1st draft. Greek myth, told by Dionysus about how his parents met
|I’d like to write a story about my mother. My father as you may know – or maybe not, thanks to those rumours spread by Hera – is Zeus. However, important though he may be, this story is not about him.
This story is about my mother, Semele; or as she later became known, Thyone. My mother was loved by Zeus, although that wasn’t particularly hard, one just had to be female and pretty. However, this detail is important. It is because of Zeus’ love that he slept with her; that he would promise anything she asked for (though that one certainly backfired); that he saved my life, sewing me in his thigh till I was ready to be born; and that he later allowed me to retrieve my mother from Hades, the underworld. This love from Zeus is central also to this story.
My mother is one of these people who just has to know everything. Her insatiable thirst for knowledge has certainly landed her in trouble on many occasions – most seriously, that time she ended up in Hades. But there are others.
This is a story told to me by my aunt Ino, who raised me. Ino told me many stories about my mother, often related to her curiosity getting her into trouble once again. This one is special though, as Zeus had already laid eyes on her and fallen in love, as he is wont to do. He couldn’t do anything at the time, with Hera beside him, but he did keep a close eye on her after that day. Luckily. Because here is my mother getting into trouble yet again, and if it were not for Zeus, she might have gone to Hades sooner – and without me to get her out again.
My mother wished to know the taste of the apples of the Hesperides. Apples were a favourite fruit and the golden apples had captured her thoughts. So my mother, my lovely, impulsive mother decided to go and try one.
Now the apples in question were a wedding gift to Hera from Gaea, and were guarded by the daughters of Nyx known as the Hesperides. The garden in which the apples were found was shrouded in secrecy and were guarded by the dragon Ladon among others. I have no idea how Semele planned to get past Ladon.
Heracles had tricked Atlas into stealing three apples from the garden and Semele knew that Atlas was in Libya. My dearest mother took it upon herself to travel to Libya to taste an apple.
Knowing that her father in Thebes would never allow her to cross the Mediterranean Sea just for an apple, Semele did as all young royalty would do in a similar situation – she ran off, hiding in a goods wagon bound for Athens where she planned to stow aboard a ship bound for Libya. In her rush to get to Libya, however, she did not consider the time of year. The winter months were the worst for traveling.
Zeus, my father, had had his eyes on her for a while now, and he saw Semele depart though he knew not why. He followed. He watched Semele hide as she removed herself from the wagon in an Athenian bazaar. She carefully blended herself into the crowds; so well, in fact, that Zeus himself lost sight of her.
Semele bought a few items from the stallholders and, after finding yet another hiding place, emerged as Sabazius. Zeus, however, recognised her under any disguise. He followed her again.
Semele, unwisely confident that she was not being followed, made her way to the ports. She inquired as to who was in need of a deckhand. After being laughed at on several occasion, it was after all winter, she spoke to a kinder sailor who counseled, “go home son, come back when the seasons change for the better.” Semele began to get discouraged at this point. Then she thought of the apple. “There must be a way. There is a way,” she convinced herself.
She looked at the ships within the port and saw one making preparations to set sail. Her inquiries told her the ship would sail to Libya, then on to Jerusalem. She hid, this being quite a talent of hers, among the cargo on the port, and it was this way that she was transported aboard ship. Seeing this, Zeus transformed himself into the image of one sailor and boarded the ship himself. Such are the advantages of being a god.
Discerning my mothers intentions, through his knowledge of the ships journey and from what he had gleaned of her in her father’s home, Zeus realised that Semele would not survive her wish should she succeed. So, as the ship sailed by Crete, he sent a thunderstorm that nearly swamped the ship. The crew tried valiantly to take shelter in a Cretan bay but Zeus caused it to come against the rocks. Many of the crew were broken on the rocks along with the ship, others were drowned. Semele survived only by the protection of Zeus.
Stranded alone on Crete, alive though she knew not how as my father had not yet revealed himself to her, Semele finally had time to think on, and repent of, her actions. She realised her folly in stowing away in the middle of winter, to a place she knew not, owned by a goddess known to be rather vengeful, to steal a piece of fruit. Zeus watched her, allowing her to think and weep on these things. He watched her on that beach for two nights and a day.
After this time was up, Zeus walked along the beach to the cave Semele had sheltered in. Semele, on seeing a handsome young man, the perfect rescuer, rushed out of her cave and clung to him, telling him all of her troubles. Zeus listened; and, hearing Semele’s repentance, told her of himself, of the shipwreck, of the garden of the Hesperides and of Ladon. He impressed upon her the certain death she would have faced had she found the garden. He told her that, if she so wished, he would fetch her an apple himself. Semele just wanted to go home.
Zeus returned Semele to her father’s home where she found her family sick with worry. The family bestowed thanks on Zeus for saving their daughter, though he did not show himself for who he was. He continued to woo Semele, though discretely that Hera would not know. It is from this union that I was conceived.
This is but one of the tales of my mother told me by my aunt Ino.
As always, Dionysus