The story is a reworking of Friedrich Schiller's ballad Die Bürgschaft, which tells the story of Moerus and Selinuntius (who have lent their names to Dazai's characters as well), originally Damon and Pythias. Schiller's version is based on an ancient Greek legend recorded by the Roman author Gaius Julius Hyginus.
The most prominent theme of "Run, Melos!" is unwavering friendship. Despite facing hardships, the protagonist Melos does his best to save his friend's life, and in the end his efforts are rewarded.
Melos is a naïve young shepherd with a sense of equity. The land in which he lives is ruled by Dionys, a tyrant king who because of his distrust of people, has killed many people and even his own family members. When Melos hears about the King's deeds one day, he becomes enraged. He decides to assassinate the King, and so he sneaks into the castle with a knife, but is caught and arrested. Melos pleads with the King to postpone his execution and give him three days so that he can attend his younger sister's wedding. The King agrees, but on one condition: that Melos' friend Selinuntius is left as a hostage, and if Melos does not return in three days, he will be executed instead of Melos.
After the wedding is over Melos hurries back to the city. Along the way he encounters many tribulations, such as a broken bridge due to the overflowing of the river and attacks by bandits. All of these things exhaust him, and he nearly gives up, but then continues to run for the sake of his friend's life.
At sundown Melos finally arrives at the city, just in time to save his friend Selinuntius. He apologizes to Selinuntius for his treachery, and Selinuntius apologizes for ever doubting him. The King is moved by the display and decides to let Melos go with impunity.
- In Dazai's hometown, Kanagi (now Goshogawara, Aomori), there is a diesel train nicknamed "Hashire Merosu," owned by the Tsugaru Railway Company.
- "Melos no Yō ni ~Lonely Way~," the opening theme song for the anime series Blue Comet SPT Layzner refers to the story both in its title, and in the line "Hashire, Melos no yō ni" (Run, just like Melos), which appears in the chorus.
- The third line in the second verse of the song Happy Birthday by The Blue Hearts is "Ame no naka o hashire, Melos" (Run, Melos, in the rain).
- The AKB48 song "Melos no Michi" (Melos's Road) references the storyline in its lyrics.
- Kashiwa Daisuke's song "Write Once, Run Melos" is program music based on the short story.
- The 161st episode of the anime "Prince of Tennis" is titled "Run, Momo!" as a tribute to the story.
- Hashire Merosu (Dorama, NHK 1955)
- Akai tori no kokoro: Nihon meisaku douwa shirīzu Hashire Merosu (Anime, TV Asahi 1979)
- Hashire Melos (Anime, Fuji TV 1981)
- Hashire Melos! (Anime movie, 1992)
- Terebi ehon Hashire Merosu (Recitation by Taro Yamamoto in 2006)
- Aoi Bungaku episode 9–10 (Anime, 2009)
- Run, Melos! and Other Stories, translated by Ralph F. McCarthy. Tokyo, Kodansha International, 1988.
- Project Gutenberg's Poems of The Third Period, by Frederich Schiller, retrieved on July 21, 2008
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