Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles by Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum not only provides a retelling of the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts but also of some of the Greek heroes and gods that most readers would recognize. The book is divided into the following three major parts:

Part 1. The Voyage to Colchis
Part 2. The Return to Greece
Part 3. The Heroes of the Quest

Colum is not only a narrator of the events in the heroes' quest to retrieve the fleece and return home safely, but he also made an attempt at characterization. Jason is no longer just a famous hero and the readers voyeurs, but instead are involved in the emotional struggles of the characters. First time readers of this tale will not find the book difficult to understand. Several stories told or sung by Orpheus are also very helpful for readers who are new to Greek mythology. These stories include the beginning of things and Titanomachy, Demeter and Persephone, Atalanta's Race, The Golden Maid, Prometheus, and Perseus.

The final part of the book features stories that highlight the Argonauts. These are Atalanta, Peleus and His Bride From the Sea, Theseus and the Minotaur, The Life and Labors of Heracles, Admetus, How Orpheus the minstrel went down to the world of the dead, and Jason and Medea. The conclusion of Jason's fate is told in Jason and Medea; what he did with the prized fleece and where he went. This happened after he had obtained the fleece and therefore the continuation of part 2 of the book will have to wait until the reader gets to this part. The closing lines tried to compensate for the Jason's shortcomings that led to several deaths although Colum did not include his personal views.

I had fun reading this book not only for its main story but for the other tales that were included. Since most of the famous heroes of Greek mythology were involved in the quest of the golden fleece, this book is a good starting point for further reading of the adventures of great men like Theseus and Hercules. Keep in mind however that there are some characters and instances which were not included in the story but are present in some versions of Jason's tale.

Rating: 10 out of 10