What was the end of the Heroes
PART II--HOW JASON LOST HIS SANDAL IN ANAUROS
And ten years came and went, and Jason was grown to be a mighty
man. Some of his fellows were gone, and some were growing up by
his side. Asclepius was gone into Peloponnese to work his wondrous
cures on men; and some say he used to raise the dead to life. And
Heracles was gone to Thebes to fulfil those famous labours which
have become a proverb among men. And Peleus had married a sea-
nymph, and his wedding is famous to this day. And AEneas was gone
home to Troy, and many a noble tale you will read of him, and of
all the other gallant heroes, the scholars of Cheiron the just.
And it happened on a day that Jason stood on the mountain, and
looked north and south and east and west; and Cheiron stood by him
and watched him, for he knew that the time was come.
And Jason looked and saw the plains of Thessaly, where the Lapithai
breed their horses; and the lake of Boibe, and the stream which
runs northward to Peneus and Tempe; and he looked north, and saw
the mountain wall which guards the Magnesian shore; Olympus, the
seat of the Immortals, and Ossa, and Pelion, where he stood. Then
he looked east and saw the bright blue sea, which stretched away
for ever toward the dawn. Then he looked south, and saw a pleasant
land, with white-walled towns and farms, nestling along the shore
of a land-locked bay, while the smoke rose blue among the trees;
and he knew it for the bay of Pagasai, and the rich lowlands of
Haemonia, and Iolcos by the sea.
Then he sighed, and asked, 'Is it true what the heroes tell me--
that I am heir of that fair land?'
'And what good would it be to you, Jason, if you were heir of that
'I would take it and keep it.'
'A strong man has taken it and kept it long. Are you stronger than
Pelias the terrible?'
'I can try my strength with his,' said Jason; but Cheiron sighed,
and said -
'You have many a danger to go through before you rule in Iolcos by
the sea: many a danger and many a woe; and strange troubles in
strange lands, such as man never saw before.'
'The happier I,' said Jason, 'to see what man never saw before.'
And Cheiron sighed again, and said, 'The eaglet must leave the nest
when it is fledged. Will you go to Iolcos by the sea? Then
promise me two things before you go.'
Jason promised, and Cheiron answered, 'Speak harshly to no soul
whom you may meet, and stand by the word which you shall speak.'
Jason wondered why Cheiron asked this of him; but he knew that the
Centaur was a prophet, and saw things long before they came. So he
promised, and leapt down the mountain, to take his fortune like a
He went down through the arbutus thickets, and across the downs of
thyme, till he came to the vineyard walls, and the pomegranates and
the olives in the glen; and among the olives roared Anauros, all
foaming with a summer flood.
And on the bank of Anauros sat a woman, all wrinkled, gray, and
old; her head shook palsied on her breast, and her hands shook
palsied on her knees; and when she saw Jason, she spoke whining,
'Who will carry me across the flood?'
Jason was bold and hasty, and was just going to leap into the
flood: and yet he thought twice before he leapt, so loud roared
the torrent down, all brown from the mountain rains, and silver-
veined with melting snow; while underneath he could hear the
boulders rumbling like the tramp of horsemen or the roll of wheels,
as they ground along the narrow channel, and shook the rocks on
which he stood.
But the old woman whined all the more, 'I am weak and old, fair
youth. For Hera's sake, carry me over the torrent.'
And Jason was going to answer her scornfully, when Cheiron's words
came to his mind.
So he said, 'For Hera's sake, the Queen of the Immortals on
Olympus, I will carry you over the torrent, unless we both are
Then the old dame leapt upon his back, as nimbly as a goat; and
Jason staggered in, wondering; and the first step was up to his
The first step was up to his knees, and the second step was up to
his waist; and the stones rolled about his feet, and his feet
slipped about the stones; so he went on staggering, and panting,
while the old woman cried from off his back -
'Fool, you have wet my mantle! Do you make game of poor old souls
Jason had half a mind to drop her, and let her get through the
torrent by herself; but Cheiron's words were in his mind, and he
said only, 'Patience, mother; the best horse may stumble some day.'
At last he staggered to the shore, and set her down upon the bank;
and a strong man he needed to have been, or that wild water he
never would have crossed.
He lay panting awhile upon the bank, and then leapt up to go upon
his journey; but he cast one look at the old woman, for he thought,
'She should thank me once at least.'
And as he looked, she grew fairer than all women, and taller than
all men on earth; and her garments shone like the summer sea, and
her jewels like the stars of heaven; and over her forehead was a
veil woven of the golden clouds of sunset; and through the veil she
looked down on him, with great soft heifer's eyes; with great eyes,
mild and awful, which filled all the glen with light.
And Jason fell upon his knees, and hid his face between his hands.
And she spoke, 'I am the Queen of Olympus, Hera the wife of Zeus.
As thou hast done to me, so will I do to thee. Call on me in the
hour of need, and try if the Immortals can forget.'
And when Jason looked up, she rose from off the earth, like a
pillar of tall white cloud, and floated away across the mountain
peaks, toward Olympus the holy hill.
Then a great fear fell on Jason: but after a while he grew light
of heart; and he blessed old Cheiron, and said, 'Surely the Centaur
is a prophet, and guessed what would come to pass, when he bade me
speak harshly to no soul whom I might meet.'
Then he went down toward Iolcos; and as he walked he found that he
had lost one of his sandals in the flood.
And as he went through the streets, the people came out to look at
him, so tall and fair was he; but some of the elders whispered
together; and at last one of them stopped Jason, and called to him,
'Fair lad, who are you, and whence come you; and what is your
errand in the town?'
'My name, good father, is Jason, and I come from Pelion up above;
and my errand is to Pelias your king; tell me then where his palace
But the old man started, and grew pale, and said, 'Do you not know
the oracle, my son, that you go so boldly through the town with but
one sandal on?'
'I am a stranger here, and know of no oracle; but what of my one
sandal? I lost the other in Anauros, while I was struggling with
Then the old man looked back to his companions; and one sighed, and
another smiled; at last he said, 'I will tell you, lest you rush
upon your ruin unawares. The oracle in Delphi has said that a man
wearing one sandal should take the kingdom from Pelias, and keep it
for himself. Therefore beware how you go up to his palace, for he
is the fiercest and most cunning of all kings.'
Then Jason laughed a great laugh, like a war-horse in his pride.
'Good news, good father, both for you and me. For that very end I
came into the town.'
Then he strode on toward the palace of Pelias, while all the people
wondered at his bearing.
And he stood in the doorway and cried, 'Come out, come out, Pelias
the valiant, and fight for your kingdom like a man.'
Pelias came out wondering, and 'Who are you, bold youth?' he cried.
'I am Jason, the son of AEson, the heir of all this land.'
Then Pelias lifted up his hands and eyes, and wept, or seemed to
weep; and blessed the heavens which had brought his nephew to him,
never to leave him more. 'For,' said he, 'I have but three
daughters, and no son to be my heir. You shall be my heir then,
and rule the kingdom after me, and marry whichsoever of my
daughters you shall choose; though a sad kingdom you will find it,
and whosoever rules it a miserable man. But come in, come in, and
So he drew Jason in, whether he would or not, and spoke to him so
lovingly and feasted him so well, that Jason's anger passed; and
after supper his three cousins came into the hall, and Jason
thought that he should like well enough to have one of them for his
But at last he said to Pelias, 'Why do you look so sad, my uncle?
And what did you mean just now when you said that this was a
doleful kingdom, and its ruler a miserable man?'
Then Pelias sighed heavily again and again and again, like a man
who had to tell some dreadful story, and was afraid to begin; but
at last -
'For seven long years and more have I never known a quiet night;
and no more will he who comes after me, till the golden fleece be
Then he told Jason the story of Phrixus, and of the golden fleece;
and told him, too, which was a lie, that Phrixus' spirit tormented
him, calling to him day and night. And his daughters came, and
told the same tale (for their father had taught them their parts),
and wept, and said, 'Oh who will bring home the golden fleece, that
our uncle's spirit may rest; and that we may have rest also, whom
he never lets sleep in peace?'
Jason sat awhile, sad and silent; for he had often heard of that
golden fleece; but he looked on it as a thing hopeless and
impossible for any mortal man to win it.
But when Pelias saw him silent, he began to talk of other things,
and courted Jason more and more, speaking to him as if he was
certain to be his heir, and asking his advice about the kingdom;
till Jason, who was young and simple, could not help saying to
himself, 'Surely he is not the dark man whom people call him. Yet
why did he drive my father out?' And he asked Pelias boldly, 'Men
say that you are terrible, and a man of blood; but I find you a
kind and hospitable man; and as you are to me, so will I be to you.
Yet why did you drive my father out?'
Pelias smiled, and sighed. 'Men have slandered me in that, as in
all things. Your father was growing old and weary, and he gave the
kingdom up to me of his own will. You shall see him to-morrow, and
ask him; and he will tell you the same.'
Jason's heart leapt in him when he heard that he was to see his
father; and he believed all that Pelias said, forgetting that his
father might not dare to tell the truth.
'One thing more there is,' said Pelias, 'on which I need your
advice; for, though you are young, I see in you a wisdom beyond
your years. There is one neighbour of mine, whom I dread more than
all men on earth. I am stronger than he now, and can command him;
but I know that if he stay among us, he will work my ruin in the
end. Can you give me a plan, Jason, by which I can rid myself of
After awhile Jason answered, half laughing, 'Were I you, I would
send him to fetch that same golden fleece; for if he once set forth
after it you would never be troubled with him more.'
And at that a bitter smile came across Pelias' lips, and a flash of
wicked joy into his eyes; and Jason saw it, and started; and over
his mind came the warning of the old man, and his own one sandal,
and the oracle, and he saw that he was taken in a trap.
But Pelias only answered gently, 'My son, he shall be sent
'You mean me?' cried Jason, starting up, 'because I came here with
one sandal?' And he lifted his fist angrily, while Pelias stood up
to him like a wolf at bay; and whether of the two was the stronger
and the fiercer it would be hard to tell.
But after a moment Pelias spoke gently, 'Why then so rash, my son?
You, and not I, have said what is said; why blame me for what I
have not done? Had you bid me love the man of whom I spoke, and
make him my son-in-law and heir, I would have obeyed you; and what
if I obey you now, and send the man to win himself immortal fame?
I have not harmed you, or him. One thing at least I know, that he
will go, and that gladly; for he has a hero's heart within him,
loving glory, and scorning to break the word which he has given.'
Jason saw that he was entrapped; but his second promise to Cheiron
came into his mind, and he thought, 'What if the Centaur were a
prophet in that also, and meant that I should win the fleece!'
Then he cried aloud -
'You have well spoken, cunning uncle of mine! I love glory, and I
dare keep to my word. I will go and fetch this golden fleece.
Promise me but this in return, and keep your word as I keep mine.
Treat my father lovingly while I am gone, for the sake of the all-
seeing Zeus; and give me up the kingdom for my own on the day that
I bring back the golden fleece.'
Then Pelias looked at him and almost loved him, in the midst of all
his hate; and said, 'I promise, and I will perform. It will be no
shame to give up my kingdom to the man who wins that fleece.' Then
they swore a great oath between them; and afterwards both went in,
and lay down to sleep.
But Jason could not sleep for thinking of his mighty oath, and how
he was to fulfil it, all alone, and without wealth or friends. So
he tossed a long time upon his bed, and thought of this plan and of
that; and sometimes Phrixus seemed to call him, in a thin voice,
faint and low, as if it came from far across the sea, 'Let me come
home to my fathers and have rest.' And sometimes he seemed to see
the eyes of Hera, and to hear her words again--'Call on me in the
hour of need, and see if the Immortals can forget.'
And on the morrow he went to Pelias, and said, 'Give me a victim,
that I may sacrifice to Hera.' So he went up, and offered his
sacrifice; and as he stood by the altar Hera sent a thought into
his mind; and he went back to Pelias, and said -
'If you are indeed in earnest, give me two heralds, that they may
go round to all the princes of the Minuai, who were pupils of the
Centaur with me, that we may fit out a ship together, and take what
At that Pelias praised his wisdom, and hastened to send the heralds
out; for he said in his heart, 'Let all the princes go with him,
and, like him, never return; for so I shall be lord of all the
Minuai, and the greatest king in Hellas.'
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How Jason lost his sandal in Anauros
This resource is copyright © 2003 N.S. Gill.