fearsome greek warrior
an antique tale
Aegeus, father of Theseus
Aethra, mother of Theseus
Periphetes, the club man
Sinis, the pine-bending bandit
Old Woman, owner of the sow
Sow, a deadly infernal beast
Skiron, the foot washer who blocks the way
Turtle, a deadly infernal beast
Procrustes, the stretcher and shortener
Ariadne, princess of Crete with the skein and wreath
Minotaur, bull-headed, man-eating monster
English translation: Patrick Mullowney
NARRATOR (Aethra) Do you see this point on the map? Just about the size of a flyspeck. Well, this point is the city of Troezen. This is where the remarkably famous, big and strong hero Theseus was born.
THESEUS (striking his chest) Me? I was born in the mighty town of Troezen. It’s so big, it couldn’t fit on this map.
NARRATOR (Aethra) He was descended…
THESEUS I’m descended from kings.
NARRATOR (Aehtra) His father Aegeus, after siring a child with Aethra, up and ran. Leaving the child and the woman on their own.
NARRATOR (Ariadne) But before departing, he gave the child’s mother his sword and his sandals.
NARRATOR (Lovas) He rolled a huge boulder on top of them and said...
AEGEUS That’s a nice big rock. I almost pooped my pants. If you bear me a son, have him roll aside this boulder, take the sword and the sandals, and come to me in Athens.
THESEUS Don’t bother with my father! What about me?
NARRATOR (Aegeus) One fine day, Theseus pushed aside the boulder... He was sixteen at the time.
Little Theseus grows up like a weed,
The hero of heroes – yes, indeed!
A great big king on his father’s throne,
Watching over the world as his own.
NARRATOR (Aethra) Theseus is already sixteen. A strapping lad with charming eyes.
THESEUS Go on…
NARRATOR (Aegeus) With silken hair, smooth skin, muscles glistening with oil...
THESEUS Mother, where is this crummy boulder?
AETHRA Where your father left it, dear boy.
THESEUS Is this it? This pebble!
NARRATOR (Aegeus) Theseus grabbed onto the boulder.
THESEUS Whoa, mama, this is awfully heavy. It’s really busting my...
NARRATOR (Aegeus) Theseus strained against the boulder a second time.
THESEUS I swear I’m going to bust. Let me rest. I’ll crap my pants!
NARRATOR (Aegeus) Theseus threw himself into it a third time....
.....and finally pushed aside the stone.
THESEUS Finally? I would have pushed it over the first time, but then you wouldn’t know what an awfully heavy boulder it is. Let’s see what’s underneath it.
AETHRA A sword and a pair of sandals.
THESEUS Oh, great gods above! I almost had to soil my pants for this?
NARRATOR (Aegeus) Theseus’s mother instructed him to strap the sword to his side and place the sandals on his feet.
THESEUS But mom, they’ll laugh at me. They’re both way out of style. I can’t go about with these...
AETHRA Theseus, Theseus...
THESEUS Okay, fine. I’ll put them on. I’ll just swallow my shame.
THESEUS Hey, girls, in your skirts so long,
Where have your mothers gone?
If they’ve gone far, far away,
the wind may blow your skirts up
to your waist…
AETHRA Sword strapped on, sandals pulled on…
Son, if I may ask it of you, depart for Athens.
THESEUS I’m going, mother.
AETHRA My son, I beg of you, don’t go to Athens.
THESEUS I’m staying, mother.
AETHRA Are you going or staying?
THESEUS Should I go or stay? Or shall I split in two?
AETHRA Your father commanded it. Go! But I command you. Stay!
VOICE OF AEGEUS If you bear me a son, have him roll aside the boulder, take the sword and the sandals, and come to me in Athens.
THESEUS One calls me, the other keeps me. It’s my father’s order, but my mother won’t let me go. What should I do? Cry or eat?
AETHRA Along your journey, death will lurk in many forms.
THESEUS I’ll find them where they’re lurking, and I’ll be the one who’s smirking.
AETHRA You’re your father’s son: headstrong, stubborn. Go! At most, you’ll eventually come to rest there...
THESEUS Goodbye, mom. Don’t start sniveling... It’s enough if I’m sniveling. I’m a strapping lad of sixteen... Hey, bring my sack and everything else. Pack some flatbread. Not too hard. I won’t need warm stockings.
AETHRA I won’t survive the loss of you…
THESEUS You’ve got that wrong, for the life of you. I’ll go and come back. And I’ll strike down everyone along my path.
The road guides me, but where?
Stones and sand lie everywhere.
This is no friendly terrain.
There may be perils on the way.
If danger should come upon me,
I’m not the slightest bit afraid. See?
But I’d rather unsheath my sword,
Fighting for a maiden to whom I’m sworn.
A maiden can be dangerous, it’s true –
If I must fight beside her, too.
NARRATOR (Aehtra) He wandered – or rather roamed... He wandered and roamed until he reached a land called Epidaurus.
THESEUS Whoa, I had to come a long way. I must be tired out. Now, I’m so tired out, I must sit down on this rock.
NARRATOR(Ariadne) Somewhere danger is lurking. It’s best to get off that spot.
THESEUS Mother said a thousand dangers will be lurking, but I’m lurking, too. And if I sniff out where the danger lurks, I’ll pounce on it in a snap.
NARRATOR (Ariadne) Perhaps it’s just beneath this rock, where you’re sitting so unsuspectingly...
THESEUS If it’s just under this rock that danger lurks, I’d better move my butt that way...
NARRATOR (Periphetes) Leaping out from behind the rock, and towering threateningly over Theseus, is Periphetes, the club man.
THESEUS What a lunkhead!
PERIPHETES I’m a lunkhead?
THESEUS You’re not a lunkhead. That’s a lunk. It’s no hunk of stone, but I stone cold don’t need a hunk, either.
PERIPHETES Are you picking on me, traveler?
THESEUS I have no thorns. How could I pick on you?
PERIPHETES Skip it. I can’t stand jokes. My muscles are huge. I’m Periphetes, the club man.
THESEUS Well, now that we’re past that, I bid you good evening. I’ll just be on my way. I have a meeting.
PERIPHETES Impossible. All those who come this way have no more meetings. Or no more eatings...
THESEUS You want to eat me?
PERIPHETES Nah, I just want to club your head in. That’s why I’ve got this lunk. It’s my job.
THESEUS Nice profession, I’ll say. But isn’t it boring?
THESEUS And say, how will you club my head in?
PERIPHETES I lie in wait with my lunk. I jump out and club you then and there. I can proudly say no mortal has ever passed here.
THESEUS Then why don’t you hide now, so you can crush my head?
PERIPHETES One minute! I’m going back into hiding. And you’ll come by, all unsuspecting, humming one tune or another. You get the club in the head, then you’re dead. Now, I’m going back into hiding, and you come this way, all unsuspecting, like I said.
NARRATOR (Theseus) Then, Theseus was struck by a thought.
THESEUS Hey, lunk! I’ve got a whole bunch of thoughts.
PERIPHETES Let’s hear one of them. But not five and not half.
THESEUS Let’s pretend that I’m lying in wait for you with the club. And for the sake of the game, you would be the traveler.
PERIPHETES But I can only be Periphetes, the dreaded club man.
THESEUS Oh, come on. Haven’t you ever wanted to travel?
PERIPHETES You’ve hit upon my one sensitive spot. Long have I thought about it, long have I longed... that it’s not me here doing the clubbing. I’m the one traveling, exploring the world. But you know... if I’m not clubbing, what’s to become of you?
THESEUS We’ll pretend that you’re the traveler, and I’m the one with the club.
PERIPHETES I can’t pretend. No one taught me how.
THESEUS That’s why I’m here. To teach you. So hand over you club...
PERIPHETES I can’t hand it over.
THESEUS Well, then we can’t pretend!
PERIPHETES Why can’t we pretend? You promised…
THESEUS We can play pretend if you understand that I will be the club man, and you’ll be the traveler.
PERIPHETES Do I have to hand it over?
THESEUS For the game’s sake, I have to hold onto it…
PERIPHETES I want to play. But just once. Then I’ll go and bash your head.
PERIPHETES Isn’t it against the rule…?
THESEUS Break the rule for once…
PERIPHETES I’ll break it. Let’s pretend... Oh, this is incredible!
THESEUS You’ll arrive from here… singing unsuspectingly.
PERIPHETES What am I doing?
PERIPHETES I never tried it. I can’t do it.
THESEUS Well, try, and then you’ll be able to do it. You come this way, traveler, not even suspecting...
PERIPHETES …not even suspecting...
THESEUS …that I lie here in wait, lurking...
THESEUS … I hit you mercilessly on the head...
PERIPHETES …on the head...
THESEUS … because I’m the club man now, and I serve you justice.
PERIPHETES … serve you justice. Shall I give it a try?
THESEUS Try it out!
NARRATOR (Periphetes) And Periphetes, the dreaded club man, sets off singing towards the boulder, not ever suspecting that Theseus lies in wait, lurking behind it.
PERIPHETES My little angel, how the dawn glows!
All around you, how the wind blows!
Your plaited braid swings to and fro.
How I love to see you so!
Through the curtain, I see dimly
How so merrily and sweetly…
THESEUS Take your lumps, you lunkhead! On your head!
PERIPHETES That doesn’t count!
PERIPHETES Can’t I finish my folk song?
THESEUS Okay, finish, But hurry up…!
PERIPHETES … You sit upon the bed, my love.
That’s the sight I’m dreaming of…
THESEUS Have you finished?
PERIPHETES Now I have.
THESEUS Take that.
PERIPHETES That didn’t hurt.
THESEUS Take that.
PERIPHETES That didn’t hurt.
THESEUS Take that.
PERIPHETES That hurt.
THESEUS About time.
PERIPHETES This can give a person a headache.
THESEUS Take that.
PERIPHETES That hurt, too.
PERIPHETES Now I’m off to the afterlife for a speck of eternal life.
NARRATOR (Periphetes) With that, Periphetes perishes. He breathes no more. He no longer makes a sound. Without a doubt, he’s dropped dead.
THESEUS This may as well be enough for me. But if I journey on, what else might I see?
NARRATOR (Ariadne) He does not hesitate long. He leaves the remains of Periphetes to the beasts of the forest and the birds of they sky. Yet, he takes along the club, which he calls a cudgel.
THESEUS Besides my sword, I have a cudgel,
Because I am no lunkhead fool.
That’s one danger less along my travels,
Which, I’d say, is mighty cool.