The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles



Book: The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles

Author: Padraic Colum

Illustrator: Willy Pogany

Publisher: Aladdin, republished 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0689868849

ISBN-10: 0689868847

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Colum, Padraic.  The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles (published in 1921 by Macmillan Publishing Company, 866 Third Ave., New York City, NY  10022; republished in 1990 by Scholastic Inc.,730 Broadway, New York City  10003).  Jason is the son of Aeson, king of Iolcus in Thessaly, who was overthrown by his brother Pelias. So to protect his son, Aeson sends Jason to be raised by the centaur Chiron on Mount Pelion.  When Jason comes of age, he returns to Iolcus, but before he can claim the throne, he must set forth on the ship Argo with a group of heroes which includes the mighty Heracles, the minstrel Orpheus, and other legendary figures from Greek mythology, to capture the famous Golden Fleece from King Aetes of Colchis.  Will they make it to Colchis?  Do they get the Golden Fleece?  And are they able to return home?   Author Padraic Colum, who was a popular children’s writer in his day, weaves the tale of Jason and his Argonauts with other stories from classic Greek mythology to create a captivating epic

I was one of those kids who had a fascination with mythology.  There is a divide among believers, especially homeschoolers, on this subject.  Some think that it is simply wrong to study about the ancient myths because they say it gives them credence and in essence honors pagan deities.  However, I am among those who feel that Christians can learn about such myths simply from a historical standpoint to know what ancient cultures believed and contrast that to faith in the one true God, without giving them any credence or honoring heathen gods.  Obviously, caution must be exercised because some of the myths can be quite vulgar.  That is why The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles, which was a Newbery Honor Book in 1922, the first year the Medal was awarded, can be a helpful introduction.  It comes highly recommended as kid friendly because the inappropriate details are left out due to the age of the target audience.

Many books on Greek mythology contain random, disconnected stories.  However, geared toward young readers, this classic book centers on the Argonauts’ quest for “The Golden Fleece.”  Yet, throughout the book, the members of the crew and the people whom they encounter often tell other stories of the gods and goddesses.  So, instead of being a volume of short myth summaries, it combines them into a unified whole. The 28 chapters are divided into three sections.  Part I tells the story of Jason and “The Voyage to Colchis.”  Part II explains the obtaining of the Fleece and “The Return to Greece.”  Part III talks about what happened after the return with “The Heroes of the Quest.”  There are a lot of characters, but they are introduced in a reasonably slow and orderly manner which reduces confusion, and the storytelling is simple so that it doesn’t get weighed down in lengthy description.  Thus, it’s a good choice for those kids who enjoy mythology or are curious and would like an introduction.

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