The Most Convoluted Myth In The History of Mythology

February 27, 2012

That may or may not be true, but it certainly feels that way. What follows after the fold is the beginning of my rewrite of the Perseus myth. I’m sure quite a few know it, but you don’t know who it is or what it’s about because the story itself lacks any real identity. Theseus is largely the same way but that’s more to do with the fact that Minos is such an iconic setting and Theseus is not a really iconic hero. He’s no Herakles, Jason, Leonidas, Hector, Achilles, Odyssius, etc.

Here’s the short version of Perseus, though;

Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danae. Danae’s father, King Acrisius, set Danae and her son adrift on the sea because of a prophecy that Perseus would kill him. The two were taken in by Polydectes, the king of Seriphus. Polydectes later conceived a passion for Danae, but was unable to force his attentions on her because Perseus had grown into a redoubtable protector. To get rid of Perseus, Polydectes sent him on a quest to bring back the head of the Gorgon Medusa, a snake-haired maiden who turned all who saw her into stone.Perseus

Perseus accomplished his quest with the help of Hermes and Athena. He went first to the Gorgons‘ sisters, the Graeae, who had only one eye and one tooth which they shared among themselves. Perseus took the eye and the tooth, and agreed to give them back only if the Graeae helped him in his quest. They helped him acquire a pair of winged sandals, a wallet or satchel, and the cap of Hades; the sandals enabled him to fly, the satchel was to carry the Gorgon’s head, and the cap conferred invisibility on its wearer. Wearing the cap, he approached Medusa, looking only at her reflection in his shield, and cut off her head.

As he flew back over Africa on his way home, he encountered Atlas; in the course of a struggle, he used the Gorgon’s head to turn Atlas to stone (thereby forming the Atlas Mountains). He also dripped blood from the head onto the sands of the African desert, giving birth to the deadly vipers of that region. Later in the journey he saw the maiden Andromeda chained naked to a rock by the sea as a sacrifice to a sea monster. He fell in love with her and bargained with her father, Cepheus, for her hand in marriage if he killed the monster. He succeeded in slaying the beast, but at the wedding feast Phineus, a jilted suitor of Andromeda, angrily demanded the bride. In the battle which followed, Perseus used Medusa’s head to turn Phineus and his followers into stone.

When he returned to Seriphus, he found that Polydectes was still persecuting Danae. He used the Gorgon’s head once again, and turned Polydectes to stone. He then gave the sandals, satchel and cap to Hermes; he gave the Gorgon’s head to Athene, who emblazoned it upon the aegis which protected her in battle. Finally he returned to Acrisius’ kingdom, where he fulfilled the prophecy by accidentally killed the king while throwing the discus.

Thank you Encyclopedia Mythica

So, at some point for some reason I decided this was a good thing to rewrite as a short story. This is the most convoluted story I’ve ever read and it’s turning into the most convoluted fantasy piece I’ve ever designed. Tomorrow I’ll probably post my framework, the kind of short blow by blow I’ve developed, so you can see it. Today it’s just the opening.

The name of the story, though, is something I’m kind of proud of. I’m going for a kind of Conan vibe, before the advent of history when the world was still young, still shrouded in myth, and still full of things that were yet to be forgotten.

This is the story of The First, and Forgotten, Hero. The story of Farla, the last princess of Atlantis, and her adventures with the poets Homer and Taliesin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The First and Forgotten Hero

“These eve, dear men of sword and women of song, I shall sing you a tale as old as our father’s father’s father’s first stories. Perhaps even older still, a time when the world was young and the mountains shook and took breath, a time when gods walked the earth among men and all things were both closer and farther a way. A time before magic died and went beneath the earth, a time before the church-men and their white-lord and their dead-god. A time before the summer-lord came upon our land, a time before the fair-folk came upon our land, and a time before the bronzed men of Rome strode across the earth and locked us under their heel. A time even still before Alexander and his conquest of the world. This, my dear friends, is a story from when all lands were one land and all people were one people and all stories were one story. This is the Song of our First and Forgotten Hero. The song of Farla, daughter of Hersina and Shiva the God.”

At first there was much cacophony around the mead-hall, shouting and cursing and men claiming that Farla was but a myth and phantom for no woman could do what Farla did. Some had never heard the ancient tale before, not knowing the joys and follies of Farla, the great hero of the Old Earth, the time before time. The priests along the High Table balked at the callous reference to their white lord upon the cross and bristled at the insulting dismissal the bard had treated them to. The women, both powerful and not powerful, cackled and chided the men-folk wanting to hear a story of a woman that paved a road for them, a proper road where they too were heroes.

But none, not a single one, would say no to Taliesin. He came when he wished, sung what he wished, and was set along the path again as he wished. For he was the last great Druid and the only immortal known to walk the high roads of Ireland.

Taliesin raised his harp again, striking the chords softly at first, silencing the room, and raised his voice to the rafters. Luminous and trembling, he summoned from the threads of magic left in the world a vision in everyone’s mind, a strong and powerful vision, of a young woman – dark of skin and firey of hair, round of face and thick of body, rippling with muscle and determination. She was built as those of the North are, strong and stout, but she was taut like the soldiers of Rome who marched for months without cease. She carried but a small dark green tunic and a sword as long as her arm, belted to her side in a clapped-together wooden sheath covered with designs similar to those from far off India but old and hoary. She ran in their mind, her world growing as her feet struck the virgin earth, still young in the history of myths and stories, still seeming both real and unreal, as Taliesin sang.

All were lost in his words as he ended the very first verse, the verse that told of Farla and who she was. Which told of her triumph over the Dragon, which told of her defeat of Posiedon’s child, which told of her travels across the World That Was. The hall was silent as Taliesin’s strings stilled and he smiled softly.

“Once, long ago, on an archipelago that stretched from the old coasts of India there was a castle, the king of that mountain had a daughter and she was beautiful, called most beautiful by those who knew her, and by name she was Hersina. Her father, King Parva, was brother and friend to the king of Atlantis and when his daughter came to him it was but scant days after the destruction of the land of Atlantis with the God’s-Fire. In fear that their hubris and beauty had angered the great gods, he stole his daughter away in a great tower overlooking the ocean, above the heat and glory and press of the kingdom below the mountain over which he was king. It is there she grew and it is there she became beautiful and it is there, above the clouds, that the oldest son of the great Maker saw her. It is there, in that great tower, that Shiva saw her beauty and was enchanted by it.”

It was long ago, now, that Hersina was sitting alone in her tower, overlooking the mighty city of Shambala – the city that shimmered in the evening sun – and found her imprisonment was true and sound. She was the only child, the daughter, of the King of Shambala. Two days prior, a wizened sage had come upon his court and spoke thusly;

 

In Time, my Lord, you shall receive

A child from your daughter’s hands

And this young start shall relieve

You of your mighty lands

So shall the city sink beneath the waves

So shall your time be naught

So shall the child take the staves

Of you and your kingly lot

 

It shall come to pass this child

Will sing to you your end

It will be free and noble and wild

And all the heroes will attend

So aware, dear king, dear lord of men

Fear what has not come

When south comes flying the old wren

Your kingdom shall be done

 

With that, the sage had left the court and was not to be found in the countryside. Many were sent far and wide, even to the land of India, the archipelagos of the Malay peoples, to the Arabia deserts, and even as far north as Mongolia. To the south and west they went, following the curves of Africa and to courts of Pharaohs and kingdoms of the mer-folk but not had heard of this wise one that had come to the Atlantean courts and called themselves the Sparrowhawk, the merlin that flies far from its nest. Never again would Parva the king set his sight upon that man but his grandaughter would, in time.

Following that day, Hersina’s father was in a rage of fear and terror about Hersina’s children, each of which would be a threat to him and to the kingdom as a whole. He cast out her suitors, forbade her to be seen from the street, banished her friends and attendants from the court, and locked her in the the tallest glittering white tower overlooking the city, forever important to the comings and goings of the people below but also eternally separate from them. For this she wept for weeks on end until she had cried every tear and, after that, stood at the window feeling both listless and hopeless. Her expression was pained but understanding, graced neither by smile or scowl, and pained like those who suffer for the good of many.

It was this face, perhaps, that so enchanted the most noble of the divine hunters as he leaped across the clouds. While thunder crashed around him and lightning lanced the sky, he heard a far off sound echo through the clouds. He waited, he listened. He turned his ears, those ears of the great hunter, toward the far off sound so delicately carried by the wind that would brave such a horrid storm. He heard her mournful sigh first, then paused and watched her. For three days and three nights he watched her and in that time fell in love. Curious, he went to Kali, his wife, far above the clouds and in the house of eternal night, and he sat with her there and they spoke.

“She is sad and withdrawn, my love. She does not feel the joy of life, trapped as she is in that high tower on that small island far below our domain.”

“So she was locked, my dear, by her father because of the truth of destiny. He was warned so that he might prepare and in his hubris he sought to undo the rules and laws of fate. Go to her. Love her. Love her as you love me.”

The Hunter took up his bow and donned his finest tunic, woven of stardust and the sunlight that flashes from the River that runs through the heart of his lands, and sat on the clouds over the small island. He whispered to her as the wind, he caressed her cheek as the light of the moon, and he held her in his arms as the warmth of the sun. He made her happy and so they lived, and loved, for several months. During the longest night of the year, though, she asked him for a gift. A simple gift, so that she may know he was real and not merely a trick of the tower’s imprisonment. To prove himself to her, and to show his love to her, he took up his great bow and plucked an arrow from the tip of the tallest mountain then fired it across the world and into her small tower. It sank deep into the wall, quivering mightily from the strength needed to fire that mighty arrow. She gasped in surprise and wonderment, treasuring the gift for what it was and spoke her love allowed to the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, and the rain. The Hunter saw this and said it was beautiful. This is how Farla, the First Hero, was conceived.

It came to pass that Parva, who visited every day for many years, started to come less and less as Hersina swelled with pride and child. She delighted in the whispers of the wind and the music of the oceans that Shiva brought to her, conversations of freedom despite solitude. Her father saw this and began to think her mad and consumed by the loneliness of the tower and, rather than free her, the locked the door and chose to never return. While Parva passed his time believing she bore madness, she bore her daughter, Shiva’s daughter, which they together named Farla.

For years, Hersina and Farla live quietly in their tower overlooking the ancient water-city. They listened together to music from the streets and they learned to dance together. Farla was filled with all of Shiva’s grace and strength, her form when as young as a single year was already beginning to show grace and power. As the girl grew, her mother would pluck sunlight and moonlight from the air and, using ancient arts known to the kings and queens Shambala, spun tunics and trousers for the little girl. Dressed like this in bands of silver and gold, as if light were radiating from her tiny heart, she would dance to the day, to the night, to the stars, and to the sun. So they lived like this for three years, full of simple joy and quiet growth.

Then, one day, Shiva reached out on the wind and caressed the cheek of Farla, his daughter, and she laughed with the sound of bright, silver bells. It was a laugh so clear and beautiful that it was heard throughout the island. All felt joy and peace at that sound. All but one.

King Parva heard that laugh and shook with fear. In that melodious chime he heard the death of his kingdom, the death of his power, the death of himself. He gathered his advisers together – ancient wizards, sorcerers, witches, alchemists, and seers – and asked them for a solution. They read the stars, they read the birds, they read the goats, they read the seas, they read the skies, and one by one they came back to him – she must be cast out and let nature see to her death, along with the death of the child. If Parva were to kill them, Shiva and Kali would be angered at his folly and would bring death and destruction to the island. Nature, however, the Great Mother, could take their lives and her children could not reproach her for it.

And so it was that Parva found a great empty wine cask in the depths of the palace’s cellars and locked up his daughter and granddaughter within. He sealed this cask shut with pitch and wax and clay then locked it up on a ship bound for Greece, lost among the amphora of oil and casks of wine being brought from one land to the other. The king ordered the ship out into the rough water that night, watching from the great docks of Shambala as the trireme disappeared under star-lit skies.

His whispered prayers that night can sometimes still be heard, begging forgiveness for what he knew would be the greatest folly of his pride. With that he sealed the prophecy, once one of many possible futures, and made it his own. With that his fate was sealed and the great wheel of karma began to spin.

That ship escaped the crush of the waves in the ancient Indian ocean basin and artfully navigated the way around the shoreline of the Arabian sea and into the sea now known as the Persian Gulf. The ship finally came to rest at the city halfway between home and Shambala, the city of Ur, and in that city the wine cask was purchased by the attendant to the king’s palace, along with many amphora of oil and other casks and amphora of wine, and had them all carried from the bay in Ur to the great city-state of Eridu and placed in the cavernous cellar beneath the sandstone temple-palace of Ensar, one of the greatest of the Sumerian Priest-Kings and one of the Mate-Lords of Enki, who favored his city of Eridu in Sumer.

While this has been going on, Farla has slept comfortably and her mother, Hersina, had been cradling the small child and protecting her from the tumult of their journey. In the dark quiet of the cellars of Eridu, though, she found peace and, in that peace, thought she had found death. Softly she wept, both for herself and her daughter, thinking that they had finally died and that she knew only the perfect darkness of the Underworld.

Believing the two of them to be dead, Hersina began a funerary song from Shambala, to carry their souls across the ocean to the Great River where they would rejoin their families and friends from generations past. It was the singing of this song, which was heard by the King’s Attendant early one morning, that alerted anyone to her presence. When he head her crying he had the guards called and they broke her free from the wine cask, shedding light on the woman and her sleeping daughter, and surprising her for she believed that they were both dead and gone.

Seeing her beauty and regal appointment, as well as the small girl in beautiful clothes asleep in her arms, the attendant ran into the palace and called for the priests and seers to interpret her. They came, dozens upon dozens, and examined her. Her clothes, her words, her face, her child. Their eyes were filled with fear, uncertainty, and curiosity at what kind of creature would find themselves shut up inside a wine cask. Especially with a radiant, raven-haired girl in clothes spun of gold and silver. They burned incense and made prayers and summoned spirits and cast spells upon the two but still the truth eluded them. It was not until daybreak when the Priest-King Ensar woke and came to see what the commotion was that truth was revealed for, because of his great power and closeness to the god Enki could he see power no matter its source. He saw inside Hersina the power of the Kings of Shambala and inside Farla a greater power still.

He decided then and there that he would take Hersina as his wife, the ninth woman he has chosen and the most powerful. As ninth wife she oversaw the rituals of Ishtar and was given her own chambers, her own attendants, and her own priests. Her daughter became a treasure of the court, growing strong and wise and powerful as she grew into her adulthood. She was a precocious child, full of fire and curiosity, though her now-father, the Priest-King Ensar, tried to stamp this out by instructing her on the place of the woman in the society of Sumer – to be wife, to be mother, to be priestess. Never to be lord.

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