This is the story of a man, a monster and a winged horse.
Bellerophon was a grandson of Sisyphus, the crafty character who so annoyed the gods that he ended up rolling a stone up a hill in the underworld, only to have it roll back eternally.
Bellerophon started his adventures by killing two people, including his own brother. In the Greek myths, this doesn’t always lead to punishment and doesn’t always make you a villain. He ran away and took refuge with a King called Proetus, whose wife Anteia fancied him and, when he said no, did a Potiphar’s wife and accused him of rape to her husband. Proetus didn’t want to kill a guest, but did want to get rid of him, so sent him to his father in law, King Iobates, with a sealed note asking him to kill the bearer for what he had done.
But the guest thing was strong in that part of the world. You just didn’t kill your guest. Iobates figured a fight with a monster would do the trick, so asked him nicely if he’d very much mind killing the Chimaera, a fire breathing female monster who was part lion, part goat and part snake. Robert Graves thinks she was a symbol of the seasons, though frankly, if a fire breathing monster was heading my way, I wouldn’t stop to worry about whether she was a symbol.
Neither did Bellerophon. But he wasn’t stupid. He got himself something to help. The goddess Athena gave him a golden bridle, which he used to catch the winged horse Pegasus. You may have seen Pegasus in Clash Of The Titans, only in that film he was ridden by Perseus on his quest to kill the Gorgon Medusa. Pegasus doesn’t belong to that story, except that he sprang from Medusa’s blood, but when you have Ray Harryhausen doing special effects, you don’t worry too much.
Bellerophon rode his winged steed and killed the Chimaera with a spear that had lead on the end, which melted in her own fire and ran down her throat.
As Bellerophon came back alive from that quest, Iobates came up with some more little jobs for him. He survived the lot.
Finally, Iobates became curious and asked Bellerophon for his side of the Anteia story, apologised and gave him his other daughter in marriage.
Because this is Greek myth, not a fairy tale, it didn’t end up happily ever after. Bellerophon got cocky enough to ride Pegasus to Olympus. Zeus sent a gadfly to sting Pegasus, who reared and flung off his rider. Bellerophon survived, but was injured and blinded and ended up wandering the earth alone and miserable. As for Pegasus, he ended up as Zeus’s pack horse to carry his thunderbolts.
You can decide if that was an honour or not.
Tomorrow I will be telling you about the goddess Circe and putting in links to some connected fiction.