The Eleventh Labor

At the celebration of the marriage of Jupiter and Juno, when all the

gods were bringing their wedding gifts to the happy pair, Mother Earth

did not wish to be left out. So she caused to spring forth on the

western borders of the great world-sea a many-branched tree full of

golden apples. Four maidens called the Hesperides, daughters of Night,

were the guardians of this sacred garden, and with them watched the

hundred-headed dragon, Ladon, whose father was Phorkys, the parent of

many monsters. Sleep came never to the eyes of this dragon and a

fearful hissing sound warned one of his presence, for each of his

hundred throats had a different voice. From this monster, so was the

command of Eurystheus, should Hercules seize the golden apples.

The hero set out on his long and adventurous journey and placed

himself in the hands of blind chance, for he did not know where the

Hesperides dwelt.

He went first to Thessaly, where dwelt the giant Termerus, who with

his skull knocked to death every traveler that he met; but on the

mighty cranium of Hercules the head of the giant himself was split


Farther on the hero came upon another monster in his way--Cycnus, the

son of Mars and Pyrene. He, when asked concerning the garden of the

Hesperides, instead of answering, challenged the wanderer to a duel,

and was beaten by Hercules. Then appeared Mars, the god of war,

himself, to avenge the death of his son; and Hercules was forced to

fight with him. But Jupiter did not wish that his sons should shed

blood, and sent his lightning bolt to separate the two.

Then Hercules continued his way through Illyria, hastened over the

river Eridanus, and came to the nymphs of Jupiter and Themis, who

dwelt on the banks of the stream. To these Hercules put his question.

"Go to the old river god Nereus," was their answer. "He is a seer and

knows all things. Surprise him while he sleeps and bind him; then he

will be forced to tell you the right way."

Hercules followed this advice and became master of the river god,

although the latter, according to his custom, assumed many different

forms. Hercules would not let him go until he had learned in what

locality he could find the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Informed of this, he went on his way toward Libya and Egypt. Over the

latter land ruled Busiris, the son of Neptune and Lysianassa. To him

during the period of a nine-year famine a prophet had borne the

oracular message that the land would again bear fruit if a stranger

were sacrificed once a year to Jupiter. In gratitude Busiris made a

beginning with the priest himself. Later he found great pleasure in

the custom and killed all strangers who came to Egypt. So Hercules was

seized and placed on the altar of Jupiter. But he broke the chains

which bound him, and killed Busiris and his son and the priestly


With many adventures the hero continued his way, set free, as has been

told elsewhere, Prometheus, the Titan, who was bound to the Caucasus

Mountains, and came at last to the place where Atlas stood carrying

the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. Near him grew the tree

which bore the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Prometheus had advised the hero not to attempt himself to make the

robbery of the golden fruit, but to send Atlas on the errand. The

giant offered to do this if Hercules would support the heavens while

he went. This Hercules consented to do, and Atlas set out. He put to

sleep the dragon who lived beneath the tree and killed him. Then with

a trick he got the better of the keepers, and returned happily to

Hercules with the three apples which he had plucked.

"But," he said, "I have now found out how it feels to be relieved of

the heavy burden of the heavens. I will not carry them any longer."

Then he threw the apples down at the feet of the hero, and left him

standing with the unaccustomed, awful weight upon his shoulders.

Hercules had to think of a trick in order to get away. "Let me," he

said to the giant, "just make a coil of rope to bind around my head,

so that the frightful weight will not cause my forehead to give way."

Atlas found this new demand reasonable, and consented to take over the

burden again for a few minutes. But the deceiver was at last deceived,

and Hercules picked up the apples from the ground and set out on his

way back. He carried the apples to Eurystheus, who, since his object

of getting rid of the hero had not been accomplished, gave them back

to Hercules as a present. The latter laid them on the altar of

Minerva; but the goddess, knowing that it was contrary to the divine

wishes to carry away this sacred fruit, returned the apples to the

garden of the Hesperides.

The Elephant And The Ants The Elf Dancers Of Cae Caled facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail