Retelling the Legend
She gazed across the hewn stone room full of bedraggled men drinking too much, women attempting to avoid their relentless grasping, alcohol flowing like there was no end, and children scuffling in the corners. This should have been a happy moment. She had just been wed to the king, yet instead of dancing with joy and celebration, her eyes sought out the lithe form of Phrixus, the son he loved more than her. Or so she thought. Her family alone should have claim to this throne she told herself and as the joy raged around her jealousy took over her heart. Calling her most faithful servant to her side she simply asks, “Is it done?” To which her servant replies with an almost indiscernible nod of the head. It is only then that she sits back and turns to her new husband with the smile that won her the throne.
“Why is this happening!” King Athamus bellowed. “We have prayed to all the gods and sacrificed. Go to the Oracle and ask what can be done. The corn cannot fail, or the entire kingdom will starve!”
The messenger didn’t even take that precious second to acknowledge his king, but instead ran as fast as he could to the horse waiting outside. He leapt into the saddle in one fluid motion perfected through years of missions that couldn’t afford to waste even one second. Little did he know it would be the last time he mounted in such a way. As he crossed the mountain pass on a narrow path at the highest speed he could coax his mount into going a rock flew out of nowhere, struck him and embedded in his forehead. He was dead before he his body hit the ground.
Three days later a messenger jumped from his mount and ran into the stone hall. “My King the Oracle has spoken!”
“Where is the messenger I sent?”
“He fell ill after his time with the Oracle. I was in the room and heard her message and rode on to give you the message. The gods are angry. You must sacrifice your son Phrixus.” He hung his head in devastation uttering so softly the king had to lean forward to hear “It is the only way to restore the crops.”
A sound much like a wounded lion raging in the final feral attack upon the enemy emanated from the king. He raged. Phrixus a warrior to make his father proud, his favorite of all his children. “Why him?” He shouted as Zeus until his voice no longer held.
A sultry voice rose from beside him, “If one sacrifice is required, how much more will the gods bless us for sacrificing two? We must sacrifice both Phrixus and Helle for them to not just stop the blight but prosper our crops.” Ino spoke with conviction and truly that’s exactly what gods and goddesses would appreciate, but King Athamus was heartbroken.
Knowing it was his only option, the king called for Phrixus, his sister Helle, and their mother, Nephele. They argued so the walls shook, but in the end they all knew what must be done. Nephele was not convinced and fell to the floor, her forehead hitting the ground with a crunch, but she didn’t even notice as she prayed to all her goddesses and even Zeus for her son and daughter’s deliverance. For the next several days she fasted and prayed.
The day came.
Phrixus knew that his sacrifice would mean the survival of hundreds and though not happy to die, was willing to give his life for them, but Helle was less convinced. As they climbed to Zeus’ alter Phrixus held Helle’s hand tightly uttering one last frantic prayer to Zeus. The priest of Zeus held the knife aloft muttering words to an entirely different prayer. As the blade glinted in the sun, a flash of light scorched the sky blinding everyone in attendance.
A giant golden Ram with a shimmering Golden Fleece charged from the heaven. His horns flung the priest aside as he beckoned Phrixus and Helle to climb on his back then launched into the sky. Phrixus sat in front holding desperately to the Ram’s horns as the flight took them across the water, but Helle was only holding to Phrixus. Sweat slicked her hands, and her grip slipped just above the narrow split of water between Europe and Asia, she fell into the watery depths.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” Phrixus shouted, the agony of that cry was heard even to those still standing dazed upon the alter of Zeus.
Knowing the Ram to be a thanksgiving offering, when they landed in Colchis Phrixus sacrificed the ram and brought the Golden Fleece to King Aeetes as an offering of peace. Here in this land, Phrixus made his life all the while the Golden Fleece was placed in a secluded copse and guarded by the fiercest of all dragons.
To be remembered for all times for his place in the deliverance of Phrixus and Helle, Aries the Ram joined the stars and rides the skies to this day.