The Golden Fleece

01 Aug

In Greek mythology, the hero Jason, along with his compatriots, are tasked with the return of the Golden Fleece Their journey is, of course, fraught with peril, and is, of course, epic in nature, culminating in his tragic death (it is a Greek myth, of course). But there have been quite a few questions over the years as to what the Golden Fleece really was. Many myths contain nuggets of reality, what about this one?

One possible answer lies far to the east, in the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan. There is an animal there known as the Golden Takin, a relative of the sheep, that is known to be mystical in nature, dear to history, and possessing a tawny golden coat. It is possible that the myth of the Golden Fleece is based upon this animal, perhaps a hide that had made its way westward, or even a whole animal. This would have been a rare prize in Greek times. While trade with the Middle East was common, Bhutan would be truly remote, and any gift from the Himalayas would have been a kingly item, likely be guarded fiercely. Just as the Golden Fleece was in myth.

However, this is just a theory. No actual evidence exists suggesting that Jason’s quest ever took place, in any form. And even if it did, theories on the Golden Fleece’s identity range from the mythical skin of a ram, to a book of alchemy, to a form of mining, to a rain cloud, to wheat. Even so, to look at the takin and its golden coat, one can almost believe it to be worth questing for.

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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in History, Natural History


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