Thetis, Peleus, and Achilles
Achilles' goddess mother and human father are at loggerheads. She wants long life for their son; he believes that, with events propelling both gods and men toward the Trojan War, peace is unlikely for Achilles. Chrion the Centaur trains the youth, the powerful try to manipulate him, and his parents struggle to bridge the gap between mortal life and eternity. More
The goddess Thetis considers all mortals beneath her. The greatest gods have offered to make her queens of the sea, or even the heavens. But, since the Fates have decreed that her child must be greater than his father, she is forced to marry Peleus, a human hero.
Their child must be mortal. Their first meeting is little better than rape. Still, Thetis decides to make the most of things.
But at her wedding three great goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena, dispute a golden apple. They choose as judge Paris, a lecherous Trojan. Aphrodite bribes him by promising that the world's sexiest woman, Helen, will be his wife. The other two vow vengeance.
Meanwhile Thetis wonders if her son must be subject to death. She tries to burn away Achilles' mortality, but Peleus misunderstands and ruins her spell. She leaves, vowing furiously to have nothing more with humans.
But maternal tenderness overcomes anger. She visits constantly, invisible to all but her offspring. Peleus adopts Patroclus, expecting him to serve as a restraining elder brother, But Achilles grows at a preternatural rate, and at four takes leadership and kills a cyclops. Peleus gets Thetis' reluctant assent to have Achilles trained by Chiron the Centaur, though he will surely be trained in fighting techniques. Achilles flourishes, performing great feats before his teens.
Elsewhere, Paris abducts Helen wife of Menelaus of Sparta. He and his ruthless brother Agamemnon vow to gather all Greek warriors for an expedition against Troy. They send out shrewd Odysseus to recruit Achilles.
Thetis hides her son as a girl, but Odysseus exposes the disguise by tempting the supposed girl with weapons. After a practice duel that leaves hinm in awe of the youngster, he persuades the eager boy to join the army.
Contrary winds delay the Greeks until a mad prophet persuades Agamemnon to sacrifice his own daughter for favorable winds. Agamemnon uses the inwardly childlike Achilles as bait, promising him as a marriage partner to lure his daughter. Then he sacrifices her. Confused and humiliated, Achilles becomes indifferent to death.
Thetis draws ever closer to Peleus, begins to understand humanity, and realizes the impossibility of saving Achilles.
Achilles dies, throwing Peleus into despair. But Thetis, now preferring a mortal, grants him eternal youth.
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