Mystical tales Children

Brain and brawn

This time, you’re going to hear of another Greek hero: Theseus, the son of King Aegus of Athens and Aethra.

Aethra lived in her own country. Before Aegus left her, he buried his sword and sandals under a huge rock so that their child, if it were a boy, could identify himself to Aegus.

On the road

When Theseus was old enough, his mother led him to the rock and asked him to lift it. Theseus picked it up easily and found the tokens of his father. Aethra now told him of his parentage and sent him to Athens to make himself known to his father.

Theseus’ mother and grandfather begged him to go by sea as the overland route was not just long but also beset by bandits and other dangers. But Theseus had great faith in his strength and intelligence and insisted on going by road.

At Epidaurus, Theseus met the first of the bandits: Periphetes who bludgeoned travellers to death with a huge club. Theseus began an argument whether the weapon was made of wood or metal. A confused Periphetes handed the club over. Theseus quickly killed him and made off with the weapon.

The next danger came while crossing a mountain range. At a cliff’s edge, he saw a giant standing in the middle of the road. “I am Sciron and you cannot pass this road unless you wash my feet,” roared the giant. Theseus looked over the cliff and saw a huge man-eating turtle swimming in the sea below. He realised that this was the wicked bandit who would rob travellers and toss them over for the turtle to finish off. Theseus knelt down and, pretending to wash Sciron’s feet, caught him by the ankle and threw him over the cliff. Sciron did not escape the turtle below.

Soon after, he came down the mountain, he met Sinis, a killer who would tie travellers to two bent pine trees and then release them by tearing the traveller apart. Sinis requested Theseus to help him hold down a tree. But Theseus, who had been warned about him, knocked him down and killed him in the same way that Sinis had killed his victims.

Theseus set off again to Athens and, when night fell, found himself near a big house. He knocked on the door and asked for a night’s lodging. The man, who welcomed him in, introduced himself as Procrustes. When he heard the name, Theseus remembered what he had been told: Procrustes had a bed that would never fit any traveller. If one were too short, he would tie the person by the arms and legs and stretch them till they died. If they were too long, he would cut off their arms and legs and leave them to die. Theseus decided he had to get rid of this rogue as well. So he pushed Procrustes onto the bed and killed him.

He resumed his journey in the morning, having made the way to Athens safe.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 11:32:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/brain-and-brawn/article19277496.ece

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