The Lion and the Dolphins


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“See, I told you he’d come back to this shore, Markos. He’s obviously a wealthy young man, perhaps enjoying some solitude away from the family business.”

“True enough you were right, Tycho. Easy prey. We grab him, then his family pays whatever ransom we ask for his safe return.”

“Not that he’ll be in precisely the same condition as we found him. He is a pretty one, a very pretty one.”

Markos, Tycho, and half a dozen other pirates were watching from behind some rocks near the cove where they had landed their boat. The young noble idly wandered along the shore as if day dreaming. A dangerous pursuit in waters known to be sailed by pirates.

“Here he comes,” whispered Tycho. “Get ready to have at him.”

The young man was exceedingly handsome and spectacularly out-of-place on the isolated shore of this small, barren island just off the coast of Greece. His solitude was rudely interrupted as he was taken unawares by the ruffian pirate crew. He was quickly surrounded, his escape cut off.

“Come with us, lad. We’re wanted men and we have no fear of slitting your throat if you cross us.”

“You’ve made a mistake.” The rich young man seemed completely unafraid which took the pirates quite by surprise. “I suggest you return from whence you came.”

“Ha! Get him, mates.”

At Tycho’s command the pirates fell upon the boy and quickly bound him in ropes. Then they carried him back to their boat, though strangely, he did not struggle.

“Put your back into the oars. The Captain will be waiting for our latest catch.”

Some short distance off shore, the pirates spotted their vessel in the light of late afternoon. Soon they had hauled their prize aboard, and with the boat returned to its moorings, the anchor was secured and the pirate ship was underway.

The young man was unceremonially dumped onto the deck. The gag fell away from his face allowing him to speak. “You will regret you impudence.”

“You think so, boy?” Captain Alexios strode up to the noble’s prone form and put a boot on his chest. “I don’t see how.”

To the Captain’s amazement, the ropes suddenly unraveled, freeing the rich man, and in spite of Alexios’s boot upon him, he stood to face his captors.

“You fools. Did you forget how to knot a rope? Tie him again and this time, do it right.”

Tycho led the men from the landing party to recapture the young man, but no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t bind him.

The ship’s pilot spoke a startling revelation. “Captain, sir. We’ve been played for fools. This is no man but a god. He might be Zeus or perhaps Poseidon. The gods often take the form of men to walk among mortals.”

“You are mad, pilot. How could his young whelp be a god?”

The ship’s pilot was trembling now. “Please, Captain. We should bow down and worship him, begging his forgiveness so that he will not send us to the bottom of the sea.”

“One more word, and I’ll order you bound along with the boy.” Turning to his crew the Captain ordered, “I thought I said to bind him. What are you waiting for?”

“I’ll show you what I’ve been waiting for my hapless Captain.” With that, the handsome young man transformed into a large African Lion and began to roar.

Half the crew ran, but Alexios, Tycho, and several others drew swords and clubs. They abandoned that tactic when the lion’s claws shredded the flesh of the Captain and his First Mate, killing the first and horribly maiming the second.

The bulk of the pirate crew leapt overboard and the instant they hit the water, they were transformed into dolphins. Only the pilot remained aboard and whole, bowing and begging the unnamed god for mercy.

The god transformed back to his exalted human shape. “Fear not, pilot. I have heard your prayers and will spare you. Behold. I am Dionysus, the god of wine and merriment.”

“Yes, Dionysus. You are a god and deserving of worship. I remain your devoted follower.”

“You will be rewarded, pilot. The treasure in the hold of his ship is now yours. I will beseech Poseidon to guide this ship to shore where with your new wealth, you will become a successful merchant, a wine merchant of course.”

Yes, good Dionysus. Thank you for your mercy and kindness.” The pilot, or former pilot now that he was given a new profession, continued to bow to the god even as the ship was moving toward Greece, seemingly of its own accord.

As it traveled, the pirate crew, now a pod of dolphins, began to follow and then swim alongside the ship, loudly and excitedly chattering in a tongue no man can know. Even the god of mirth had no idea he was being mocked.

“Foolish god,” chittered Markos. “He has freed us.”

“Absolutely, Markos,” replied Theodoros. “No more piracy. No more robbing and killing.”

“No more bad food, sharing our beds with diseased women, being hunted,” chimed in Nicolaus. “No more fearing capture and death.”

“We’re free,” continued Markos. “Free to live by the sea’s bounty, free from the tyranny of a cruel Captain and a pirate’s depraved life. We’re free.”

The pilot looked at his former comrades as they turned away from shore and sought greater depths, little imagining that not only had the god blessed him, but inadvertently the crew as well.

Tycho died before they reached shore, so the pilot dumped both his and the Captain’s bodies overboard. By then, the dolphins were happily playing many leagues away.

This story is based on an actual Greek myth I recently read about. Actually, a few days ago, my grandson and I were at our local public library looking for some summer reading for him. He likes the “Magic Tree House” series and we found a non-fiction companion book to Pirates Past Noon (Magic Tree House No. 4).

I was surprised to discover that the first known pirates were from Greece and they plundered merchant ships in the Mediterranean some 3,000 years ago. My grandson and I have just started this book, so I can imagine it might be the source of a number of short stories based rather loosely on fact or myth.

This story has been told but I decided to add a twist. After all, being a dolphin sounds a lot happier and more carefree than being a pirate.


10 thoughts on “The Lion and the Dolphins

  1. Dolphins are such happy creatures, good idea to change them. Dionysus is one of my favorite greek gods. Not the most sober of them, but definitely fun!


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