Happy Friday Everyone!
This week’s Behind the Book feature takes a peek at the adventures Jason had aboard the Argo on his way to fetch the Golden Fleece and how those mythological adventures tie into my upcoming novel The Voyage: Book Two of The Osteria Chronicles (which you can now pre-order, hint hint).
Sailing Away In Mythology
In Greek mythology, once Jason accepts Pelias’s suggestion that he trundle off to collect the golden fleece, our hero needs a boat and a crew. The boat is the Argo and was built by Argus with the help of either Hera or Athena depending on who’s telling the story. Thanks to the help of one of these goddesses, the boat had a magic prow that could speak to the crew and give them advice (keep in mind they had REALLY strong wine back then).
So who were the crew? Well, the crew gets a bit unwieldy since the Argonauts legend is quite old and, as time went on, more and more heroes from other myths got added to the cast. The crew also gets more members as storytellers, wanting to please the person paying to hear the story, added in the patron’s supposed mythological ancestors. Some legends limit the crew to around forty people, other legends add in an extra hundred or so men.
The Argo sets sail and its first stop on its very long voyage is Lemnos Island that is inhabited by some blood thirsty women who have been cursed by Aphrodite for their murderous rages. Part of the curse is that the women smell awful. The crew of the Argo don’t seem to mind the risk or the stench and set up camp, father a bunch of kids, and then finally take off when Hercules says they should get a move on.
Next stop is the Island of Doliones. While they’re on the island gathering supplies, six-armed giants called the Gegeines ravage the ship but are thwarted by Hercules. They are about to leave when Hercules notices Hylas, his servant, is missing. Turns out Hylas got snatched by some water nymphs who thought he was cute. In his grief, Hercules leaves the Argonauts and continues on with his own adventures. When Jason and the Argonauts try to leave the island, the Doliones think they are enemies and attack, but many of the islanders don’t survive.
The next encounter the crew has is with Phineas, a blind seer whose prophecies got him on the wrong side of Zeus. As punishment, Phineas is given food every day, but before he can get to the food, harpies steal his grub. Luckily, Jason doesn’t mind killing a harpy or two. As a reward, Phineas tells Jason how to get past the towering (and teetering) rocks called the Symplegades – the barrier that protects Colchis from the sea invaders.
The trick to getting through the barrier was to wait for a bird to fly through the top. If the bird died, the crew should just count their losses and head home, but if the bird made it through, they would be able to pass through the barrier safely. Well, the bird went though and the crew entered Colchis.
What happens in Colchis? We’ll cover that next week!
Turning Myth Into Novel
As mentioned before, I had to speed up much of the mythological storyline. After all, it doesn’t sound like Jason is really trying to win back his kingdom if he doesn’t mind spending over a year on an island making babies with stinky women. In The Voyage, the journey takes a few weeks rather than a few years.
Much of the storyline holds true to the basics of the legends although I left out the Gegeines giants…the crew has enough to deal with on the Island of Doliones, such as rumors that the people may have a darker side to them. As with The Trials of Hercules, settings, dialogue, pacing, and characterization bring life to the rather flat myths the Greeks gave us.
Hercules, due to events in Book One of The Osteria Chronicles, plays only a minor par tin aiding the crew. I’ve also left out Phineas. I liked his story, but I wanted to bring in one of the gods who has a vested interest in Jason’s future to help our hero figure out how to get through the barrier and into Colchis.
As for the ship, instead of Argus, in The Voyage the boat is built by master craftsman Daedalus who will also build the minotaur’s labyrinth in Book Three of the series. The ship is captained and owned by Perseus who is obsessively protective of his ship which creates a source of tension as Jason must take charge to prove he can be a leader. Finally, to make the story more manageable, to introduce all the characters that will play roles throughout the series, and to stick with the superstitions of the Osterians, the crew has been whittled down to twelve people.
Thanks for reading everyone and have a great weekend!