Taken from a paraphrase in Favorite Greek Myths, Ed. by Bob Blaisdell.Dover Books.
When Oedipus was born to the king and queen of Thebes, Laius and Jocasta, a prophet announced that the baby would grow up to kill his father and marry his mother.To avoid such a shocking outcome, King Laius sorrowfully ordered one of his servants to kill the baby.
The servant took the baby away, onto a hilltop, but he could not kill the innocent child.He left Oedipus instead with a shepherd, who brought him across the mountains to the king of Corinth.This king claimed the boy and raised him as his own.
When Oedipus grew to manhood, a prophet warned him that he would kill his father and marry his mother.Not knowing that he had been adopted, and that his real parents were Jocasta and Laius, Oedipus left the country to avoid committing such crimes.While crossing over the mountain, he fought a caravan of men who tried to force him off the road.He killed them all.
From there, Oedipus came to the outskirts of Thebes, which he did not know was his original country.Thebes was being menaced then by the Sphinx, who would ask its visitors a riddle.When they could not answer correctly, the Sphinx would kill them.The riddle was this: “What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs at night?”Oedipus was good at solving riddles and went to the Sphinx, who asked him its question.Oedipus thought for a moment and then answered, “A Man!As a baby he crawls on his hands and knees, as an adult he walks on his two legs, and as an old man he walks with a cane!”The Sphinx, shocked by this mortal’s correct answer, fell over dead.As a reward from the Theban people, Oedipus was named King, for the former king had recently been killed. His bride was the queen, Jocasta.
Several years later, after they had four children, plagues began to destroy the people of Thebes.Oedipus strove to discover the reason.A prophecy gave him a hint, that the murderer of the former king, Laius, was living unpunished in Thebes.Until this murderer was punished, plagues would sweep the country.
Oedipus questioned everyone: old servants, his wife, his brother-in-law, and the famous seer Teiresias.As he questioned them about the former king’s death, he slowly put together the facts, the terrible facts that seemed to point to himself!
At last, the entire mystery revealed itself to him.He understood who his true parents were – Jocasta and Laius.One of those men he had killed while crossing over the mountain had been his father!He himself had killed Laius!Cursing his fate that had doomed him to do what he had meant not to do, he blinded himself, as he could not bear to see the children he had fathered with Jocasta, his wife and mother.Jocasta for her part hanged herself.
Oedipus, in disgrace, left his country, and, as a blind beggar, wandered in the countryside.Oedipus was the unhappiest man who ever was.He lived in suffering to an old age, accompanied by his daughter Antigone, until the gods, pitying his pain, whisked him off the face of the earth at a sacred place near Athens.