As a child growing up in Sweden, I seem to recall reading a version of either the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, or - less likely - the story of Cadmus, where the spartoi - those sown from dragon’s teeth - are described as being blond and blue-eyed. (Or hmmm OK, come to think of it, not 100% sure about the blond bit, but I’m pretty damn sure they were at least described as blue-eyed.)
I remember being, well, not exactly shocked - but sorta kinda taken aback a bit, since until that point I had always imagined the mythological Greeks to have looked, well, sorta kinda like me, i.e. dark-haired and brown-eyed.
Now that I’ve suddenly, randomly, inexplicably remembered this moment many decades later, I gotta ask:
Do the earliest original sources, of either tale (Jason or Cadmus), describe the spartoi as blond and/or blue-eyed?
Assuming that the idea of the spartoi as blond and/or blue-eyed wasn’t a uniquely Swedish twist, have any of y’all encountered it elsewhere? Any idea when it first appeared…?
Unfortunately, I’m not where I can check my references. I strongly recommend Timothy Gantz’ Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources as one of the best references to the earliest versions of the myths. You can also use Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths as a source for original references, but take his interpretations with more than a grain of salt. Karl Kerenyi’s books Gods of the Greeks and Heroes of the Greeks are also excellent references pointing to the original sources.
There are lots of other books I’d recommend if you’re following this up, but that’s enough to get you started.
My memory is rusty on this – even though I’ve made a special study of the myth of Kadmos – but I don’t recall the Spartoi being described physically at all, let alone as blonde and blue-eyed. There’s a parallel myth of the Spartoi in the story of Jason ( for which, principally, you ought to check out the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes), as you note, but I don’t recall them being described, either.
If no one else chimes in on this*, I’ll let you know what I find when I return after the weekend.
Mind you, it is possible that he was the kind of blonde that’s blonde in the sense of “he was tow-headed as a child” rather than “he stayed tow-headed as a grown-up.” He died pretty young, but many blonde Southern European men shift from tow-headed to ash-blond to when did you go grey.
I finally pulled out my copy of Gantz last night and went through the sections on Jason and on Kadmos. Neither myth said anything about the men sprouting fro the dragon’s teeth being blond-haired or blue-eyed, and Gantz is the place you go to in order to find the oldest, most basic sources.