His mother has always told him that his father is Helios, the sun, but now his friends tease him.
“Your mother is a liar,” says Epaphus. “No one knows who your father is, and so she told you a story. And you’re still such a child that you believe it!”
Phaethon runs home with tears in his eyes. “Mother, did you lie to me?” She tells him: “Go and seek out the sun’s palace, and ask him yourself. I did not lie to you.”
So he travels on towards the horizon for many long days. As the sun passes overhead each day he looks into the clear bright sky and wonders if it could possibly be true. And as the sun sets each evening he lets himself believe that it is calling warmly to him from the horizon, urging him onward. “Just a little further, and you will arrive one cool evening at the palace where the sun rests each night, to be welcomed by your father.”
He arrives at a palace made of a stone that glows the colours of a wondrous sunset. And inside it is bright as day. And the throne room is brighter still, and suddenly he realises why his father is necessarily a distant one: few can bear to be close to one who shines this bright. And yet when he has asked his question, and Helios has made his simple heartfelt answer – “Yes, and you are welcome” – he goes up to his father, squinting against the brightness of his shining robes, and embraces him, weeping tears of joy.