Mystical tales Children

One over the chimera

Illustration: Sreejith R.Kumar   | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sreejith R.Kumar

Ever heard of the word chimera? It means bits and pieces taken from one’s imagination to create something terrible that exists only in the mind. According the ancient Greeks, the Chimera was a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a snake’s tail. Here’s the story of the hero who put an end to the beast.

In the ancient city-state of Corinth, lived King Glaucus with a son named Bellerophon. The young man grew up to be a fine warrior and horseman. When he turned 16, Bellerophon decided to travel around different kingdoms. During a visit to Tiryns, he offended King Proteus. Instead of taking action against him, Proteus sent Bellerophon to the kingdom of Lycia, where King Iobates ruled, with a secret message to kill the youngster. If you’re wondering why Iobates would listen to Proteus, it was because the former was the latter’s father-in-law.

Lycia, at that time, was being ravaged by the Chimera. Every night, the monster would appear and kill people and animals, and the bones of its victims lay along the mountains and the forests. So, Iobates, who did not want to offend King Proteus or the people of Corinth, came up with a cunning plan. He appealed to Bellerophon to kill the Chimera and save his people. He was sure that the monster would take care of the prince.

‘Lead’ing the way

Bellerophon, though glad of the opportunity to show his courage and help people, did not rush off to find the monster. Instead, he sought the help of Polyeidos, a famous soothsayer, who told him to seek the help of the winged horse, Pegasus. This horse was born from the blood of the gorgon Medusa, after Perseus killed her.

“Pray to Athena,” Polyeidos advised Bellerophon, “Only she can show you how to find the Pegasus.”

That night, Bellerophon stayed at the temple of Athena, praying for the goddess’ help. Pleased with him, Athena gave him a golden bridle and advised him to approach the horse at the well of Pirene.

The next morning, Bellerophon followed the divine instructions and, slipped it over the horse’s back as it drank water. With that, Pegasus was tamed and Bellerophon was able to mount and ride it.

As the two flew towards the Chimera’s den, they saw how the earth around it was burnt and charred. The heat from the monster’s breath was unbearable. After an aerial observation, Bellerophon decided on his strategy. He fixed some lead on his spear, and returned to the monster’s lair. The creature roared when it saw him, and Bellerophon plunged his spear into its open mouth. The fire melted the lead, which poured down the Chimera’s throat and killed it. Bellerophon triumphantly returned to Iobates’ court. The stunned king made another couple of attempts to kill the prince but, when he failed in those as well, he gave up.

Instead, he married his daughter off to Bellerophon and gave the young man half his kingdom.


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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 5:50:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/one-over-the-chimera/article28108037.ece

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