Mythology Monday: Cerberus

"Cerberus (PSF)" by Pearson Scott Foresman - Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation→This file has been extracted from another file: Cerberus (PSF).jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cerberus_(PSF).png#/media/File:Cerberus_(PSF).png

“Cerberus (PSF)” by Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia Foundation→This file has been extracted from another file: Cerberus (PSF).jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cerberus_(PSF).png#/media/File:Cerberus_(PSF).png

Charon laughed at the obvious disappointment in my voice. “Who were you hoping to meet?”

I flushed. “I was a fan of the Hercules show when I was younger.”

“He had a show?” Charon raised his eyebrows. “I only caught the cartoon.”

“I loved that cartoon!”

“Don’t let Hades hear you say that.” Charon laughed. “Or that you’re a fan of Herc.”

“Why?”

“There’s been bad blood between those two ever since Hercules stole Hades’ dog.”

“Cerberus? The myth called that a loan.”

“It was. But Hercules never brought Cerberus back, and now he’s drunk from the Lethe so he can never tell Hades where to find him.”

I blinked. Everything dead came to the Underworld. If Cerberus had never returned . . . “You mean there’s a three-headed dog running around on the surface?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.

~@~

Cerberus has come up in a few mythology Mondays before, but I wanted to go into a bit more background about the Underworld puppy.

Cerberus was the child of Echidna and Typhon. This puppy has many fearful monster-siblings, such as the Hydra, Orthus a two headed hell-hound, and the Chimera.

The number of heads Cerberus has varies widely by the myth. Sometimes he has hundreds, sometimes three. Sometimes only one, with two puppies nearby that were so clingy and so alike in thought that all three dogs attacked as a unit. In art, he is almost always depicted with three, and like most things that come in threes in Greek mythology, his heads represent the past, present, and future/ youth, middle age, and old age.

Cerberus’ job was to guard the gates of the Underworld. The dead could enter, but never leave. He was borrowed by Hercules in this mythology Monday. Odysseus once put Cerberus to sleep by playing music and snuck past him. Aeneas once drugged the puppy with honey cakes and got past him that way. So as far as Underworld guards go, he wasn’t the best.

He barks once in Paradise lost, and even makes an appearance in the Inferno as a great worm, which sounds crazy at first, but makes more sense when you read into a few of the old sources and realize that Cerberus also had a serpents mane (not sure what that would look like) and a serpents tail.

In my version of the myth, Hercules never returned the dog, so he’s still wandering the surface somewhere (possibly at Hogwarts), but we’ll never know since the search for Cerberus never turned him up :(. I’ll try that contest again one day.

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7 thoughts on “Mythology Monday: Cerberus

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  4. Pingback: Mythology Monday: The Underworld | Kaitlin Bevis

  5. Pingback: Mythology Monday: Chthonic Deities | Kaitlin Bevis

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