On the small island of Seriphos, out in the middle of the Aegean Sea, an old fisherman named Dictys was beginning his day.
He had just taken his nets from the racks where he had put them to dry the evening before, and was about to put them into his boat, when he looked far out to sea. Something was floating in the water, something that looked like a large box.
Dictys had been fishing for many years, and he knew that most of the things you found floating in the sea had already been ruined by the salt water. But he was still a curious person and sometimes he found interesting things to bring home and show his wife.
So he put his nets into his boat and pushed it out into the surf, then rowed with his strong arms, broad chest and powerful legs so that the boat skipped quickly over the waves in the direction of the box.
When he got near the box, he saw that it was well-made from oak, and it rode high in the water, as if it might still be dry inside. Dictys thought that perhaps this time, there might really be something valuable inside, so he tossed a net across the box and towed it back to shore so that he could open it without letting the waves splash into it.
He jumped out as soon as the boat touched the beach and pulled the box up onto the sand. As he did, he heard a baby begin to cry, and the sound came from inside the box!
Dictys had found many strange things in the sea, but he had never before found a box that contained a beautiful young woman and a tiny baby boy. They had been floating for several days and the air inside the box was very stale, so it took a few minutes before Dana was able to sit up and tell Dictys her story.
He held little Perseus gently while Dana told of how her father had nailed the two of them into a box and threw them into the sea, and then he gave her a drink from the bottle of fresh water in his boat, and he gave her the bread, dried fish and goat's cheese his wife had packed for his lunch.
When she was feeling better, he helped her to her feet and led her up the beach to the small cottage where Dictys lived with his wife, Thalia.
Thalia got some goat's milk for little Perseus and soaked bread in it until it was soft enough for the baby to eat.
"What shall we do Dana wept. "We can't go back to Argos."
"I suppose you can't," Dictys agreed. "The next box might have a leak in it."
Dana looked at him. "It must be very hard for you to understand a man like my father," she said.
"Not very hard at all," Dictys replied, and smiled over at his wife. "In fact, it's quite easy. My brother Polydectes is the king here in Seriphos."
"And he makes you fish for a living?" Dana asked.
"Oh, no. He lets me fish," Dictys said. "And I let him be king. We both get to do what we want to. We're very lucky that we don't both want the same thing, don't you think?"
"You wouldn't want to be king?" Dana asked, as she reached to take baby Perseus from Thalia and cuddled him close to her.
Dictys shrugged. "It wouldn't be so bad, I suppose. It's good to help people, and a king should do that. But Polydectes wanted very much to be king, much more than I did. So I thought it would be best if I just went fishing instead. I do like to fish."
Thalia slapped a wet cloth down hard on the table as she cleaned up after the baby's messy meal. "What Polydectes wants, he gets," she snapped. "If you don't give it to him, he takes it."
"Well, yes," Dictys agreed. "So it's best not to worry about it too much, because you'll just upset yourself. But, you see, there's something I've always wanted, and now I have a chance to get it."
"What's that?" Dana asked.
"Well, we've never had any children, have we, dear?" Dictys gently said to his wife. "Now, here is a beautiful, intelligent, fine young woman who can live with us and be our daughter. And if we didn't get the chance to raise her from a baby, what of it? We'll have this cheerful little Perseus to brighten our home with his play!"
Thalia laughed. "Yes, Dictys, you've made a good catch with your net this day! And I hope you will stay here with us, my dear," she said to Dana. "You would be most welcome."
But then she looked out the open door at the road that lead up over the hills and into the city. "I just hope Polydectes doesn't see what pleasure we get from having you here. That's usually how he decides what things he wants to take for himself."
Next Week: Polydectes
Text copyright Mike Peterson, 2001; illustrations copyright Christopher Baldwin, 2001