The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles

by Padraic Colum

Hardcover, 2010



Local notes

292 Col





Random House Books for Young Readers (2010), Hardcover, 368 pages


Describes the cycle of myths about the Argonauts and the quest for the Golden Fleece, as well as the tales of the Creation of Heaven and Earth, the labors of Hercules, Theseus and the Minotaur, etc.


Newbery Medal (Honor Book — 1922)

Original publication date


Physical description

368 p.; 7.02 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
One of five titles to be selected as a Newbery Honor Book in 1922, the year that the award was instituted, Padraic Colum's The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles reads like a children's version of Hesiod's Theogony. The tale of Jason and the Argonauts, who set out on a quest to
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Colchis - a kingdom located in the northern Black Sea area, in what is now the Republic of Georgia - hoping to obtain the fabled Golden Fleece and bring it back to Greece, the book also features numerous storytelling interludes in which Orpheus relates to the other heroes various tales concerning the creation of the world and the adventures of the Olympian gods and goddesses.

Here the young reader will encounter the odd story of the early races of men - the golden, silver, and bronze - who came before our own. Here too is the tale of Prometheus and his theft of fire, and of Deucalion and his extraordinary boat. Pandora, Hades and Persephone, the hero Perseus - all appear in Orpheus' tales, which are embedded in Colum's larger narrative about the Argonauts, their quest, and their adventures afterward.

I enjoyed this book, which made me feel quite nostalgic for the wonderful course in classical mythology I took while in college, and am now longing to see Ray Harryhousen's film, Jason and the Argonauts, again. That said, I can certainly understand why someone would hesitate to recommend this to young readers, as I don't think it makes a very good introduction to the subject. It does not have the uninterrupted sequential narrative that contemporary children might expect, and assumes a basic knowledge of Greek mythology. As an intermediate step however, between such classic children's book as D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and actual classical texts like Hesiod's Theogony and the Homeric Hymns, this would be ideal, I think.
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