The Adventures of the Argonauts (I)

It’s finally here! Part I of our six-part series on the Argonauts and their adventure to retrieve the Golden Fleece. This is also the first episode to be recorded in our new home at Acadia Recording Company in Portland, Maine. It is a day for wonderful things!

Alright, so, a few things to note here. For one, this is Greek, so, please, give Tanner a break. He puts himself through the ringer trying to find the correct pronunciation of the many names and proper nouns used in all the stories we share but sometimes, even with Eric’s Greek language education at his disposal, the “correct” pronunciations are not that obvious.

For a defense of the pronunciation used in this episode, click the blue button below – otherwise, click the orange button to peruse the transcript.

In defense of our pronunciations

Of all the names used in this story, the two I was uncertain about were Æson and Chiron. Eric and I had many long discussions about how to pronounce these names and, because the internet is full of armchair scholars, and we have an actual scholar of Greek on our team (that’s Eric), I wanted to make a quick defense of our pronunciations of these names. The confusion centers around the Latin-ization of these names, their Greek origins, and the fact that Greek has sounds and pronunciations that cannot be replicated in Latin.

Æson is Αἴσων in Greek. In English this should be pronounced as “aἴsson” but there’s a problem with that. The small letter, iota (this thing: ἴ ), doesn’t have an English pronunciation. Now let’s stop right here because all of this is about to get silly. I want to make you aware of something or, in the case you already knew it, remind you of something:

Greek is Greek. When it was Latinized, and made to conform to Latin standards of speech and pronunciation, some sounds were lost, one of these sounds was our friend the iota. Now… Latin is Latin and while it has influenced English, English is Germanic, which is not influenced by Latin. Our iota is now thrice removed. This happens a lot in the stories we share and it drives me absolutely bonkers because I want to say things correctly.

When this happens I go to the source language and I try my best to figure things out. In Greek, near as I can determine, our little iota is pronounced multiple ways depending on what proceeds it.

If εἴ, then it is pronounced like the “Y” in “Yacht”

If αἴ, then it is pronounced like the “ie” in “Tie”.

But our iota is also a Greek monophthong when used with an α/A. A monophthong is a pure vowel sound with fixed articulation at the beginning and end which, I think, means one sound with no change so that the beginning would sound like the end. So this was really confusing to me. Wikipedia suggested I should pronounce Æson as Eye-SAWN but as an English speaker I’d always seen Æ pronounced like the “ay” in “Bay” – consider Dædalus, builder of the Labyrinth on Crete: “Day-duh-luhss”. So I had a decision to make:

Do I say “Eye-SAWN” and respect wikipedia? Do I say “Ay-SAWN” and respect the better known English pronunciation of æ? Or do I say “EE-SAWN” and respect the concept of monophthongs?

I decided on EE-SAWN because it sounded more distinctive and I had to make a decision that I could live with – even if it wound up being wrong.

Chiron was a different challenge altogether. For one, Chiron, pronounced as it looks, is either CHAI-RON (clearly not right) or KAI-RON, which was my initial thought. But KAI-RON sounds an awful lot like Charon (CARE-ON) (the ferryman on the River Stix) and I didn’t want listeners to get confused – and I didn’t want to get confused! I ended up researching both to of these names:

Χάρων and Χείρων (Charon and Chiron respectively).

Let me tell you about X’s in Greek. They are complicated; and the fact that the X in Charon is a hard K and the X in Chiron is NOT, should clue you into how difficult it is to say these names “correctly”. In the case of Chiron, the proper pronunciation of Χείρων is… you ready? h-EE-RON. “h” as in the “h” in “he”. If I had pronounced it h-EE-RON, it would have been really confusing – most mythology buffs know about Chiron, and they say his name “KAI-RON”.

So why did I settle on “Kay-Ron”?

The Greek X is the Latin chi. Chi is pronounced Kie… like pie with a k. When Latin translated Greek it had no way to duplicate the aspiration that happens when you pronounce the Greek X so it inserted the h as a way to indicate to the reader/speaker that they should be aspirating the h. Think “My Fair Lady” and the “Hartford Harriford and Hampshire” scene. All that’s fine and obvious if you speak Latin, but I speak English and Ch is either pronounced smooth like when you’re ordering a Chai at Starbucks (you hipsters) or hard like when you’re studying your Chemistry. We don’t say we Chare about someone, we say we Care about someone and we say it with a hard K and without aspirating the h because there is no h.

So I chose KAY-RON because I thought, at 11pm the night before recording, that it would strike a balance between what listeners expected (the hard k) and what the Greek demanded (aspiration of the h). In retrospect I probably should have chose KAI-RON but, you know, we can only do our best.

With or without the language errors, we hope you enjoyed the first episode of the Argonauts series.

Introduction

Welcome back all, and thanks for continuing to tune into the Legends Myths and Whiskey podcast. Big news this week, but first I’d like to thank Madison, our newest Patron. Madison we appreciate your support and if you haven’t yet requested access to our Patron only Facebook group please do so soon! The link was in your welcome message when you first signed up and if you missed it, check the pinned post on our Patreon page. I’d like to remind everyone that we pay for everything here at the Legends Myths and Whiskey podcast out of our own pockets – music production, server and hosting fees, licensing for our creative applications like Photoshop, After Effects, and Avid Protools – and it all adds up. Your support really matters so, if you enjoy the show, consider becoming a Patron. It’s only $3 a month and a world of extra episodes, exclusive content, and occasional live events await you on the other side.

So, the big news. This episode marks day one in our new relationship with Acadia Recording Company in Portland, Maine. We’re now using top of the line equipment in a top of the line facility and we could not be more psyched. And, hey, not to beat a dead horse, but this is the kind of thing we do with our Patron’s support so, we have an endless well of gratitude for all of you beautiful patrons.

This is the best sound we’ve ever had on this show and if you’ve been listening since the beginning you know, first of all, that we’ve always had better than average sound but secondly: I’m obsessed to the point fervor about sound quality… so it’s a big deal to say “I’m finally satisfied.” We’re looking forward to a long and excellent working relationship with Acadia Recording Company and hope that all of you enjoy the stepup in audio quality.

Today we’ll be starting our six part series on the Argonauts. We’re reading from Charles Kingsley’s book “The Heroes; or, Greek Fairy Tales for my Children”. The work was originally published in 1889 in London by MacMillan and Company. Kingsley offers us a very able retelling of the myths of Perseus, which we’ve just finished and which you should go back and listen to if you haven’t yet, The Argonauts, which we’re about to get into, and Theseus, which will be our final series for the Greek portion of this season.

Charles Kingsley was a church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, a social reformer, a historian and a novelist. I consider him an interesting man and in some ways a great influence. After all, I am a young storyteller, and he was a great storyteller – with an immense talent for the craft to which I daily aspire to match.

The Story

I have told you of a hero who fought with wild beasts and with wild men; but now I have a tale of heroes who sailed away into a distant land, to win themselves renown forever, in the adventure of the Golden Fleece.

Whither they sailed, my children, I cannot clearly tell. It all happened long ago; so long that it has all grown dim, like a dream which you dreamt last year. And why they went I cannot tell; some say that it was to win gold. It may be so; but the noblest deeds which have been done on earth, have not been done for gold. It was not for the sake of gold that the Lord came down and died, and the Apostles went out to preach the good news in all lands. The Spartans looked for no reward in money when they fought and died at Thermopylæ; and Socrates the wise asked no pay from his countrymen, but lived poor and barefoot all his days, only caring to make men good. And there are heroes in our days also, who do noble deeds, but not for gold. Our discoverers did not go to make themselves rich, when they sailed out one after another into the dreary frozen seas; nor did the ladies, who went out last year to drudge in the hospitals of the East, making themselves poor, that they might be rich in noble works. And young men, too, whom you know, children, and some of them of your own kin, did they say to themselves, “How much money shall I earn?” when they went out to the war, leaving wealth, and comfort, and a pleasant home, and all that money can give, to face hunger and thirst, and wounds and death, that they might fight for their country and their Queen? No, children, there is a better thing on earth than wealth, a better thing than life itself; and that is, to have done something before you die, for which good men may honour you, and God your Father smile upon your work.

Therefore we will believe–why should we not?–of these same Argonauts of old, that they too were noble men, who planned and did a noble deed; and that therefore their fame has lived, and been told in story and in song, mixed up, no doubt, with dreams and fables, and yet true and right at heart. So we will honour these old Argonauts, and listen to their story as it stands; and we will try to be like them, each of us in our place; for each of us has a Golden Fleece to seek, and a wild sea to sail over ere we reach it, and dragons to fight ere it be ours.

And what was that first Golden Fleece? I do not know, nor care. The old Hellenes said that it hung in Colchis, which we call the Circassian coast, nailed to a beech-tree in the war-God’s wood; and that it was the fleece of the wondrous ram, who bore Frixus and Helle across the Euxine sea. For Frixus and Helle were the children of the cloud-nymph, and of Athamas the Minuan king. And when a famine came upon the land, their cruel step-mother, Ino, wished to kill them, that her own children might reign, and said that they must be sacrificed on an altar, to turn away the anger of the Gods. So the poor children were brought to the altar, and the priest stood ready with his knife, when out of the clouds came the Golden Ram, and took them on his back, and vanished. Then madness came upon that foolish king Athamas, and ruin upon Ino and her children. For Athamas killed one of them in his fury, and Ino fled from him with the other in her arms, and leaped from a cliff into the sea, and was changed into a dolphin, such as you have seen, which wanders over the waves forever sighing, with its little one clasped to its breast.

But the people drove out King Athamas, because he had killed his child; and he roamed about in his misery, till he came to the Oracle in Delphi. And the Oracle told him that he must wander for his sin, till the wild beasts should feast him as their guest. So he went on in hunger and sorrow for many a weary day, till he saw a pack of wolves. The wolves were tearing a sheep; but when they saw Athamas they fled, and left the sheep for him, and he ate of it; and then he knew that the oracle was fulfilled at last. So he wandered no more; but settled, and built a town, and became a king again.

But the ram carried the two children far away over land and sea, till he came to the Thracian Care-Suh-knees, and there Hella fell into the sea. So those narrow straits are called “Hellespont,” after her; and they bear that name until this day.

Then the ram flew on with Frixus to the northeast across the sea which we call the Black Sea now; but the Hellens call it Euxine. And at last, they say, he stopped at Colchis, on the steep Circassian coast; and there Frixus married Chalciope, the daughter of Aeetes the king; and offered the ram in sacrifice; and Aeetes nailed the ram’s fleece to a beech, in the grove of Ares the war-God.

And after awhile Frixus died, and was buried, but his spirit had no rest; for he was buried far from his native land, and the pleasant hills of Hellas. So he came in dreams to the heroes of the Minuai, and called sadly by their beds, “Come and set my spirit free, that I may go home to my fathers and to my kinsfolk, and the pleasant Minuan land.”

And they asked, “How shall we set your spirit free?”

“You must sail over the sea to Colchis, and bring home the golden fleece; and then my spirit will come back with it, and I shall sleep with my fathers and have rest.”

He came thus, and called to them often; but when they woke they looked at each other, and said–“Who dare sail to Colchis, or bring home the golden fleece?” And in all the country none was brave enough to try it; for the man and the time were not come.

Frixus had a cousin called Æson, who was king in Iolcos by the sea. There he ruled over the rich Minuan heroes, as Athamas his uncle ruled in Bœotia; and, like Athamas, he was an unhappy man. For he had a step-brother named Pelleus, of whom some said that he was a nymph’s son, and there were dark and sad tales about his birth. When he was a babe he was cast out on the mountains, and a wild mare came by and kicked him. But a shepherd passing found the baby, with its face all blackened by the blow; and took him home, and called him Pelleus, because his face was bruised and black. And he grew up fierce and lawless, and did many a fearful deed; and at last he drove out Æson his step-brother, and then his own brother Neleus, and took the kingdom to himself, and ruled over the rich Minuan heroes, in Iolcos by the sea.

And Æson, when he was driven out, went sadly away out of the town, leading his little son by the hand; and he said to himself, “I must hide the child in the mountains; or Pelleus will surely kill him, because he is the heir.”

So he went up from the sea across the valley, through the vineyards and the olive groves, and across the torrent of Anavros, toward Pelion the ancient mountain, whose brows are white with snow.

He went up and up into the mountain, over marsh, and crag, and down, till the boy was tired and footsore, and Æson had to bear him in his arms, till he came to the mouth of a lonely cave, at the foot of a mighty cliff.

Above the cliff the snow-wreaths hung, dripping and cracking in the sun: but at its foot around the cave’s mouth grew all fair flowers and herbs, as if in a garden, ranged in order, each sort by itself. There they grew daily in the sunshine, and the spray of the torrent from above; while from the cave came the sound of music, and a man’s voice singing to the harp.

Then Æson put down the lad, and whispered,–

“Fear not, but go in, and whomsoever you shall find, lay your hands upon his knees, and say, ‘In the name of Zeus the father of Gods and men, I am your guest from this day forth.'”

Then the lad went in without trembling, for he too was a hero’s son: but when he was within, he stopped in wonder, to listen to that magic song.

And there he saw the singer lying, upon bear-skins and fragrant boughs; Chiron, the ancient centaur, the wisest of all things beneath the sky. Down to the waist he was a man; but below he was a noble horse; his white hair rolled down over his broad shoulders, and his white beard over his broad brown chest; and his eyes were wise and mild, and his forehead like a mountain-wall.

And in his hands he held a harp of gold, and struck it with a golden key; and as he struck, he sang till his eyes glittered, and filled all the cave with light.

And he sang of the birth of Time, and of the heavens and the dancing stars; and of the ocean, and the ether, and the fire, and the shaping of the wondrous earth. And he sang of the treasures of the hills, and the hidden jewels of the mine, and the veins of fire and metal, and the virtues of all healing herbs, and of the speech of birds, and of prophecy, and of hidden things to come.

Then he sang of health, and strength, and manhood, and a valiant heart; and of music, and hunting, and wrestling, and all the games which heroes love; and of travel, and wars, and sieges, and a noble death in fight; and then he sang of peace and plenty, and of equal justice in the land; and as he sang, the boy listened wide-eyed, and forgot his errand in the song.

And at the last old Chiron was silent, and called the lad with a soft voice.

And the lad ran trembling to him, and would have laid his hands upon his knees: but Chiron smiled, and said, “Call hither your father Æson, for I know you, and all that has befallen, and saw you both afar in the valley, even before you left the town.”

Then Æson came in sadly, and Chiron asked him, “Why camest you not yourself to me, Æson the Æolid?”

And Æson said,–

“I thought, Chiron will pity the lad if he sees him come alone; and I wished to try whether he was fearless, and dare venture like a hero’s son. But now I entreat you by Father Zeus, let the boy be your guest till better times, and train him among the sons of the heroes, that he may avenge his father’s house.”

Then Chiron smiled, and drew the lad to him, and laid his hand upon his golden locks, and said, “Are you afraid of my horse’s hoofs, fair boy, or will you be my pupil from this day?”

“I would gladly have horse’s hoofs like you, if I could sing such songs as yours.”

And Chiron laughed, and said, “Sit here by me till sundown, when your playfellows will come home, and you shall learn like them to be a king, worthy to rule over gallant men.”

Then he turned to Æson, and said, “Go back in peace, and bend before the storm like a prudent man. This boy shall not cross the Anavros again, till he has become a glory to you and to the house of Æolis.”

And Æson wept over his son and went away; but the boy did not weep, so full was his fancy of that strange cave, and the Centaur, and his song, and the playfellows whom he was to see.

Then Chiron put the lyre into his hands, and taught him how to play it, till the sun sank low behind the cliff, and a shout was heard outside. And then in came the sons of the heroes, Æneas, and Heracles, and Pellius, and many another mighty name.

And great Chiron leapt up joyfully, and his hoofs made the cave resound, as they shouted, “Come out, Father Chiron; come out and see our game.” And one cried, “I have killed two deer,” and another, “I took a wild cat among the crags;” and Heracles dragged a wild goat after him by its horns, for he was as huge as a mountain crag; and Caeneus carried a bear-cub under each arm, and laughed when they scratched and bit, for neither tooth nor steel could wound him.

And Chiron praised them all, each according to his deserts.

Only one walked apart and silent, Asclepius, the too-wise child, with his bosom full of herbs and flowers, and round his wrist a spotted snake; he came with downcast eyes to Chiron, and whispered how he had watched the snake cast his old skin, and grow young again before his eyes, and how he had gone down into a village in the vale, and cured a dying man with a herb which he had seen a sick goat eat.

And Chiron smiled, and said, “To each Athené and Apollo give some gift, and each is worthy in his place; but to this child they have given an honour beyond all honours, to cure while others kill.”

Then the lads brought in wood, and split it, and lighted a blazing fire; and others skinned the deer and quartered them, and set them to roast before the fire; and while the venison was cooking they bathed in the snow-torrent, and washed away the dust and sweat. And then all ate till they could eat no more (for they had tasted nothing since the dawn,) and drank of the clear spring water, for wine is not fit for growing lads. And when the remnants were put away, they all lay down upon the skins and leaves about the fire, and each took the lyre in turn, and sang and played with all his heart.

And after a while they all went out to a plot of grass at the cave’s mouth, and there they boxed, and ran, and wrestled, and laughed till the stones fell from the cliffs.

Then Chiron took his lyre, and all the lads joined hands; and as he played, they danced to his measure, in and out, and round and round. There they danced hand in hand, till the night fell over land and sea, while the black glen shone with their broad white limbs, and the gleam of their golden hair.

And the lad danced with them, delighted, and then slept a wholesome sleep, upon fragrant leaves of bay, and myrtle, and marjoram, and flowers of thyme; and rose at the dawn, and bathed in the torrent, and became a schoolfellow to the heroes’ sons, and forgot Iolcos, and his father, and all his former life. But he grew strong, and brave and cunning, upon the pleasant downs of Pelion, in the keen hungry mountain air. And he learnt to wrestle, and to box, and to hunt, and to play upon the harp; and next he learnt to ride, for old Chiron used to mount him on his back; and he learnt the virtues of all herbs and how to cure all wounds; and Kay-RON called him Jason the healer, and that is his name until this day.

Whiskey Review

This week I’m reviewing what I believe is now my favorite whiskey on the market and, surprise, or maybe not, it’s Japanese: Nikka “From the Barrel”

In 1918 Masataka Taketsuru made a whisky pilgrimage to the Celtic nations to taste and learn of the water of life – you see, he wanted to bring whisky to the Japanese, not by way of import, but by way of re-inventing the spirit in a decidedly Japanese way.

Masataka’s family ran a sake brewery, in fact it’s still around today, and because of this he new a decent amount about distillation. This, however, was not enough for Masataka. While on his pilgrimage he studied Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and apprenticed at many Scotch whisky distilleries throughout the highlands and lowlands. Masataka married a nice Scottish woman and settled down in Campbeltown.

Love perhaps caused him to forget his mission for a while but not for too long. He and his wife, Jessie Cowan, returned to Japan not more than a few months later.

In 1934 Masataka established Nikka Whisky and his first distillery was built in Hokkaido… the name? You may recall it from the story of the Flute Ghost Tomb: Yoichi. Over the decades that followed there were mergers and acquisitions and changes but Nikka remained and still remains.

The nose of Nikka’s “From the Barrel” offering is medium bodied and well-balanced. There is a clean botanical note, like fresh cut flowers, which is beautifully blended with citrus, spice, and a slightness of oak.

The palate expands the experience to one of full-bodied punchy flavor. Here there is toffee, holiday spices, caramel and vanilla. The fruit remains.

The finish is long, warming, and fruity with a hint of spicey oak.

A rich and deeply flavorful experience comes with Nikka’s “From the Barrel” offering, and you’d be a fool, at $45-$50 a bottle, not to rush out immediately and acquire it for your home bar or secret stash. Cheap enough to share with friends but good enough to be selfish. I give it a 10/10 and I’m sure you’ll give it the same.

A Fond Farewell

I’d like to thank you for listening to this week’s episode of the legends myths and whiskey podcast and to invite you back next and every Monday for another story. Next week we’ll be sharing part two of the story of the Argonauts during which you’ll hear more about Jason and how a lost sandal helped propel him along his journey to becoming the captain of the Argo.

Be on the look out this week for special live events on our Facebook page, facebook.com/lmawpodcast, as we’re experimenting with live storytelling and we’re doing so with stories we’ve never shared before. Just last Thursday we told the story of Ranunculus, a tiny little fairy man who helped a heartbroken schoolmaster rediscover the light in his life and escape the gray world of lost love that so many of us have, ourselves, experienced at least once in our lives. You can still hear that story on our Facebook page so go and have a listen, be sure to leave a comment and tell us what you think. Once more that’s facebook.com/lmawpodcast.

One last item of note, in addition to podcasting we also run a small production company called SatyrProductions which you can find at SatyrProductions.com, that’s S-A-T-Y-R. We offer editing and mastering services to our fellow podcasters at a more than reasonable rate. If you are a podcaster and you’d like to spend more time on your production and less time on editing and mastering, you may want to drop by the website, again it’s satyrproductions.com, and drop us a line. If you’re not a podcaster, you may want to drop by anyway as we make our Mythosymphonies and other audio projects available there.

Thanks again for listening this week and until next time, Slainte Mhath good listeners, take care.

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