Ancient Greece
The Golden Fleece

The Golden Fleece
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.18

     challenging words:    dispatched, madly, totally, shipbuilder, oracle, outcome, readily, near-death, secrecy, racked, kingdom, bird-like, centaur, creon, killing, long-forgotten
     content words:    When Jason, But Jason, Golden Fleece, Black Sea, If Jason, When Medea

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The Golden Fleece
By Vickie Chao

1     Jason was a handsome prince without a kingdom. When he was only a baby, his evil uncle, Pelias, stole the throne that was rightfully his. In the midst of the power struggle, Jason's father, Aeson, sent Jason away. He feared that Pelias might come after the young lad. He was right! After becoming the new king of Iolcus, Pelias thought it was wise to do away with Jason. He did not want him to grow up and challenge him later on. When he found out that Aeson had spirited him away to a secret hiding place, he was mad. But there was simply nothing he could do.
2     Aeson sent Jason to live with a wise centaur named Chiron on a faraway mountain. A centaur was a strange-looking creature. He had the upper body of a man but the lower body of a horse. Chiron raised Jason as tenderly as if he were his own son. He taught the little boy everything he knew. When Jason grew up to be a fine young man, he bid his foster father goodbye and headed toward Iolcus.
3     On his way back home, Jason met an old woman sitting by the bank of a flooded river. He noticed how helpless she looked. He offered to carry her on his shoulder so they could cross the stream together. When Jason and the old woman arrived safely on the other side of the rising water, the old woman took off her disguise. It turned out that she was not a normal person. She was actually Hera, the queen of all gods and goddesses. Hera praised Jason for his kindness. She promised that she would help him in the future. Jason thanked her profusely and marched on in high spirits. He had to continue his journey wearing only one sandal, for he had lost the other one in the river.
4     When Jason at last arrived at Iolcus, he went to see his uncle right away. Pelias was shocked by the sight of his long-lost nephew. At once, he noticed that the young man wore only one sandal. He felt sick to his stomach. He recalled a prediction of an oracle that he had heard many years ago. That oracle said that a young man wearing only one sandal would be the undoing of Pelias. Despite his fear, Pelias put on a brave face. He took Jason in and treated him nicely. Pelias' friendly gestures were not sincere at all. But Jason failed to see through the false smiles. He felt welcomed and loved. He had no idea that Pelias did not want to give up the throne -- not yet, anyway!
5     One day, Jason told Pelias that he wanted his kingdom back. Pelias readily agreed. He had only one condition. He asked the young man to prove his worth by fetching the Golden Fleece from the kingdom of Colchis. The Golden Fleece was once the coat of a golden ram. Zeus, the king of all gods and goddesses, sent it down many years ago to rescue a young prince named Phrixus. At the time, Phrixus' kingdom, Thessaly, had a terrible famine. His father, Athamas, was very worried. As he racked his brain for a solution, his wife, Ino, offered him a wicked one. She told the king that he must sacrifice Phrixus -- the king's son from a previous marriage -- to please the deities. Athamas did not want to do it. But he saw no other choice. In the end, he followed Ino's advice and set up an altar. Just when Phrixus was about to be slain, Zeus dispatched a golden ram and spirited the innocent boy away. The golden ram took Phrixus to Colchis, off the coast of the Black Sea. The king of Colchis welcomed the young prince. He gave him his daughter in marriage. And he sacrificed the golden ram. He hung the animal's shining fleece in a sacred grove. He considered it the kingdom's greatest treasure.
6     When Jason heard the story, he became very excited. Eager to show what a hero he was, he promised Pelias that he would go and fetch the Golden Fleece. He rounded up many young men to go with him. Together, they asked Argos, a great shipbuilder, to make a ship for them. They called it the Argo, and themselves the Argonauts (sailors of the Argo.)
7     The journey to Colchis was long and dangerous. Along the way, the Argonauts had many near-death experiences. For example, they fought against the disgusting Harpies, bird-like monsters with women's heads. They narrowly escaped the two opposing rocks that guarded the passage to the Black Sea. When Jason and his hero friends finally reached Colchis, they were totally exhausted. Yet, they had no time to rest. As soon as they docked the ship, Jason went to seek out Aeetes, the king of Colchis.
8     Aeetes received Jason cordially. But when he heard what the young man had come for, he got very upset. He challenged Jason to ride his fire-breathing bulls as they plowed a field and then sow it with dragon's teeth. He told the handsome prince that each tooth would turn into a raging warrior, and he must kill them all! If Jason could finish the task before sunset, he could have the Golden Fleece.

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