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Once upon a time, there was a princess called Merdea. Beautiful though she was, the princess had never in her life laughed (she lived with her sister and step-brother).
Above: Sister, Chalciope, playing with magic.
Busy with his reign over the kingdom of Colchis, Merdea’s father, Aeetes, rarely had time for his offspring, and thus Merdea was left in the care of her wicked step-mother.
Unfortunately, this step-mother was horribly cruel to Merdea and made her do all the housework so that her biological children, whom she perceived as little angels, would be free to live happy, carefree lives.
These little ‘angels’ were in fact terrible brats and incessantly bullied poor Merdea; they had even chosen her name, in reference to the most abhorred of Merdea’s chores…
One day, Merdea’s sister received an invitation to a ball which was to be held the following weekend. Merdea, who never celebrated A FRIDay nITE, knew she would not be permitted by her family to attend any social gatherings and so, despite her glorious dreams, remained silent.
Aphrodite, by Robert Fowler
On the night of the ball, as Merdea was working away, a strange thing happened. Her Fairy Godfather, Helios, appeared and said: “My darling grand-daughter, I know how much you long to go to this ball, so if you listen very carefully, and do as I say, I will grant you your wish.”
Merdea was thrilled and vowed to Helios that she would not break the conditions he set.
Milky Way at Ikaria Island, Greece
“Firstly,” began Helios “grab me a pumpkin from your garden. Merdea raced outside, overcome with joy, and the instant that she began to pull a beautiful pumpkin from the vine, it began to grow at such a rapid pace until, within seconds, it had metamorphosed into a coach.
Helios clapped his hands and the princess’ rags were immediately turned into a beautiful toga. “Now whatever happens, you must be back at home before midnight,” Helios ordered. Merdea of course promised she would be and twirled with delight in her new garment.
“Now, as I will be needing my own steeds, your great aunt, Luna, shall lend you her very own so that you may travel safely to and from the ball.” Merdea thanked her Godfather with all her heart and could hardly wait to leave.
Helios in a chariot, Greek Krater (435BC)
The lovely horses appeared one by one in front of the coach. With a final kiss and thankyou, Merdea jumped into her ride and left at once, Helios calling after her: “Just make sure you’re back before midnight!”
The Age of Hellenism Metope relief of the sun god Helios After 300 BC
At the ball, Merdea found herself in a fairy tale. This is too good to be true! She thought to herself, and for the first time in her life, the princess Iolcos, shone was found far brighter laughing with than the rest delight. All the and the men asked her to hours dance, though whirled by one in particular, as they Simpleton, who danced, happened to be a prince on a quest from the kingdom of
Jason und Medea by Gustave Moreau
and hung out in the magical coach, until Merdea remembered her curfew! It was 11:58! In a panic, she pushed the prince out of the coach, and forgetting about road rules, gave way to no one as she raced home, only making it in time by the hair on her chinny-chin chin and not without running over two minors.
Oil on canvas: Jason and Medea by Carle van Loo (1759)
It was not until the following day that the prince came to see Merdea, claiming he had left one of his sandals in her coach. Sure enough, when Merdea went into the garden where she had left the coach, there was the prince’s lost sandal.
However, this did not appear to be the only reason that Simpleton had visited. He had his eye on the king’s Golden Goose, and also the princess herself. Merdea and Simpleton fell in love as though under a spell. They arranged to be married and when Aeetes decided to ask young Simpleton what wedding gift he should give them, naturally, the prince mentioned the Golden Goose.
The king was very proud of owning this goose, so he begrudgingly decided to offer it to Simpleton if he could first kill the dragon that guarded it. Despite his contempt for testosterone-based, ego-centred activities, Simpleton accepted the challenge.
By now, Merdea was crazily in love with the prince and thus decided to help him. She whipped up a sleeping potion (magic ran in her blood) and at midnight the couple snuck out to put the dragon to sleep.
Jason and Medea by John William Waterhouse (1907)
This done, they climbed beyond the beast where a tree grew tall and thick.
Jason charming the Dragon, by Salvator Rosa
… And there it lay; the Golden Goose.
Simpleton quickly gathered up his prize before setting back with Merdea to her home.
In the morning, Simpleton rose to see that the king was furious because he had been tricked out of his goose: “You are but loathsome and filthy, tell me your race!” And the other answered without fear and gently: “Firenze I name my master And men shall see it. I come from the cave, Also from Vernon and Petunia, Muggles whom the Centaur would deem unholy.”
Achilles and Chiron, by Gottlieb Schick
The story of Simpleton…
“As for my parents, who ruled of right; When the wand first pointed above my eyes, they feared That wizard’s malice: So they darkened the house and made a keening As if I had died, And amongst the wailing of Lily Stealthily I was sent away In swaddling bands of purple, And Night knew the secret of our road, Which Hagrid flew me above.”
Source: Excerpt (visual only) from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone retrieved from Youtube at 3:50pm on 1/05/2013, uploaded b y firewitch97 on 20/09/2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcFd8RNqKuA
On hearing this, the king roared with a rage so immense that Merdea emerged from her room to see what was wrong. “We must go!” Simpleton cried to her “Now!” Already familiar with her father’s volatility, Merdea dared not wait a moment longer and raced out the door, following Simpleton to his ship. Up they hopped and set sail at once, but not before Apsyrtus, Merdea’s stepbrother jumped aboard too.
Apsyrtus: “Oh Simpleton, you shall not go without a fuss, as you only came here to usurp us!”
Simpleton: “Alas Apsyrtus, Your words are ri-dic-u-lous!”
Merdea: “Yes, brother, your worth is now nothing to us,”
Jason and Medea by Herbert James Draper
And with that, Merdea raised her arms above her head and the figure of Apsyrtus was veiled by a great burst of light. With a bang and a sound not unlike the snip of scissors, the light disappeared and thousands of fragments of Merdea’s step-brother were strewn overboard. As if to justify her, Merdea said under her breath: “Besides, you have never been more than absurd and sus.”
Medea cutting her brother Apsyruts , by Martin Didier Pape (1580-90)
By now they were far from shore. Merdea turned to Simpleton: “And now we can find our way back if ever we shall need.” “Good thinking my love; white pebbles would have sunk”.
Jason and Medea featured on a Roman sarcophagus, late 2nd century AD