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Transcript of Phaethon
In the story of Phaethon, there are several connections to the world, whether they are explanations for certain phenomenons, or simply similar to our present actions. For example, the Greeks' used this as an explanation for the Sahara Desert and the Africans' dark skin color. The chariot had driven too close to Africa, creating the Sahara desert and burning the skin of its people, turning it dark. The myth also connects to the interaction between father and son, or any other similar figures. Helios obviously wants to do good to his son, but in giving Phaethon his greatest desire, he basically ensures his end. Although it was nice of Helios to trust in his son, it shows that fatherly figures have to be more careful in what they entrust. Fathers have to be careful with their actions, while their sons have to respect the choices they are given.
The myth of Phaethon and his journey is a myth that can be perceived in many different ways, whether as a myth with a valuable lesson, or simply as an entertaining story. Phaethon is a tale that will be passed down in future generations whatever the cause.
Phaethon was constantly teased by his friends that he couldn't possibly be the son of a god. His mother, Clymene, insisted that he was. He had constant doubts. Eventually, Phaethon journeyed to the home of Helios, the Sun god, to ask about his parentage. Helios assures him that he is in fact his father. To prove this to him, Helios swears upon the river Styx that he will give anything to Phaethon, an obvious mistake. Phaethon asks Helios to drive the sun chariot for one day. Helios tried to persuade him out of it, as no one could control the chariot, but it was no use. When it was time, Phaethon mounted the chariot, and they were off. Suddenly, he couldn't control the steeds, as they weren't being led by their owner. He set the world on fire, and he was out of control. Zeus had had enough, and hurled his thunderbolt at the boy. He fell from the sky, and dropped into the river Eridanus, where he was received. The naiads buried him in pity for him. When his sisters, the Heliades, learned of this, they cried at the bank of the river and were turned into poplar trees.
Main Characters and Analysis
Phaethon- The main character of the myth. He is the child of Helios and Clymene. When he discovers that he is legitimately the son of a god, he doesn't just accept the fact, he wants this to be proven to everyone. To him, there's no other way to prove this than to drive his father's own chariot across the sky. There are no other stories of him, as he dies in this one.
Helios- The god of the Sun, he lives at the Palace of the Sun, his home. He is also the god of the gift of sight, and the guardian of oaths.Every morning he journeys in his chariot to bring light to the world. In the story, when Phaethon finally meets his father, he asks for a favor. Helios is thrilled at meeting his son, and he agrees. He was trying to be a fatherly figure to his son, but it ended up backfiring.
The myth of Phaethon had several purposes- have second thoughts of what you ask for, and listen to your elders. If they have a little advice for you, it isn't for nothing, they're just trying to ensure your safety. If you go off and do the thing anyways, then you'll get a lesson out of it. Helios letting his son drive the chariot was an example of this. He tried to keep Phaethon from riding the chariot, but he was too stubborn. In the end, he was forced to let Phaethon ride the chariot, and this resulted in his death. On the other hand, the story also teaches that you shouldn't make promises you can't keep, especially ones that could take advantage of you. It's not just the promise-maker that has to be careful. The person at the other end of the deal has to be humble with their choices. If someone takes the time to give you their word, don't twist up the meaning of it. Another lesson the myth teaches is that you shouldn't attempt the actions of a god, because you are basically saying that you are equal or greater than them. If you're too prideful, the gods will punish you.
The engraving on Phaethon's tombstone was also to the point. "Greatly he failed, but he had greatly dared." It's okay to be a risk-taker, but don't take it to the point where your actions are outrageous.
Slayford-Wei, Lian. "The History and Significance of Phaethon." Helium. Helium, Inc., 17 Dec 2012. Web. 8 Sep 2013. <http://www.helium.com/items/1496063-who-was-phaethon-the-history-and-significance-of-phaethon>
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York City: Grand Central Publishing, 1942. 181-186. Print.
"Helios." Theoi Greek Mythology. Theoi Project, n.d. Web. 9 Sep 2013. <http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Helios.html>.