The Myth of Hylas
The mythical story of Hylas
by Lilian Stoughton Hyde
The Myth of Hylas
When Jason sailed away on the famous quest of the Golden Fleece, Hercules was one of the heroes who accompanied him. At that time, Hercules took with him, on the Argo, a beautiful boy named Hylas, who served him as page. Hercules was very fond of this boy. He dressed him in green with gold lace, and kept him at his side all day long, teaching him to use the bow and arrow, to throw the discus, and to do many other things that he himself had learned from his father or from the herdsmen of Mount Cithaeron.
After the Argonauts had sailed for three days, with a fresh south wind filling their sails, they came to a small sea called the Propontis, and there, the wind failing, they drew the Argo up on the beach, and went ashore. At the spot where they landed, they found salt meadows, all abloom with beautiful flowers of every color. They gathered the tall reeds and the flowering flags, flowers and all, with other marsh plants, and made comfortable beds for themselves under the cool shade of the trees, in order to get a few hours' sleep; for they knew that during the heat of the day they could not make much headway in rowing.
Toward night they all set about getting supper, and Hylas, for his part, took a pitcher and went to draw water for Hercules. He found, in a low, marshy place, a spring of fresh water, so large that it was like a pond. Rushes and delicate wild grasses grew all around it; ferns leaned over the edge of the water; and a kind of climbing milkweed, like a wax-plant, made the air sweet with its white blossoms. It was a beautiful spring, and the water-nymphs had taken it for their own. They lived down at the bottom of this spring, and used to come up and dance around among the flowers, by moonlight.
Hylas knew nothing of the nymphs, but when he stood over the water, and began to fill the pitcher, he heard a chorus of silvery voices saying, "Come down! Come down!" The nymphs had seen him, and they admired his beautiful face and the gold lace he wore.
While he was looking into the spring, and wondering what the voices were, and what they could mean, two slender white hands suddenly reached up from the black water and pulled him down.
Picture of Hylas
When it began to grow dark, and Hylas did not come back, Hercules, fearing that some mishap had befallen the boy, took his club in one hand and his bow in the other, and went to look for him. As he walked inland, in the direction that Hylas had taken, he called as loud as he could, - and that was very loud indeed, - "Hylas! Hylas!" The call came echoing back from the hills, "Hylas! Hylas!" and that was all the answer that Hercules got, till he passed close to the nymphs' spring. Then he thought he heard Hylas's own voice answering faintly; but as it seemed to come from so very, very far away, he never dreamed that his little page could be down under the black water, and went on, tearing his way through the briers to no purpose.
At midnight a breeze sprang up. Then the Argonauts left their beds of rushes, hoisted the sails of the ship, and made ready to go - but where was Hercules? The heroes waited for him a long time; then, saying that he was a runaway and did not mean to go with them to Colchis, they took up the anchor and went on without him.
Poor Hercules roamed the hills and searched through all the marshes for three days. More than once he heard that faint voice answering his call; but he never could tell where it came from, and so made up his mind that it was his own imagination. At last he gave up the search, and went on to Colchis on foot.
Hylas, not knowing that Hercules had gone, kept on calling to his friend, "Hercules, Hercules, here I am!" Several peasants who passed that way heard his voice, but could not tell where it came from, any more than Hercules could. Still the voice called, all night long, for many nights, "Hercules, Hercules!"
Some time after, one of these peasants saw a little creature, not more than an inch or two long, sitting on a reed. It was clothed in green with gold lace, just as the lost page had been. Tiny as it was, it had a voice out of all proportion to its size. While the peasant stood looking at it, it puffed out its throat and called loudly, but all it said was, "Hr-r-reep! Hreep! Hreep!".
The Legend and Myth of Hylas