[This highly allegorical portrait of Leda as favored by Zeus in disguise of a seductive swan comes from an earlier myth that likely was typical of many about royal maidens who took immortal lovers during the Idyllic Age that followed the newly created world by Gaia. The sexual tryst was more likely apt to coetus between the River Acheloos and Leda, by a myth that does not survive.The mythologist Robert Graves thought Leda was a Moon Goddess of a cult or kind who received a hallowed man to her lap by a lost ritual or festival season that rewarded him her maiden intimacies. The fallacy of muchy later Classical Greek Mythology is the oblivious imposition of an Olympian Deity upon a mortal maiden whose ancestral forbears and known venerations lay with the hallowed and primordial river gods, over whom the Goddess Beasts Wild and the Huntress Maiden in Duality reigned supreme. Leda, incidentally, is supposed to have been the last maiden with whom Zeus had coetus, even though that distinction is reserved to Alkmene, the mother of Herakles.]
Leda’s Teenage Years of Much Ambivalence by Aetolian Culture & Heritage
Leda certainly did not learn of her ambiguous and quasi royal status of maternal grant legacy by any indications of her daily existence – not until afterwards the looting and rapacity of Arakyndia. Orphaned of her mother, virtually abandoned by her foreign father (Thestios or Thyestes), the tribal coalitions of the Aetolian Brotherhood failed to teach her the traditions of her maternal birthrights which suddenly rendered her to chieftain leadership over her Arakyndians. New tribeswomen, many of them crones, the Arakyndian huntsmen adopted from the greater Aetolian Brotherhood of the Highlanders. They failed, however, to bond themselves to the many orphaned children such as Lëda. They did not know enough to treat Eurythemis’ only surviving daughter with any special deference –and that was indeed a most unusual duty to neglect.
Or, as Lëda was remembered for remarking, “That early neglect of my native status, I must suppose, has some bearing on the free wield of mind by which I’ve come to think about most everything that newly surrounds me. I did all that I was told to do, but I also remained stubborn about whatever I most wanted. Submission for the sake of my occasional mulishness arose from the special freedoms of an upbringing largely ignored by my elders, who please remember, were not many for surviving the rapacity visited upon us… As all the children did, I provided day by day to communal larder, always without stint. I did so amply, was praised, but I was only silently approved and otherwise left to my preoccupations of the low country west of the lake and the upstream course of the Achelöos River.
“And yet there was also joy by those years which followed my tribe’s calamity nigh to its oblivion. A few days after the pirate raid, the friendly ships returned. The Elders assembled a full tribal council meeting before them, our audience the commands over the visiting great galleys then at landfall.
“We children peeked from the edge of the firelight upon that vast assembly, drawn by the leaping flames above the several large campfires. I was still too young to recall much that was discussed. More strange names, places, incomprehensible explanations. That and smaller convocations lasted several days, nonetheless. Neighboring tribesmen arrived as large delegations to participate in that parlay. Some general agreement involving all there was achieved. The entire Brotherhood was obligated to serve my diminished tribes in lieu of our men who had died. They must provide from their hunts of the highlands, but they engaged the seafarers to protect all lowland that lay seaboard to the Great Gulf.
“The crews embarked to sea again, bearing toward their Isles. Their departure was followed six days later by the landfall of three great galleys. Their commander was a much older man than those previous whom the tribe had been accustomed to seeing as our visitors. The three young captains accompanying them seemed very dashing and manly appealing. So for why we readily granted them our own highest honors as early as well met. We gave their king every deference of the title. He had then held many small meetings with our leading huntsmen, many familiar to him as guides to his own hunts of years past throughout Arkanania. Phratry leaders all, they brought their discourse away to our senior elders upon the highlands. The old man didn’t seem so old after he deliberated at length surrounded by many spectators. He spoke with authority our language, and he was easy at the parlay by using it.
“The old man departed, and all of us then still at summer encampment upon the river felt most relieved and assured. From then on, there were always the friendly ships at patrol of the shallows, floating offshore and sometimes by angling upstream through the River’s marshlands estuary. They were few ships in number, however, and always rotating their crews at layovers ashore – as though to deliberately create an impression of inconsequential numbers. Companion ships, roughly a third again of the number ashore, could be seen sailing off the far channel, along the Great Gulf’s south shore of high palisades. But those ships always disappeared away by nightfall.”
The old man, of course, proved to be Arceisius, a naval high chieftain rendered old and overly fatigued while his ships’ constancy at unlading provisions to his warrior war allies far down the Isthmus. Almost holy to Leda’s memory and to the Elders of her tribe, she as much as said so to me:
“Whatever he did for us, it was splendid, ample and enduring. Routines around the ships, new each day but repeating visits that made them easily known to my child-mind. Their crews made a continuous playtime for all of us. Before all that safe happiness, however, there had arisen an autumn day, not very different from any other of that wonderful season, when we went just as excited as usual to the shore. All the really good fun and company was always there for us! But that one day we found it naked of any warships! None were cruising offshore either. Horrified, we had run back to the Elders. I only slightly lagged the forerunners and thereby saw the dread which swept unanimously over their countenances.
Next the deep throats of blaring ram horns echoed off hillsides in summons of the hunters off the alpine steeps. Sharp whistling peeled through the high grassy marshes, bringing down shrill responses from the upland vales and glens. The Elders soon mobilized most of our tribesmen, then immediately sent them off to outposts upon the few higher embankments at River’s very end. Our men hid in preparedness wherever best perspectives seaward and across the vacant spits. Our oldest girls, too young to have been among those many stolen and enslaved, forever lost, hastened inland to gain the highest ground above the Lake. I and other smallest children hid in the high grass, where the terrain served us good head starts from which to scramble away at our own escapes.”
“Sure enough, a large gathering of strange ships covered the south and western horizons just as dusk began to deepen into nightfall. The remaining huntsmen had deployed far back of our watchers, awaiting alerts, ready for a feeble but brave defense of the pathways leading inland, a long way from the shoreline. We then waited and spent out that sleepless night. We children were all dreadfully afraid of what might jump out at us suddenly from the darkness.”
“There had been no fighting that night, at least wherein our tribesmen were involved. Those alien ships had made the mistake of using the full moon to light their next intended pillage. A soundless sea battle had occurred offshore. In the morning, the entire tribe assembled in support of the tired shoreline watchers. All they and I saw, however, were capsized boats and bodies of men bestrewn about the shallows and hummocks of eel grass. Our huntsmen scavenged the shore for survivors. In the course of that day, they shot by spear or arrow such pirates as they found had waded ashore. Those marauders had bitten the alluring bait of our desolate shore, only to be devoured by a far more powerful predator off the sea. That silent deliverance made famous the name of Arceisius-bai among the Arakyndians. To us he’d been the Goddess’ chosen deliverance. The great galley class over whose warships he commanded took the name of Loutrökai. It means to us both `redeemer’ and `redresser,” thus both savior and avenger by a taking of two meanings.”
“The constant presence of the friendly ships had then begun anew and for all days of my childhood afterwards. Had these crews not been so special in appearance, and their faces so constantly changing, I would have thought them from my own people somewhere near or around the lake. But they were a mankind wholly apart us for all their generosity. Thereby they were always most special to my heart and best spirits. I speak for all of us to say so, but only I have abidingly cherished them as a favorite mankind.”
Lëda met a bright and confident lad, Laërtes, among the apprenticed command echelon two years later, when she was ten years old. I splice her commentary into what his father Arceisius told by many stories that he said about her to Odysseus, when he was a little boy. So Leda’s subsequent years as a growing girl can begin now as my own rough composition by such a reliable source:
Leda at Maturity and Ascendancy
By Leda’s ninth year, she had fully knew who the visiting sailors were and against whom they acted as constant sentinels. They were men from the Far Isles, a mankind dwelling beyond the safe reach of such log boats as they had constructed for her tribesmen for them to float and paddle upon Achelöos Estuary and deep sloughs that fed eastward off the river course into Lake Trichonis. These sailors became the stalwart protectors of her tribe, which bonding of gratitude for the Arakyndians’ returned the constant provisions to them as though sutlers of the wanted resupplies that the Highlanders could not produce by themselves. Their own resupply of our needs was always precise to timing of direst seasonal wants, such as before the migrations of prey and awhile the eel and fish runs only trickled, preventing their swarming. Still, so numerous were the ships at continual deep-water patrols awhile the crews ashore took turns at churning up the shallow spits for shellfish.
Agrinion eventually become a major cache point for supply convoys running the Great Gulf eastward and back from the Isthmus. The crews could take rest, make repairs, or conduct training at arms for rotating crews put ashore. The upper sloughs served containment of scrub, a kind of shrubbery dense by straight branching that proved ideal for cuttings of their hardwood arrow shafts. Our hunters provided the necessaries to fletching them for whole arsenal of quivered arrows thereby made, even as spears, too, were fashioned from light and pliant woods that we thought useless for anything except the weaving of long weirs emplaced across sloughs to contain the fish runs back and forth by migrations far upstream. Arakyndia was very bountiful that way, but there were many provisions we best liked that her denizens could not grow or gather for themselves.
During all those years, indeed over her whole decade grown from a skinny tall girl to one of middle teenage years, the tribe benefited wholesomely from the strife so far away to the east. There was also the mostly unreported strife within the south mainland where the brotherhoods of our tribesmen crossed the Leap over the Great Gulf to join the alpine haunts throughout the Southland. Very near to us, the traces up and down or traversing steep slopes that other alpine seaboard, meant a different life for our hunters from ours high along the low country marshlands. Most every season except the onset of the heavy rainfall of late autumn allowed us the Achelöos’ ample proofs of his bounties to us, by bearing of fruits and nuts draping broad boughs of low growing trees.
We children learned to shake off the offerings hung from lowest and densest boughs. Making an efficient and productive progression through them as we grew in height and strength, of orchards we had not a least awareness—so naturally bountiful was the varying harvesting of fruits found upon any elevation above us. Such mindless abundance also matured in proper season throughout the many levels of low elevation densities of shrubbery. Everywhere yield something delicious for us to eat.
It was neither farming nor orchard keeping in any deliberate sense of needing our labors. The crews who helped us with the garnering marveled that our low country burgeoned as though for granted ever since the Eidyllion, an old time past but still lingering for making itself most varying as manifest to us and the seafarers. They marveled and wondered. Seasons always high yielding, so also amply sufficient and appreciated for the upland tribes to gather into their baskets until cached as high heaps and stores stacks. All we needed to fashion was the stacked webbing to keep them above the ground or for preservation under shade from high midday heat. Such was our only demanding labors until the highland drovers brought down their long donkey strings to bear the stores back to their alpine wintertime larders. Our vast low country was a landscape of many bounties brought to sums for all to praise, each ample of some kind of good food that seemed to constantly replenish itself without our any assistance except for the picking and racking of the produce.
The few surviving women of the tribe, among whom neighboring kinswomen who’d gradually married the Arakyndians’ few young widowers, cut and carried wood baulks down to the River’s outflow into the Great Gulf. A steady denuding of the virgin coastal woodlands ensued at loss of the well forested barrier ranging the high interior above and far behind the Achelöos estuary. All of that wasn’t so impressive until you trekked high to look down upon all our low country from far perspectives. Only then, during such late season treks to the meets high above us could we appreciate that we were in some oldest created existence, most certainly an Idyll.
Those tribesmen and their women, when not dispersed at hunting together, laid out by every day rotating turnouts the broad fire berms against each next evening arrival of either large or small groups of ships. Sometimes amassed ashore were twenty great galleys at any one time. Between such dense landfalls of crews they made a concerted enterprise of firing char. For among the arriving crews there were their smiths and forgers. Their labors compensated the Arakyndians with the tools of hunt or scavenge amidst the ever abundant rills and sloughs laying inland behind Agrinion. The crews were aimful and quick to spear catches from them.
Tribesmen, most of them from the clans living at very high elevations –by high hill tops or settlements just below tree lines of mountains. They would descend to the shore at the same time as char was being bunkered and amassed once cooled down. They brought down big game of many kinds – deer and elk for the greatest part, but often ibex, boar or bear. The young children would spend their days at gathering fat frogs, eels, eggs and shellfish before they dug down deep into their winter nests. All at abundance ended with the rutting season throughout the far Oak lands which conjoined Aetolia and Arkanania as though one broad high savannah.
The yields of last hunts we contributed to cauldrons for savory stews prepared against the evening feasts for the visiting crews. They stayed late beyond their seasons of seafaring less we suffer any peril of sudden trespassers upon us. The older girls brought down fresh water from upriver pools, using our two-wheeled handcarts to convey the filled bladders containing fresh water. Thereby they replenished the tall clay pithoi and stout amphorae which the sailors provided them [for stores containment]. Our boys brought in game birds off the flyway season; our oldest became able to gather in upland bird coveys or waterfowl densely afloat ponds as wholly unsuspecting of them.
So they provided to us well, as meet to their abilities to make takings of marsh partridge, ducks, geese and quail for the most part of the hunting parties’ yields. The sailors themselves would often make a morning of practicing at their bows by shooting the larger birds afloat across the calms or even at their scrambles into full flight. Such was the enormous abundance of prey a-flight and afloat within Leda’s bounteous aviary.
So Aetolia’s Agrinion rapidly emerged as a trading outpost capable of fostering very large population as transient to the landings along the jutting spits aimed seaward. There had to be many changes born of new stresses by the constant density ashore of natives and seamen alike. Accordingly, our tribal social order must partly transform as well.
Leda and Laertes: Later Years Closest Friends but Never Lovers
Or, as Leda would explain to Laërtes, such recurring mass provision continued into the years when they could share separate insights together about those times of supposed great turmoil. His visits to the Estuary became frequent; they looked forward to being with each other. For he replaced his father at presence among her people, even at his age only twelve. He clearly commanded over his landed ships, in part to whole fleets of them become leading providers to convoys gliding away to the Isthmus and the South Mainland allies of what Laërtes called the Great Gulf League. Leda would learn at last from him about the Bond of Four Wanakes. Supreme over their people, they were loosely concerted together as the prospects of most vicious warfare became ever brightening, more hopeful, even assuring of final reversals of enemies. Mostly, though, Laërtes could learn as an enthralled listener all of Leda’s recall of what he’d missed of typical youthful pastimes of grown girls and lads as arrived to their earliest ‘tween years.
What he next tells about them, however, was Leda’s rendition by much later decades, when she was longtime a mother and he become a father of a nearly grown boy:
“My memories as a skinny girl of fourteen are dim about our tribesmen; because they were mostly away on long hunts. A few bands were always about, but only for so long as it took them to truss a new spear, fletch new arrows or make other preparations for the high traverses and by-ways of their remotest alpine hunting grounds.
“But I slowly perceived how the tribesmen stayed more frequently ashore our low country. They were more and more engrossed each year in the deliberations which attended our old crones’ trade exchanges with the commanders off visiting flotillas. Those elders began to stand back in silence, usually approving rather than proposing, as though to concede to those unusual times of pervasive warfare everywhere some required tribal re-ordering which favored our huntsmen warriors over our tribeswomen. The elders allowed the hunting party chieftains more self-initiative.
“I also had become less important to them or to what began to preoccupy them next as rumor whispered from everywhere that the Long Turmoil’s conflicts were causing retreats of the Minyans and Argives everywhere the former lowland occupations. They were being killed, and their hireling warriors were deserting them.
“Oddly, the men became increasingly surly, even ugly of temper, in consequence of that trend. Many already had bad habits borne of the new powers granted to our men as guides of armed forays during the middle years of warfare. They awakened my first awareness that I was not going to be happy among my people. Only the alpine tribes’ women could speak for young maidens ahead of me in age. But they were not happy either with their situation. Lads near my age grown older, once pleasant young men taken for granted, they became bullies over our simmer meets. The severe conduct of the older tribesmen towards all our hard working women alienated me from them. I could do nothing of honor for my Arakyndians without their unjust reproaches of me as overly haughty and bossy, as though I was pretending as a queen.
“Such discomforts as I was made to feel when within our own men – be they lads, swains or young men at chase – heightened my bonds of strong allegiance to the crews arriving daily off the ships for nighttime layovers.”
“I still retained a loyalist’s devotion to our whole Genos of Highlanders, of course. Why that heightened I’ll shortly explain. A nation race that was trans-alpine was our attitude of unity, itself a conditioning from my mother as a little girl, I must suppose; but just how I gained sense of race of many tribal nations, I cannot recall. It was just a feeling instilled that we were all the same, except that our women seemed so strong and our men weak despite for matters of weight, height and other physical virtues. I was born to feel empowered and free for best considered ways ahead. I understand and accept what I learned, felt no shame in thinking our men far short of the seamen Islanders. They have done so well by me. I could never ever quite lose that deep affection for their common rankers, even to knowing, not merely sensing, a whole people at constant selfless generosity to peoples their kind, whether or not. Even if my love today finds strongest infatuation for the lowly farm people of this, my fated land of Lakonia, I still can remember how sailors and oarsmen made me thrill for beholding every new face of them at the end of a long day’s afternoon at toils in their behalf. Their gratitude didn’t make or daily chores feel like any toil whatsoever!”
Another time she opined further:
“I’ve the good fortune to have been easily cherished by all of our small tribes around Lake Trichonis. My love is reward of a most appreciative folk, also a learning of generous natures, but of such a sensibility to know as well the deprivations of love and self-dignity far more severe than mine have ever been, or ever were, while an orphan of my mother.”
Lëda, I must observe here, hadn’t anything much pleasant to say about her father Thestios. Uncaring of her, seemingly foreign born although he was supposed a denizen of first worth among the Plain Phocians, our eastern neighbors of Mount Parnassos’ northern and eastern flanks. “Whatever, he was too far away and utterly disinterested in doing what our tribesmen are supposed to do as leaders of the Brotherhood they boast so much about.”
It was many years later that she learned her mother Eurythemis had adored the High Chief Thyestes for a brief while. Self-exiled from Argolis, as well known as he was even briefly for us, he had tried to make a new homeland of the Upper Achelôos Highlands of Aetolia. He’d manifest great graciousness among our people there, a kind and sensible High Chieftain and honored in the fullest sense of prominence among the tribes who sought to enjoin themselves to him. Eurythemis took him to herself, had him sire off her children away from any ken of Thestios. I have that only from Laërtes, who somehow and by somebody such secret things. Over our last lingering years at friendship, while he acted liaison all along the Great Gulf with his father, we said and shared all we knew with other, somehow knowing that the Long Turmoil was nearing its end. Or as end it finally did….
Eurythemis was remembered as far more important than her husband ever was, albeit a High Chief, but she became estranged on account of his mean, haughty and disdainful ways towards all women, whatever their statures. She was happy in her accomplishments as a good mother of her girls and, I can only guess, as good as any tribeswomen comfortable with parents of and children with whom her daughters made friends — before, that is, she and they disappeared into oblivion as grossly debased victims of scourge. Over which losses, Lëda also must think, her father felt no remorse for ill-protecting them.
So Leda goes on and beyond that sense and hindsight…..
“Such were my enduring inclinations to generosity, gratitude, affiliation, constancy: They were then, perhaps, my conceits born of the security that the Cephallenes provision of ships and crews afforded me. For the wicked pirates had never returned, whereas reports of their annihilation offshore the Southland had begun very early in the Long Turmoil, even if after the slaughters upon out tribal lands. Eradications occurred many places elsewhere than the Gulf’s, and never were their captives either ever found after any purge. So pirates and their evils were only abroad us, far away not near, even if we vaguely felt them surrounding our Great Land. Despite the renewed and sustained safety of our shores, moreover, it was known to everyone that pirates abounded in substantially greater numbers than had ever been the situation beforetimes. Too many men were thought befallen the spell of marauding, by which thrall every cruelty that scourge can instill to the fears of women and children.”
“I knew, too, that the kinsmen who ranged the high traverses kept active overlooks from broad stretches of palisade above the Great Gulf. Their descents to the shoreline encampments of the visiting sailors was occasion for parlay off any intelligence gains from their vigilance seaward at heights above the Gulf’s breadth, or by the patrols of the Islanders ranging just offshore their stations at forestry.
Leda’s gratitude for her sense of security by the Islanders lay foremost to common seafarers at neglect of her fellowship by the Highlanders. Laërtes, for most of the years passed beyond Leda’s fourteenth birthday, had found a greatest friend to allay every new and disturbing thought and feeling that began to bestir within her and him as she gained sense of her own importance as close to what he had of royal stature. She began to compare the visiting sailors to her tribesmen, make mental tally of the clear differences, and assess the contrasts beholden. The results were ultimately unfavorable to the manhood of her Aetolian Brotherhood.
She said her conclusions to Laërtes when he was just about to take on his first naval command in support of the Ephyrëans. He was only thirteen, still serving sutler duties wherever landings of troops ashore. And yet he was an able pilot-at-helm over the safe of all troop landed at their retreats back to his ships. He was a popular young fellow at his tasks without trying to be the smartest of all young men ennobled alike him, grown lads serving apprenticeship at ship command. And yet it was obvious that his intelligence greatly exceeded theirs.
She, I suppose, was almost fifteen when she’ composed her firm conclusions for the grown lad, her best friend from the Isles, to consider for their futures.
I say hereon by Laërtes of what ensued:
“Why,” Leda must ask, “can your sailors spend an entire day at hard sailing or at rowing through rough seas, only to return at dusk still tireless over constant activities ashore demanded of your nighttime lay-overs?’
The strenuous demands of the ships once hauled ashore a spit defining the river debouch or parked in broad sloughs seemed to make a bee’s nest of any evening encampment. The hulky vessels had to be laboriously rowed or dragged upstream to have their barnacles removed. The crews then had to drag the ships into fresh water for scraping off scale detritus and for healing their hulls with tars and lacs. Always there were various and sundry repairs of chandlery brought ashore, and yet other intricate activities that were performed inboard and out of sight of her avid curiosity. The sails had always to be set out to dry, a strenuous chore, because their broad spans must be set upon marsh grass of most muddy and sticky footing. Even after darkness had descended, small teams of busy sail masters encircled the campfires far into nighttime and next mornings to affirm the sails dry. They spent their patience at waiting upon crafted strands of grassy twine by braiding them into useful cordage. Early risers off their billets must then repair as well sheets, hauling yards and stays.
And always there were the bad weather days that captured the crews ashore, whereby each wet and chill day kept them warm solely by zealous drill–at-arms. She often saw her good buddy Laërtes at his good aim of long-shafter arrows, or by letting his best spearmen show off to her their long casts of spears by swings of slings that allowed even youngest men aimful long trajectories afar. Her greatest love of his crews told out from their constant good hustle and attentive dispositions to duty by awfully hard and tedious work. That showed them up most attractively. They looked tanned, fit and handsome, because the bathing was always good along the landings. The lean attractiveness became of their hardy existence. She observed how teenagers finished their final comings to manhood. The League’s oarsmen, as Leda would uniquely declaim about them, presented large frames, long muscles and sinewy arms off muscular shoulders and strong backs. Their sturdy, somewhat short legs were thick with corded muscles.
Laërtes was too young and smart to show off to her, but he did so anyway, mostly inadvertently, because he knew everything about everything the crews did, and explained all of their routines very well to her. So did she explain in return, showing off her own good mind as an excellent audience to his careful and precise eloquence at elucidation. Her maiden friends of her same age were too bashful to join the seaside congregations, and they weren’t ever a good match to her wits anyway. That was all to the good, however. She discovered that all the captains and their commands were strict at admonition against the crews accessible to the native women. They were outright forbidden, and Laërtes most happy to allow her women congregation while enforcing all courtesies owed to them as minions to herself, her only regarded hostess.
Laërtes opined, “Obviously, Leda found such mankind as our Isles produced a magnificence to thrill her admiration. She was far advanced along her own beauty of form and well-exercised strengths. Alas, I was still a lean lad just barely coming into my strength. I wanted her so much, often lusted for her, and so greatly wished to become her possession. Yet I was not as those men whom she so openly admired; I had to be satisfied that I was only an only offshore friend since our earlier years brought together. As I was, too, most fortunate for my frequent layovers, far more than what the other lads could enjoy, I put my felt devotion to her at assistance of her tribe’s expansion of Agrinion into a greater shoreline and future upstream haven amidst the deep fresh water sloughs.
“It was all very hard work, but also a sea duty of wonderful distractions and opportunities well-taken for comradery. Over meals and some few other moments at leisure, the sailors delighted in the small children such as Leda had once been as so early orphaned of her mother. The crews always found some additional reserve of energy to play at various kinds of games with them. Boys such as me, by the command apprenticeships, played with littlest girls or chased each other within the marshes while at the last gatherings of the day. If there was any guidance needed by those playmates, however, it was the oldest girls who provided it –– although they were only oldest girls because the youngest like Leda to have survived the rapacity of their mothers and older sisters. We visiting boys made plain our thrill to explore their enormous wetlands. We didn’t want to sleep. Scurrying about tirelessly, we’d suddenly drop down as though dead, until a next dawn’s revival of the excitement to be gained from another day at layover together. Our skippers were very patient about our cheerful little souls.”
There came a day, though, for childish play to pass away: Laërtes must explain…..
“Those girls began to preen their superiority, their elegance of form maturing, Lëda was so far ahead of them all by becoming more beautiful of form and too soon much too unattainable by her obvious majesty. Still, she remained to her last childhood years a hoyden lass easy at the tease and banter of the teenaged apprentices off the visiting crews.
“Those sailor lads and I never could learn well the language of Leda’s tribal brotherhood. The constant rotation of our visiting crews prevented any assimilation of language through steady practice. I never gained the good ear that Odysseus has always had for new languages. Instead the Arakyndians must offer through gestures whatever they needed to communicate of our needs to the girls and tribeswomen who afforded their provisions to us. Most special to Leda’s thinking, was the constant good manners of my comrades apprenticed. We afforded every assistance to the women who came laden with supplies to our encampments. As soon as seen, all chores of layovers were dropped in order to relieve the women of their burdens.”
“We boys who were the girls’ playmates dug the ditches away from the camp by which the light tides at ebb could convey away our wastes. The shore was always cleanly swept by sunrise. The bright day and fresh smells off the marshes at dusk furthered the cleansing and tidiness of the beaches.”
“Her tribesmen, I admit, had their own diminutive handsomeness. The best huntsmen among them even had a fitness which compared favorably to any of us visiting seafarers. Yet the chief hunters led mostly idle lives whenever at home by returns off the high traverses. They crowded under the shaded lodge compound provided to them seaside, whenever at assistance to the crews and the helpmate tribeswomen. If those men were not away among the hunting parties, they were the first to receive the food prepared for the two large meals served every day. They never encamped by first washing themselves, despite all the pleasant waterside that we preferred for enclosures of our highly banked fires. So always the hunters bore the strong stench of dried blood, rancid animal grease or the dank sweat which saturated their tunics.
Their tribal compounds, separated from the women’s, were bestrewn with their litter – bones and remnant flesh, shavings from the arrow fletching, the smoldering chars off their late evening fires. Flies gathered in swarms to such offal; sand fleas infested their camp sites. These and other foul residues attested how difficult it was for the women to clean up for them until their next departures to the alpine hunts. Those exhausted tribeswomen must early retire for their own sleep. Retreat for rest was also their sole relief from constant argumentative chatter with those men, who also must gab away with themselves until late into the night.”
“They were an eloquent mankind, Leda and I agreed: Fine with words, superb at elocution, and masterful to course expressions for every emotion. Still, they talked about much more than they did, had done; and endlessly said about very little of any importance. Or so, I suppose, became her mind as mine, a general disappointment in her tribesmen and a disdain for uplands Aeolia.”
They lived a paradise but knew that not so.
There was also the tribesmen’s pestering, often peckish conduct towards their wives and local matron elders. They berated their strongest girls openly; burdened them with endless labors at working the sloughs and marshland where the gathering of fish runs and shellfish. In stark contrast, they held themselves aloof, lazy and disinterested at such vital pursuits, leaving them at end of boyhood become lad initiates at the hunts. They spoke curtly if at all to the older tribeswomen, whose lack of status meant their overexertion at feeding, maintaining and fetching for them. Of course, they had no mothers to respect any longer. The men who had survived the great pirate raid became enraged, nonetheless, if their wives had to perform tribal duties which they considered too menial, too demeaning. Arguments were incessant over what toilsome chore befell whom by Leda’s station in age of women and girls. Not that they dared her at anything within sight of her protectors upon the strands of river debouch. Who would have to bear the greatest brunt of imposed labors, however, was always plain – their women and yet again their women –Leda supposed at lead of the few teenagers closest her age.
Leda was to learn that these awful habitudes were not exclusive to the then greatly prospering Arakyndians. Whole brotherhoods, known from the summer encampments and meets, were just as primitive and rude and insulting of their women folk. Meanwhile, the most complaining hunters doted on their young sons but shooed their daughters away to their overwhelmed mothers, ever mindful of the important work of a day still to be done but which they would not deign to support or assist. Obliviously unashamed by such inequities, the boys of Leda’s age and older lazed or gamboled around their special lodge compounds or summer encampments; or they idly practiced at their hunting weapons along the marshlands.
The tribesmen were also kept extremely vigilant of the very few nubile maidens arising among them. They made sure their ilk was kept separate from any visiting sailors. Lëda could see a special reserve about those visitors whenever within the gaze of the hunters, especially when they must stray too near the few young women near marriageable age. Few, of course and again said, had survived the ravaging pirates. Lëda discerned – and Laërtes affirmed not much later – that the sailors ashore were under his special instruction by heed of the senior ship commands — to maintain a severe correctness of comportment which they must demonstrate most polite deference to the maiden condition. It manifest a sharp contrast with their always engaging deportment before girls of high tribal statures, such as Lëda herself had, or even exceeded, at least by the measure taken of her by the older matrons also in the happy service to the beachheads.
Lëda also noticed that the naval lads kept politely resistant to constant invitations of comradery from her tribesmen. Whenever at conference with the chiefs over hunting parties, moreover, even the commanders maintained a formal yet gentle reserve in the presence of Aetolian women. As soon as any parlay was over, accordingly, they hastened their retreats back to their ships.
Only strongest women were needed for the broad ranging hunting parties. The hardiest maidens were participants in long hunts because they alone bore the burden of carrying the dressed and quartered kills back to the camps. On such rare occasions as the women were encamped the high outback, or Islanders joined the hunting parties, there could be some relaxation of aloof reserve. Any expressed latent passion for those hefty women was ruinous of the good esprit between Islanders and Highlanders. Hostilities became intense and enduring. That was why the Aetolians, howsoever beholden to the Cephallenes as the protectors of their low country, were not as the rest of the Genos, keen to guide their allied forces at warfare through the wilds, with purpose to flank or frontally attacks their detested enemies, the Minyans and the Argives.
Through assistance to the female bearers, on some excuse of an urgent need to return to the ships together, a few such women might come home flushed crimson after her new found infatuation for a magnificent islander. But the maidens held themselves mostly furtive and preoccupied otherwise once back in camp or at trekking the trails of portage. They knew the tribal chiefs resented even the slightest show of affection toward a seafarer.
Notwithstanding those guests’ manifest restraint, the youngest of the hunters were easily aroused to petty jealousies. It took only least provocation. Most of their late evening gabbing was about such felt slights or insults supposed of promiscuous conduct. Their subjects of scorn became of their overly suspicious imaginations, until they must allege the worst about their always polite guests of hunt off the Gulf. Over the years when a sense of victory over the Minyans was coming nigh, the aloofness of Cephallenes from Aetolian men portended a permanent disaffection between them. They only befriended Laërtes, because he was smart and an aimful archer. The wonder of it was Arceisius-wanax supreme good judgement after the Long Turmoil to make of Arkanania and west coastal Aeolia across the Achelöos River winding upstream extents a vast hunting conservatory [a game preserve]. Thereby his final outreach to the Aetolians everywhere east of the river, the appreciation over which was to make them the Ithacan League’s permanent and friendliest protectorates. But such amity took a long time to evolve to that permanence.
For Lëda and Laërtes there gradually evolved a cautious love, hers by affection for his increasing handsomeness, appeal and always excellent comportment among any tribal groupings. His of course was both love and repressed lust for an older teenaged girl or a marvelous beauty and unconscious sex appeal. In an odd way, they were the lessons to each other about how to keep self-control, and to await a day ahead when their adult years would bring them other opportunities, however unseen or even unhoped for, to become intimate with their separate lives.
That maturation took many turns, about which our next posting in elucidation of a greatest heroine of myth in the making and the baking………