Posts Tagged ‘Hercules’

The hundred-headed dragon, Ladon, had been ordered to lurk in the Garden of the Hesperides by Hera, queen of the Greek gods. His task: prevent any intruders from stealing the golden apples, which bestowed immortality. However, during these days, the demi-god Hercules had offended Hera and been assigned to do ten great labors as penance. The arbiter of the labors was Eurystheus, a devout follower of Hera. In order to delay Hercules completing his penance, Eurystheus declared that two of the ten tasks (killing the Hydra and cleaning the Augean Stables) were void. Hercules would have to do two more.

As the eleventh task, Eurystheus demanded that Hercules bring him the golden apples of the Hesperides. That’s right — in order to appease Hera, Hercules had to steal something from her garden! (What a great idea. Thanks so much, Eurystheus.)

Hercules set off on his journey. After several trials just to find the Garden of the Hesperides, Hercules received advice from the tortured god Prometheus. Prometheus said that the Hesperides were daughters of the god Atlas, who held up the Earth and sky. Because of this, Ladon would not challenge him if he went to pick the apples.

Hercules traveled on and found Atlas, groaning under the weight of his immense burden. He offered to hold the Earth if Atlas would do him this favor. Atlas immediately agreed. He went to the garden, probably had a nice visit with his daughters, and came back with the golden apples.

However, Atlas enjoyed being free. He wanted to extend the time a little longer. So, Atlas offered to take the golden apples to Eurystheus in Hercules’s place. Hercules knew that Eurystheus probably wouldn’t count this task if someone else brought him the prize. He pretended to agree, but asked that Atlas take his burden back long enough for Hercules to fold his cloak and make a pad for his shoulders. Atlas put the apples down and lifted up the Earth. Whereupon, Hercules grabbed the apples and ran off, leaving Atlas with his original task of holding up the earth and sky.

All of this means that Ladon has a great distinction. He is the only magical beast to have survived an encounter with Hercules!

A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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I’m reblogging the legend of Hydra, first posted in October 2012. Here’s the second half.


The Legend of Hydra, Part 2

No one knows when the ancient Greeks began telling stories about Hercules, but the saga of the Twelve Labors was pretty much in the form we know by 600 BCE. As the story goes, Hercules had suffered a fit of madness and murdered his own children. To atone, he had to perform ten great tasks, assigned by King Eurystheus of Tiryns. Since Eurystheus was a devout follower of Hera, the queen of the gods and Hercules’s enemy, all his choices were either deadly or deeply humiliating.

As his second task, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to go to Lake Lerna and kill the terrible Hydra. Hercules and his nephew, Iolaus, proceeded to the spring of Amymone, where Hydra lived in a cave filled with noxious vapors. Hercules covered his mouth and nose with cloth to protect himself and fired flaming arrows into the cave to get her attention.

Hydra charged out, her nine dragon heads spewing poisoned gasses, and they did battle. Hercules cut off some of her heads with a sword, but discovered to his horror that two heads grew back in the place of each one he cut off.

The task seemed hopeless, but Iolaus had an idea. Each time Hercules cut off one of Hydra’s heads, Iolaus ran up and cauterized the stump with a torch. This prevented any more heads growing in. The tide of battle turned.

Hera was watching from Mount Olympus. When she saw that Hercules was winning, she sent a giant crab to attack his feet. Hercules stomped on the crab and killed it. Working together, he and Iolaus were able to defeat the vicious Hydra.

They could not kill her, however. Hydra’s last head was immortal. Legends diverge slightly at this point. One version says that Hercules switched to his favorite weapon, a club, and thus killed Hydra without cutting her head off. The other version is that he did cut off her last head, and Iolaus cauterized the stump, effectively killing Hydra’s body. Her final head remained alive. Hercules buried it under a large rock, rendering it harmless.

Afterward, Hercules dipped his arrows in Hydra’s venomous blood. These poisoned arrows figure significantly in later parts of his history. Hera, meanwhile, rewarded Hydra and the giant crab by placing them in the night sky as the constellations Hydra and Cancer respectively.

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Humans of many cultures have looked to the night sky and found pictures among the stars, then spun tales of who or what these constellations represent. But those stories are all from the human perspective. Today I have a special guest, an actual dragon,* to share a dragon’s version of these star-stories.

Yes, hello. I am Tetheus, a sea dragon from the land of Aerde, and I’ve come to correct your silly human notions about the constellations. We sea dragons were swimming the deeps of Aerde for centuries before any of your kind put a canoe in the water. We know a thing or two.

Let’s start with some of the figures most commonly labeled as human. There’s the one you call “Orion the Hunter.” We dragons known it as The Knight, a warning of human aggression against dragons.

There’s another you call “Hercules,” a hero who slew the monstrous Hydra. Really? Just look at those arms and legs flailing — he’s obviously running for his life. That’s why we dragons know him as The Peasant.

Finally, there’s “Andromeda,” who’s allegedly being sacrificed — to a sea dragon, of all things. (I’ll have you know we sea dragons only eat fish!) In our telling, this is The Witch. Witches are often victims of human superstition. They think they’re sacrificing witches to us sea dragons, but we have found them to be excellent and faithful allies.

Well, that’s enough for now. Come back in a day or two, after my nap, and I’ll share more of our star-stories.

* Tetheus is a character in “The Dragon Stone,” one of the short stories in Lucy D. Ford’s upcoming collection.

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