The Story of Peleus and Thetis
The Quest for Stability
The story of Peleus and Thetis is a Greek classic blockbuster of mythology regarding the awesome relationship between mortality and immortality, death and everlasting life. The gist of the story regards the quest for stability in a world that is undergoing constant change. Of course, the Greek mythical gods perceived destruction to be more permeable on the Earth than law, and order.
Epic stories were a favorite in Greek classical times and used to explain, and clarify an ever- changing world. Greeks were known to worship the sun, moon, and the sea. They had vivid imaginations and crafted deities of such. They created imaginary people of super-human strength to understand the complex world they lived in. They did this to make sense of their lives.
Zeus Overthrew His Father
Zeus, the father of Thetis, was born in Crete and hidden in an Olympian cave from his father for most of his life. Later, Zeus overthrew his father, Cronus, and won the universe or Olympus, which he divided among his two brothers, Hades and Poseidon. Zeus acquired the heavens, Poseidon the sea and Hades the nether or underworld. And the earth became the concern of all three.
Zeus was the king of the gods, not a creator god, but more a weather, sky god or cloud gatherer. He was wholly anxious over suffering defeat.
Thetis and Peleus Married
Zeus loved his daughter Thetis, who was a sea-nymph, but when he consulted his fates, they warned him to be wary of his child. They frightened him and said Thetis would have a son greater than him. And he would be overthrown by his own grandchild, if she married a mythical Greek god. Therefore, Zeus devised a plan to have Thetis marry Peleus, son of Aeacus, a mortal man who became a fugitive for killing his younger brother. The imagined earthly Peleus and eternal Thetis, of nonhuman prototype took on shapes of fire, and water. Eventually the goddess fell in love with Peleus and was joined in matrimony.
Thetis Bathed Her Son in Fire
Thetis and Peleus had a strange courtship, and an imaginary grand wedding, where all the Greek gods attended. A child named Achilles was born, who later fought in the Trojan War and became the principal figure of Homer’s epic poem “The Iliad.”
Thetis attempted to change the mortality of her son by bathing him in fire. She supposed the fire would burn away his mortality, and cause him to become immortal. Peleus intervened, when he saw his wife hurting and burning his son. Conversely, Thetis managed to scorn him. And she took Achilles far away to protect him from suffering, though she knew his fate, death at the battle of Troy. She then bathed him in the River Styx to make him invulnerable to pain by holding him by the heel to protect him. Later he became a fierce fighter during the Trojan War.
Thetis and Peleus Roles in Homer's Epic Stories
In Homer’s epic stories, Thetis too played an everlasting godlike role, and Peleus eventually passed away. No one knows what became of earthy Peleus, only he was Achilles' father and the husband of immortal goddess Thetis.
Thetis, a Minor Sea Goddess Married Peleus, a Mortal King
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© 2012 Sheila Craan
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