Jason and the Golden Fleece
The Tales of Aries and Argo
Chapter 4: Bitter Hearts
Sailing into the harbor of his birthplace,
Iolcos, Jason expected to find his father planning festivities celebrating
his victorious return. Not only were there no festivities, but his
parents were dead and Jason learned that King Pelias' lies and treachery
had caused his father to kill himself and shortly after, Jason's
mother died of grief.
"Curse that evil Pelias," Jason said. "Death alone would be too
honorable for him. To destroy his family as he has destroyed mine
would be the just thing to do." Jason was inconsolable. His grief
tore at Medea's heart and she undertook his revenge.
"I have a secret, but I will share it with you if you wish." Medea
said to Pelias' two daughters. When she met them, she immediately
won their trust with her cleverness and charm.
"Medea trusts us," they said to each other excitedly. "How wonderful
it will be to learn her magic. What is the secret?" they asked her.
"Would you like to learn how to make the old young again?" Medea
The sisters could not contain their excitement as Medea demonstrated
the skill by cutting up an old ram. Then she put its pieces in a
pot of boiling water. Throwing into the boiling pot some foul smelling
magic herbs, she chanted an incantation to the gods and a frisky
young lamb leaped from the pot.
"How marvelous," the sisters exclaimed. "We can become famous with
this skill. Let's try it out." They thought about how to try their
magic and decided to give their beloved father the gift of eternal
youth. They were sure he would be grateful for the surprise. They
begged Medea for her help and were delighted when she agreed.
That evening, after Pelias' dinner as he was drinking his evening
wine, Medea slipped a sleeping potion into his cup. "Come," she
called to his daughters, "it is time." Gathering a huge pot and
stoking the fire under it, the girls cut their father into small
pieces and put him in the pot.
"Now we're ready for the herbs and the charm," they called to Medea.
There was no answer. The girls looked up from their grizzly, bloody
task. Medea was not there. In horror they looked at each other as
they realized that they had just murdered their father.
"We must leave here at once," Medea shook Jason from his sleep.
"Pelias is dead and his daughters have murdered him, but we can
no longer stay in Iolcos." Though Jason achieved his desired revenge,
he was not pleased. He was guilty of murder by association. Even
though he should be king, his right to rule could never be fulfilled.
Taking the Golden Fleece with them, they left for Corinth.
The next few years in Corinth were Medea's happiest ones. They had
hung the Golden Fleece in the Temple of Zeus and Medea was sure
this would bring their good fortune. Medea and Jason bore two sons
and, in spite of her exile, her loss of family and homeland seemed
tolerable for she felt rooted in her new home with her new family.
It was while she luxuriated in security that Jason's ambition flared.
"I'm going to marry Glauce, daughter of King Creon," he callously
blurted out to her. "You deprived me of the rulership of Iolcos.
Now, instead, I shall rule Corinth," he said.
"No you won't," she cried. "You're my husband. You will never marry
her for I will kill her," she frantically sobbed. "I will not let
my family be destroyed by her." King Creon heard of Medea's threats
to his daughter and sent word that she and her sons must leave Corinth.
"No!" she screamed. "He can't do that to me. He may as well kill
us. What am I to do? I am alone with two small children and no place
to go. I can't go home to my father. Where am I to go?" her eyes
were wide with fear. "Jason, don't do this. Don't you remember you
promised that nothing in life would come between us? I have sacrificed
everything for you; my father, my brother, my home. My devotion
to you has brought me to this misery," she grabbed Jason's arm and
sobbed with her face buried in his sleeve.
"You disgust me," he shook her loose and looked at her coldly. She
whimpered and curled into a ball, while tears streamed down her
cheeks. "You're so stupid. If you had kept your mouth shut you could
have stayed in Corinth. I've done all I can for you. Thanks to me
you've been exiled instead of killed. It was hard to persuade the
king but I'm not one to fail a friend." He stood over her and curled
his lip as he spoke to her. "I'll make sure you have plenty of gold
and whatever else you need."
After her collapse in self-pity she now felt a surge of anger swell
through her body, giving her strength and she rose from the ground.
"Is this what I get for giving up everything for you? I made you
invincible," she said. "I fought your foes and made enemies of my
family, all because I loved you. Oh, my foolish loyalty to my husband.
Now, after everything, I am discarded. . ."
"You didn't save me," Jason said, "it was Hera who did, and Aphrodite
made you fall in love with me. I don't owe you anything. You owe
me for bringing you to Greece to live in a civilized country. Because
of me you have a measure of fame. If you had any sense you would
be happy for my marriage as you and the boys will profit from it.
You are a fool and your exile is your own fault!"
As Medea looked at him she felt hatred rise up inside her and when
he reached out to hand her a bag of gold, she spat on him and walked
"You have nothing but stubborn pride," Jason screamed after her.
"You drive away whoever would be kind. You'll be sorry!"
Deliberately she walked back to her room and opened a trunk, pulling
out her most beautiful robe. It was rich with deep green leaves
and pearl white lilies and its silver threads cast a sheen over
everything. Taking a vial from her collection, she shook its liquid
over the robe. Then she took a carved wooden box fragrant with perfumes
and placed the robe inside.
"Take this box to Princess Glauce," she said to her sons and kissed
them on their foreheads. "Ask her to show her acceptance of this
gift by wearing it at once." They smiled and nodded and they went
upon their way.
The boys arrived at Glauce's chambers and shyly announced themselves.
She had no interest in the children, even though they were to be
her stepsons, but she did have curiosity about the box they carried.
As she opened it she saw the magnificent robe and was overtaken
by vanity. The boys did not even have to ask, for she immediately
wrapped herself in its silver threaded splendor. The boys left immediately,
but no sooner had they gone than flames burst from the robe, engulfing
her and melting her flesh. She screamed, but there was no one to
hear as she died a torturous death.
"Glauce, why haven't you come to dinner?" King Creon called as he
came to her room, but when he opened her door he saw the scorched
body. He ran to his dead daughter and held her, but when he touched
her robe, he too, burst into flames and died.
"I have nothing with which to protect my children," Medea said to
herself. "Fate is cruel and there is nothing in store for them but
slavery or poverty. I cannot bear to think of them being abused
by strangers. I cannot let them live like that. I gave them life
and I will also give them death. . ."
That evening, going to her chambers to see his bride, Jason found
the burned bodies of Glauce and the king. He knew who did it and
grabbed his sword, heading for Medea's room. "I'll kill her myself,"
he cried, but when he got there he did not find Medea. Instead he
found the two small bodies of his sons! He held one of his sons
in each arm, and he cried. Then he heard noises on the roof and
ran outside, looking up. There, on the roof, he saw a chariot drawn
by dragons and in it was Medea, fleeing to Athens.
"I curse you!" he screamed. But, for what had happened, he never
cursed himself. Jason became king of Corinth, but he never found
joy in it. He lost Hera's favor and lived an empty life, bearing
no more children. Finally, as he sat under the prow of the Argo,
brooding about his life and what promise he started with only to
be abused by fate, the Argo's beam fell on him and killed him.
Medea never learned the lesson Circe told her. Instead, evil acts
forced her to leave Athens and she spent her final days with her
grandfather, the sun. Meanwhile, Zeus took the Golden Fleece from
his temple and hung it in the sky and with it he placed the Argo.
"The ram's journey answered prayers, the Argo's answered greed,"
he said. "I will call the ram Aries, and it will show the sun where
to begin its yearly journey. As for the Argo, only the prow will
be visible in the sky, for that part is the talking oak of Dodona.
The prow will warn of dangers, but only to those who will listen."
the Immortal Night ©2003, J.J. Kuhl