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LABOURING on...

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Let’s continue with the Labours of Hercules. The sixth labour was to get rid of the Stymphalian Birds. Eurystheus wanted Hercules to drive away a huge flock of birds that lived near a lake near Stymphalos.

These birds had beaks of bronze and were man-eaters. They had driven away all the people who lived in that area. After a long journey, Hercules reached the lake but could not get to the spot where the birds lived because the ground was too marshy. As he wondered how to get rid of so many birds, Goddess Athena appeared and gave him a pair of bronze clappers, made by Hephaestus (God of craftsmen).

The clappers made such a huge racket that the birds were scared by the noise and flew out of the trees. All Hercules had to do now was to shoot them down with his bow and arrows.

More tasks

Once he’d gotten rid of all the birds, he returned to Eurystheus who just couldn’t cope with his cousin’s success. So the next task he set was to capture the Cretan Bull. Let me tell you the bull’s back story before we proceed with Hercules.

King Minos of Crete had promised the Ocean God, Poseidon, that he would sacrifice whatever came out of the sea. When Poseidon sent a white bull, Minos couldn’t bear to sacrifice such a beautiful creature. So he sacrificed another animal instead. The enraged god set the bull rampaging across Crete. When Hercules reached the island, the king was only too happy to let him capture the bull that was creating so much havoc in his kingdom. Hercules fought with the bull, subdued it and took it to Eurystheus.

Eurystheus didn’t want the bull so he set it free and gave Hercules his eighth task to capture the mares of King Diomedes. These horses were wild, untameable and fed on human flesh. Hercules decided to sneak up on the king and steal the horses. However, he was seen and had to fight his way out. Diomedes himself came to fight Hercules. But the king was defeated and flung to the horses. Once the horses ate the flesh of Diomedes, they became calm and Hercules could drive them to Eurystheus.

Did Eurystheus give up at least now? No such luck. Each time Hercules succeeded in his task, Eurystheus became more jealous. The ninth task was to bring him the girdle of Hippolyta, the queen of Amazons. The Amazons were a group of warrior women and Ares, the god of war, had given Hippolyta a special belt.

When Hercules reached the land of the Amazons, the queen came down to the shore and greeted him. When she heard of his errand, she agreed to give him the belt. But Hera, who wasn’t happy at his success, took on the form of an Amazonian warrior and instigated Hippolyta’s followers to attack. Hercules killed Hippolyta and routed the Amazons and took the belt back to Eurystheus, who promptly sent him out on the next task, which was to capture Geryon’s cattle. You’ll read about that in the next instalment.


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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 6:54:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/LABOURING-on.../article16309647.ece

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