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The myth of Jason, Medea, and the Golden Fleece - Iseult Gillespie

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In Colchis, the hide of a mystical flying ram hangs from the tallest oak, guarded by a dragon who never sleeps. The only way Jason can pry it from King Aeetes’ clutches and win back his promised throne is by facing three perilous tasks— without the help of the Argonauts. Unbeknownst to the king, his daughter Medea was plotting something. Iseult Gillespie shares the myth of the Golden Fleece.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Jordan Bruner
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Art Director Jordan Bruner
  • Compositor Jordan Bruner
  • Storyboard Artist Jordan Bruner
  • Animator Jordan Bruner
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
The myth of the Golden Fleece seems to begin as a classic hero’s journey, with a love story that perseveres against the odds. But it ends tragically - with Jason’s cold-blooded murder of the King’s son and Medea’s brother, Absyrtus.

Although there are different versions of Absyrtus’ murder, the event makes is part of what makes the myth one of Ancient Greece’s most transgressive - filled with complex characters and unclear motives. You can read the translation of Appolonius of Rhodes’ source text here. The saga has also been represented visually in painting, sculpture and drawing – see here and here for some examples.

Perhaps the most controversial character in the saga is Medea, traditionally portrayed as a witch who forsakes her family for love and power. In the ancient playwright Euripedes Medea, which you can read here, the princess is a bloodthirsty tyrant. But later versions complicate and revise this demonization

The myth gets even more debatable with questions about what the golden fleece itself represents. Mythically, it was thought to be the hide of a magical flying ram named Chrysomallos who sported glittering golden curls. You can learn more about this creature here. Other interpretations focus on the fleece as standing for abstract concepts like power and corruption. In this epic tale of a man that can never be satisfied, we could also think about the fleece as symbolizing the gleaming allure of adventure - or the flickering line between Jason as a mighty hero, and someone willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of power.

And the tale doesn’t end there. With the blood of Abyrstus on Jason and Medea’s the Gods debate what to do with the disgraced crew. Hera, Jason’s champion, insists that he has fulfilled his heroic duties by retrieving the fleece. But Zeus is furious at Jason’s brutality, and sends storms to put the ship hurtling off course. In the later sections of the saga, Jason has to account for his wrongdoing while his complicit crew are doomed to wander restlessly with him.

TED-Ed
Lesson Creator
New York, NY
04/21/2020 • 
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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Jordan Bruner
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Art Director Jordan Bruner
  • Compositor Jordan Bruner
  • Storyboard Artist Jordan Bruner
  • Animator Jordan Bruner
  • Music Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more