That damn family part 4 of 4 (or possibly more!) nthposition March/April 2008


Part the last of what is previously available to read here and here and here


It has naturally enough struck me that this could continue for a while – after all I don’t have to worry about plot (much) but just keeping up Creon’s narrative voice.



The boys had quite a productive reign, as Theban monarchs go. They built the wall around the city’s citadel, and Amphion was quite the musician. Indeed, the story went that while Zethus struggled to carry stones into place – I meant that they literally built the wall – Amphion just played his lyre a little and the rocks flew into position. Be that as it way, they died younger than they should, out of grief at the death of their children. That I can understand. Laius returned to take the throne after they died.

Anyway – you see what I mean about stories begetting stories – let’s get on with Laius and his death, and then we can get on with the story of the Sphinx. Oh, as I was saying, to give you an insight into the character of Laius, while on his visit to Pelops, discussing the import of grain and the export of goats, Laius caught sight of Pelops’ son, Chrysippus. A handsome youth, as they all are. Purportedly the son of a coupling between Pelops and a nymph, and to be sure he had something of the divine lightness, the slender step, of a woodland spirit. It would not have been thought much of – and I speak as the brother of Laius’ wife – if the Theban king had tried to seduce the boy. Such things commonly cement, so to speak, alliances. But seduction was not enough for Laius. He wanted possession. That need to go all the way, beyond decent limits – see how it was a family trait even then! See how the enormities of Oedipus and of Antigone were already forecast, already foretold. If only I had managed to dissuade my own father from allowing the marriage of Laius and Jocasta to take place at all. But we were all star stuck, our family status as Theban aristocracy confirmed in the most definitive way.

Laius wanted to possess the boy, to seize him. He offered to show him some new technique in chariot riding, something the boy was especially proud of. This proved an excuse to drive the boy to the very edge of the kingdom of Pelops. There it was no problem for to just keep driving, with the surprised Chrysippus whimpering all the way back to Thebes. Oh the trouble I had after that! Laius’ lust was seen, politically, as the seizure of a hostage, and a near-declaration of war. And who sorted it out? Creon, that’s who. Creon who wanders the lands, outcast, alone, shamed among men, nothing, no one, et cetera et cetera. Three years older than Jocasta, who was already married to Laius, I was already doing the House of Laius’ dirty work for it, protecting them from themselves.

Can I ever stay on track? The curse of that damn family – not just the incest, the distraction. The business of ruling, always disrupted by the histrionics, the selfishness, the sheer lust of that damn family. It was typical of Laius to wander off like he did, and how awkward of him to get killed. How he got killed – ah, perhaps I’ll let you find out, gentle listener, the same way Oedipus found out. Let’s twist the narrative knife. Let’s do as the gods do, and let time and destiny do their work. As I said earlier, stories beget stories, and to tell you about Creon I have to tell you about Oedipus and tell you about Laius and tell you about Antiope and tell you about Chrysippus and so on. Stories run out of control, unless like the gods you ration out the drama, let it fester, let the listener find out the way it was at the time.

So the death of Laius will wait, but I will tell you about what followed the death of Laius. Though I have spoken enough for tonight, and the smell of your broth is surprisingly enticing. The pleasures of the simple life, free from the vexing world of the lusty, selfish royals and mysteriously incontinent gods. Enough for tonight. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow I will tell you of the Sphinx, and how the Sphinx was vanquished, and what followed on.



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