For the “Medea” prompt in the Women in MythAThon readathon, I read For Her Dark Skin by Percival Everett. Goodreads says it was published in 1955 before the author was born. Obviously, the date is wrong, the book was published in 1990.
The book begins in Colchis, where Jason arrives to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Unfortunately, the fleece is owned by King Aeetes, Medea’s father. In order for Jason to claim the fleece, he must perform three more tasks. The myth is that Eros made Medea fall in love with Jason so that she helped him with the tasks. Fun fact: Medea is the granddaughter of Helios, the sun God, and the niece of Circe.
In this version of the story of Medea, she is black. She still has most of the same problems as the white Medea. Black Medea seems to be fierce from the beginning. She does things for Jason that she doesn’t like and knows it’s because of a spell. White Medea lets Jason take credit for everything and doesn’t question why that we know of anyway. Of course, it may be a bigger topic than can fit into this review. There is also a book called Black Medea: Adaptations for Modern Plays by Kevin J. Wetmore that discusses different adaptions of the play “Medea” by Euripides.
In most stories, we hear about Jason, while Medea is an afterthought. In this version, Jason falls in love with Medea and vice versa. Medea even kills her own brother to help Jason escape from Colchis. Medea travels with Jason on his quests. They eventually settle in Corinth and have children together. Then Jason falls in love with someone else and forgets about Medea.
She probably doesn’t love him of her own free will thanks to Eros. So when she discovers that Jason is leaving her for another woman, she plots her revenge. Medea basically says “I don’t even like this average white dude with his stupid yellow hair.” Medea isn’t going to be forgotten so easily.
She kills her own children plus Jason’s mistress. It is safe to say that Eros’s love spell is broken. I’m not agreeing that she should have killed the children. Her goal was to cause pain to Jason and probably to break the spell. Could she have caused pain without killing the children? Probably.
People throughout history want to say that Medea just should have left without making a fuss. I think that men have done equally terrible things to women for even less. It doesn’t seem fair that some men get a pass and Medea is always vilified. It’s hard to hate Medea but also difficult to like her.
She did get a pass on being punished. Medea went to Athens, remarried and had at least one more child.
If you are a fan of Greek tragedy and mythology with several viewpoints, then check out this book. Personally, I liked hearing Medea’s side of things. It’s so easy for Jason to say “Oh, my ex is crazy.” As if he had nothing to do with the situation.
Jason and The Argonauts will not enjoy this book quite as much.