What do Hydra, Cerberus, Zeus, Hera, Tartarus and Gaia have in common? They are all connected to the most hideous monstrosity of all Greek legend — Typhon.
Lastborn of the primordial titan race, Typhon was a gigantic man with numerous… uh… extra features. Not only was he taller than mountains. Not only did he have a savage and lawless nature. No, Typhon had 100 snake heads growing from his shoulders, and each snake head had heat vision! Even more remarkable, each of the heads spoke some language of beast kind and they were all shrieking constantly. Roaring lions, howling wolves, bulls, elephants, eagles, you name it. Typhon existed in a vortex of the most horrendous noise imaginable, punctuated by fiery eye-beams.
How could such a being exist? As I mentioned, Typhon descended from the titans who ruled the Earth before Zeus overthrew them. Furious at his betrayal, Gaia conceived one last child with Tartarus, a titan who lived in the underworld and gave it his name. That child was Typhon.
However, another legend says that Hera was responsible for this terror. She was angry that Zeus had brought forth Athena all on his own, so she prayed to Gaia for a son as strong as Zeus. Her prayer was answered and she became pregnant. When Typhon was born she gave him to another mythic serpent, Python, to be raised.
A final version of the story combines these ideas. Gaia, in her anger, told Hera lies about Zeus. This caused Hera to seek aid from her father, Cronos, who gave her an egg smeared with his own semen and told her to bury it in the earth. Typhon supposedly hatched from the egg.
Whatever his origin, it was Typhon’s destiny to battle Zeus. He rose up to conquer the Earth and was making good progress until he reached Mount Olympus. Some legends say that he snuck into Olympus while Zeus was asleep and tried to murder him that way. Others say Zeus confronted Typhon’s challenge head on.
What a battle it was! For many days they fought, causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes and tidal waves. Storm clouds blocked the sun, and Typhon’s 100 heads howled the whole time. Eventually, Zeus landed a hit with his thunderbolts that blew Typhon off Mount Olympus. The giant fell to earth and was imprisoned in Tartarus with the rest of the titans.
Incredible as it may seem, Typhon managed to find true love! His wife was Echidna, a half woman, half serpent descended from the primordial ocean god, Phorcys, and possibly also related to the dreaded Medusa. Among their numerous offspring were Cerberus, three-headed dog, and Hydra, the many-headed dragon.
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