He­len of the West Indies?

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

I woke up feel­ing a bit ped­a­gogic this morn­ing, so I thought I would don my teach­ing hat – I've been do­ing quite a bit of that lately – and hold a dis­course on Fair He­len, not the Caribbean one, but the Greek lady, who turned men's heads left, right and cen­tre in days of old, and was more than just a pretty face, I can tell you.

He­len of Troy, daugh­ter of the god Zeus and the most beau­ti­ful woman in the world at the time, in­ad­ver­tently per­haps, was the cause of the Tro­jan War, the story of which Homer re­lated in his Iliad and Odyssey. He­len was also, ac­cord­ing to other sources, a god­dess of trees and birds.

Where He­len came from – as in from which womb she emerged – is a bit of a mys­tery: You see, He­len's mother was ei­ther Leda, the wife of the King of Sparta, or Neme­sis, the god­dess of re­venge. Nowa­days, pa­ter­nity suits are fairly common. Way back then ma­ter­nity suits, some­what sur­pris­ingly, ap­pear to have pre­vailed. In any case, the god Zeus ap­pears to have been the fa­ther.

Sto­ries claim­ing Leda as He­len's mother tell how Zeus dis­guised him­self as a swan and raped her – yes, the mind bog­gles. Leda then pro­duced two eggs, which even in those days must have been an un­usual way of giv­ing birth for a hu­man. From one came He­len and her brother Pol­lux. Her sis­ter and her other brother Cas­tor emerged from the other. Cas­tor and Pol­lux were sup­posed to be twins – but clearly from dif­fer­ent eggs.

Another myth says that Zeus se­duced Neme­sis, who laid the two eggs. A shep­herd dis­cov­ered them and gave them to Queen Leda, who tended the eggs un­til they hatched and raised the chil­dren as her own.

When He­len was only 12 years old, Th­e­seus the Greek ab­ducted her to make her his wife. He­len's brothers Cas­tor and Pol­lux res­cued her and took her back to Sparta, but not be­fore she had given birth to a daugh­ter.

After her re­turn to Sparta, suit­ors came from all over Greece, hop­ing to win the fa­mous beauty. He­len chose Menelaus, who even­tu­ally be­came the king of Sparta, to be her hus­band. They had a daugh­ter and son.

Some time later, Paris, a prince of Troy, ar­rived in Sparta. While Menelaus was away in Crete, Paris took He­len back to Troy. Some say He­len was se­duced by Paris's charms while oth­ers claim that Paris kid­napped her and took her by force. Menelaus and the Greeks or­ga­nized a great ex­pe­di­tion and set sail for Troy. This was the be­gin­ning of the Tro­jan War – a war over a woman, well, well, well!

He­len's sym­pa­thies were seem­ingly di­vided. She had a num­ber of chil­dren by Paris, but none sur­vived in­fancy. Paris died in the War, and He­len mar­ried his brother Dei­phobus, but after the Greeks won the war, she was re­united with Menelaus, and she helped him kill Dei­phobus. He­len was a hel­luva bitch when it came to hus­bands.

When He­len and Menelaus re­turned to Sparta sev­eral years later, after the gods, angry at the trou­ble He­len had caused, had sent storms to drive their ships off course to Egypt, the cou­ple lived hap­pily, although by some ac­counts, Menelaus re­mained sus­pi­cious of his wife's feel­ings and loy­alty – and who could blame him?

What hap­pened to He­len after Menelaus died is a mys­tery. Some say that He­len re­mained in Sparta un­til her death. Oth­ers say that her son Ni­co­s­tra­tus drove her from Sparta and she fled to the is­land of Rhodes where Polyxo, the widow of a Greek leader who had died in the Tro­jan War, gave her refuge. Later how­ever, Polyxo had He­len hanged to avenge the death of her hus­band. Another even more un­likely ver­sion of He­len's story claims that the gods sent an ef­figy of He­len to Troy but that she ac­tu­ally spent the war years in Egypt. When it comes to gods, peo­ple are will­ing to be­lieve any­thing.

Now, in days gone by, the Bri­tish and the French cer­tainly waged a num­ber of ‘Tro­jan Wars' for pos­ses­sion of Saint Lu­cia, the He­len of the West Indies, but have her hus­bands of to­day, our lead­ers, ever man­aged to tame her and bring her un­der their con­trol? I doubt it. He­len re­mains as un­bri­dled and enig­matic as ever. And as for her beauty, well, as they say, beauty is only skin deep.

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