142. Hercules and Cerberus

Once upon a time, King Eurystheus of Mycenae and Tiryns, commanded a labor to Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, to bring the hound Cerberus from Hades.
Cerberus was a monstrous hound that guarded the gates of Hades. It had three heads, a mane full of snakes, lion’s claws, and a dragon’s tail.

Hercules went to the mouth of the descent to Hades at Taenarum in Laconia. Hercules descended to the underworld and seeing him, all the ghosts fled excepting Medusa and Meleager. Hercules drew his sword to fight Medusa, but Hermes told him that it was only an empty phantom. As Hercules approached the gates of Hades, he found Theseus and Pirithous, who were bound fast and stretching their hands to him. Hercules took the hand of Theseus and raised him up. As he was raising Pirithous, the earth shook, so Hercules let go of him. Then Hercules rolled away the stone of Ascalaphus. Taking pity on the souls thirsty for blood, Hercules killed one of the cattle of Hades. However, the herdsman Menoetes was angry and challenged Hercules to wrestle with him. Hercules seized Menoetes around the waist, broke the ribs and let go of Menoetes at the request of Persephone.

Thereafter, Hercules asked Pluto’s permission to take Cerberus and Pluto agreed provided Hercules mastered Cerberus without using any weapons. At the gates of Acheron, Hercules found Cerberus and he flung his arms around the neck of the three-headed hound. Hercules held the hound in a tight grip of a deadly choke. The snakes on the mane of Cerberus darted their poisonous tongues, but the venom could not penetrate Hercules’ Nemean lion-skin garment. Cerberus’ dragon tail bit his body, but Hercules tightly held his grip and finally, Cerberus yielded. Hercules took Cerberus and ascended through Troezen.

Hercules arrived at Mycenae, showed Cerberus to Eurystheus and took Cerberus back, to Hades.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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