. "Ever since my infancy I have dwelt in the cave of Chiron the Centaur. He was my instructor, and taught me music and horsemanship and how to cure wounds, and likewise how to inflict wounds with my weapons!" "I have heard of Chiron the schoolmaster," replied King Pelias, "and how that there is an immense deal of learning and wisdom in his head, although it happens to be set on a horse's body. It gives me great delight to see one of his scholars at my court. But to test how much you have profited under so excellent a teacher, will you allow me to ask you a single question?" "I do not pretend to be very wise," said Jason; "but ask me what you please and I will answer to the best of my ability." Now King Pelias meant cunningly to entrap the young man and to make him say something that should be the cause of mischief and destruction to himself. So with a crafty and evil smile upon his face, he spoke as follows: "What would you do, brave Jason," asked he, "if there were a man in the world by whom, as you had reason to believe, you were doomed to be ruined and slain--what would you do, I say, if that man stood before you and in your power?" When Jason saw the malice and wickedness which King Pelias could not prevent from gleaming out of his eyes, he probably guessed that the king had discovered what he came for, and that he intended to turn his own words against himself. Still, he scorned to tell a falsehood. Like an upright and honorable prince, as he was, he determined to speak out the real truth. Since the king had chosen to ask him the question and since Jason had promised him an answer, there was no right way save to tell him precisely what would be the most prudent thing to do if he had his worst enemy in his power.

Therefore, after a moment's consideration, he spoke up with a firm and manly voice: "I would send such a man," said he, "in quest of the Golden Fleece!" This enterprise, you will understand, was, of all others, the most difficult and dangerous in the world. In the first place, it would be necessary to make a long voyage through unknown seas. There was hardly a hope or a possibility that any young man who should undertake this voyage would either succeed in obtaining the Golden Fleece or would survive to return home and tell of the perils he had run. The eyes of King Pelias sparkled with joy, therefore, when he heard Jason's reply. "Well said, wise man with the one sandal!" cried he. "Go, then, and at the peril of your life bring me back the Golden Fleece!" "I go," answered Jason composedly. "If I fail, you need not fear that I will ever come back to trouble you again. But if I return to Iolchos with the prize, then, King Pelias, you must hasten down from your lofty throne and give me your crown and scepter." "That I will," said the king, with a sneer. "Meantime I will keep them very safely for you." The first thing that Jason thought of doing after he left the king's presence was to go to Dodona and inquire of the Talking Oak what course it was best to pursue. This wonderful tree stood in the center of an ancient wood. Its stately trunk rose up a hundred feet into the air and threw a broad and dense shadow over more than an acre of ground. Standing beneath it, Jason looked up among the knotted branches and green leaves and into the mysterious heart of the old tree, and spoke aloud, as if he were addressing some person who was hidden in the depths of the foliage.


back to top
Back To Top
next page
Next Page
previous page
Previous Page