Lincoln Blogs

Refutation of Jason and the Argonauts
February 21, 2007, 6:54 pm
Filed under: School Papers

In the writing course I am taking, we are learning about how to refute a myth. Here is one that I did. I know it may seem obvious that it is false, but this makes it more clear why. Click here to see another refuted myth.

There is a story of Jason and the Argonauts, in which Jason performs many acts of bravery and heroic deeds. This tale is exciting and enjoyable to read, but it is sadly false.

The myth is as follows: Jason—who was raised by a centaur (a creature who was half horse and half man) far away to avoid being killed by his uncle—and his men the Argonauts were on a dangerous mission to recover a golden fleece, which would make Jason king of Thessaly. They were headed to the kingdom of King Aeetes, where the fleece was at that time. Jason was sent on the mission by his uncle, Pelias, who had overthrown his father.

After surviving many dangerous ordeals, the Argonauts arrived at Aeete’s palace. At first, Aeetes denied that he had the fleece, but finally, he decreed that he would award it as a gift to anyone who could yoke two fire-breathing bulls to a plow, sow a dragon’s teeth into the plowed land, and overcome the fierce army which would spring up from the dragon’s teeth. Jason accepted the challenge, although it seemed impossible.

In the middle of the dark night, Aeetes’ daughter, Media, came to Jason and said that if he would marry her, she would help him. Jason promised to make the princess his wife and she gave him an ointment to protect him from the bulls’ fiery nostrils. She also gave him a stone to throw among the armed men; she promised that the stone would cause their defeat.

The next morning Jason spread the ointment on his body and on his spear and his shield. Then he went to the field to do battle. Just as Medea had promised, the fire did not harm him. When the warriors sprang up from the dragon’s teeth, he threw the stone and the warriors became so that they turned on one another. He obtained the fleece, and returned home with it.

This tale, although exciting and enjoyable to read, is quite simply a myth, as opposed to a historical account, for a number a reasons, namely that it is improbable.

First, it is extremely improbable. There is no reason in the text as to why Aeetes would care for the fleece. Why does he make Jason accomplish the nearly impossible tasks for such a simple thing? Also, why would the king’s daughter favor Jason so much against her father’s will, without even meeting him? No answer to these questions is given in the tale.

The story, besides being improbable, is terribly obscure. It is very old, and most likely grew more and more mythical as it was passed from generation to generation. This story is not found in any historic documents, and no one claims to have witnessed it.

It is also inconsistent and illogical. How was Jason able to yoke two fire-breathing bulls to a plow, sow a dragon’s teeth into the plowed land, and overcome the fierce army which sprung up from the dragon’s teeth, but not able to kill one man, Pelias. It is also illogical. Why would a simple fleece make a man king of a nation?

Finally, the narrative, as well as improbable, obscure, and illogical (as if that weren’t enough), is impossible. It breaks the laws of nature for someone to be half horse and half man, as the centaur at the beginning of the story was credited as being. A person might answer this by saying, “Well, maybe they existed in that time, but are extinct today.” Then, where is the archeological evidence? There is none. It is also impossible that an army could come out of a single dragon tooth, and that a bull could breathe fire. Obviously, the author just wrote this to make the myth more exciting.

As much as we wish this story were true, that Jason really was as brave as in the story, and that he defeated two fire breathing bulls and an entire army, we simple have to read it as a myth.


1 Comment so far
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Good job with your refutation. I enjoyed it.

Comment by Anonymous

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