The Greek Gods: Phaethon


Today I read a story in a book called The Greek Gods.  I read one of the stories about Apollo and his son; one of his sons, really.  This one is about Phaethon.

One day, two boys were racing around in chariots; both were sons of gods.  The boy with black hair was Epaphus, son of Zeus, god of the sky.  The boy with golden hair, Phaethon, was son of Apollo, god of the sun.  They were racing on the edge of a cliff, a blue sea below them and only the bright orange sun above them.  Phaethon picked up speed, winning the race.  Epaphus was angry that he had lost the race, and boasted that his father was god of the sky and that he could throw a lightning bolt a thousand miles and never miss a target.  He also said that he visited his father on Mount Olympus and hurled thunderbolts with him.  Phaethon, who had never met his father, said that his father was Apollo, god of the sun.  He said that every day, he rides his flaming golden chariot across the sky and that if he wanted to, Apollo could fly high enough to freeze the earth like a huge ball of ice. Also he could fly very close to earth and burn the entire world into a giant fireball.  He said (lied) that he had also gone to visit his father, and that he rode his chariot with him, and that next time he will drive the chariot alone.  Phaethon soon set out to find his father and to drive his chariot, so that his lies could become the truth.  Phaethon walked for many miles without stopping or sleeping or eating.  Apollo saw that one of his sons was looking for him and had fallen asleep in the woods.  He sent his sun hawks, with a rug in their beaks, down to earth to take Phaethon to his palace.  They swooped down to earth and to where Phaethon was sleeping.  They rolled the sleeping boy on the rug and carried him to Apollo’s castle.  Phaethon awoke in Apollo’s throne room, looking upon the great god’s face.  Apollo asked Phaethon what he wanted and promised that, whatever it was , he could have it.  Phaethon said that he wanted to drive Apollo’s sun chariot across the sky, but he wanted to go alone.  Apollo, who had promised to let his son do whatever he wanted, had to say yes.  He let Phaethon get inside the chariot and said to him to not get too close or too far away from earth.  Phaethon agreed and headed out.  At first things went well, but then he wondered how Epaphus would know it was him, and not Apollo, driving the chariot.  He flew the chariot closer to earth so that he could prove to Epaphus that he was driving the chariot, but he saw that the earth was burning!  He tried to get the horses to fly on their normal path, but he lost control, and went up and down and up and down and couldn’t get the chariot to fly in the right place.  Zeus, who had heard the cries from the earth and had gone to see what was going on, threw his lightning bolt at Phaethon, stopping his heart.  Phaethon fell to earth and the horses drew the chariot back home.  This is why we still have frozen places on earth and why the mountains still try to spit fire from their mouths.     


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