N is for Nephele the Doppelganger

nephele3Nephele is the only doppelganger I have come across so far in Greek Mythology. Many of us, who have been following the painful stories of Zeus’ lustful adventures, and Hera’s jealous rage, would think that the great Zeus, had enough trouble with one Hera. But it seems, that it was Zeus who created Nephele from a cloud in the exact likeness of his jealous wife Hera.

Hera had a mortal admirer, who went by the name of Ixion. Zeus created Nephele in the likeness of Hera, and left her alone with Ixion, to see if Ixion would attempt to get close to the false Hera. Ixion did, got caught in the act by Zeus, who then promptly and unceremoniously spun Ixion off to the underworld as everlasting punishment for his misdeed. Zeus of course did not understand the concept of hypocrisy.

Zeus then married Nephele off to the simple minded king Athamus, with whom she had two children Phrixus and Helle.  Athamus , as it turns out was not as simple minded as he looked, and after some time Athamus tired of the poor cloud likeness finds solace in the arms of Ino, a mortal princess in her own rights.

Ino, the new woman in Athamus’ life, hatches a devious plan, to get rid of the two grown children of Nephele. She first scorches all the seeds in the kingdom and waits for the farmers to go to the Oracle. When the farmers land up at the Oracle, seeking advice on a way to please the Gods and save their crops, the Oracle who has been bribed by Ino, says that the only way to appease the Gods is to sacrifice Phryxus, the son of Nephele. But as the farmers are carrying away Phryxus, Nephele comes and rescues her children by carrying them away, on a flying golden Ram.

Helle, the daughter could not be saved, but Phryxus her son reaches the island of Cochlys safely, where he marries the daughter of the king Aeetes and in gratitude, gives Aetees the Golden Fleece from his golden Ram. Later Jason and the Argonauts would have an adventure in trying to get the Golden Fleece back.

Not bad for a cloud, I say.

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