|Herakles as a boy strangling a snake. |
Marble, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE
Public Domain, from
|U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt |
depicted as the infant Hercules
grappling with the Standard Oil Company
Public Domain, from
Here is a summary:
Amphitryon was married to Alcmene. Zeus wanted to beget a great Champion, so while Amphitryon was away avenging the deaths of Alcmene's brothers, the King of the Gods ordered time to be suspended for 36 hours so he would have plenty of time to achieve his goal. He then assumed Amphitryon's form and dallied with Alcmene for the entire time. When Amphitryon returned the next day, Alcmene refused to sleep with him, saying they had just spent a whole night of pleasure together. Amphitryon consulted the Seer Teiresias, who informed him he had been cuckolded by Zeus.
Zeus couldn't resist boasting about his exploit, even announcing that his son would be called Heracles ("Glory of Hera"). You can imagine how well this went over with Hera (Zeus's consort). She laid a plot, saying that whoever was born before nightfall on the day of the birth would be the King of the House of Perseus, an honor Zeus intended for Heracles. Then she worked to hasten the birth of Eurystheus, and she slowed the birth of Heracles by sitting in the doorway of Alcmene's room with her clothing tied in knots and her fingers locked together. Hence Eurystheus was born first and the infuriated Zeus, who had gone along with Hera's pronouncement, was forced to make Eurystheus King. However, Zeus forced Hera to agree that, if Heracles successfully performed Twelve Labors that Eurystheus set upon him, Heracles could become a god.
Now those of you who have read The War of the Stolen Mother can see right away how I adapted this: Lo'zoi'ma'na'ta is clearly Alcmene and Bai'go'tha the Tyrant of To'wak is clearly Eurystheus. Zeus is the consort of the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name, and Teiresias can be none other than the Seer Thru'tei'ga'ma. I couldn't have Hera be the schemer, because the Highest Mother wouldn't be that petty; she wants Ki'shto'ba to be hatched probably more than her kingly consort does, so I turn the Amphitryon character into the bad guy who tinkers with the eggs in order to make sure Bai'go'tha hatches first. Thus the premise of Eurystheus/Bai'go'tha assigning the Twelve Labors is set up in both stories, although the motivation for Ki'shto'ba's acceptance of the tasks is quite different from Heracles's (but that's for another post).
Now, when Heracles was born, he had a twin whose name was Iphicles. Twin kings or heroes were very important for the Greeks, and thus I introduced the character of A'zhu'lo, a lesser Warrior, obviously not an identical twin. Iphicles doesn't play much of a part in Heracles's life story, but A'zhu'lo plays a significant part in Ki'shto'ba's story. The twins are close and love each other very much, yet a certain sibling rivalty exists between them. This leads to some of the strongest and most poignant plot episodes.
When Heracles was somewhere between eight months and one year old, he and Iphicles were sleeping when Hera sent two "prodigious azure-scaled serpents" (Robert Graves' description) to attack and kill Heracles. The babies made a ruckus and Amphitryon rushed in with his sword, only to find Heracles strangling the serpents, one in each hand. "As they died, he laughed, bounced joyfully up and down, and threw them at Amphitryon's feet."
I needed to make very little change to that episode, except for the fact that the snakes' origin is left ambiguous. One might say the Highest Mother did send them, to test Ki'shto'ba and to foreshadow its future power. I must also say that the Roman statue of the event seems curiously passive -- Heracles might just be having a mild-mannered conversation with the snake, and only one snake is depicted. As for the political cartoon version, well, it goes to show that ordinary people must have been more highly schooled in classical allusions than they are today -- how many people these days would know about how Hercules strangled snakes when he was in his cradle?
One other quotation from Graves might be illustrative here: "One Termerus used to kill travelers by challenging them to a butting match; Heracles' skull proved stronger, and he crushed Termerus's head as though it had been an egg. Heracles was, however, naturally courteous, and the first mortal who freely yielded the enemy their dead for burial." Ah, the Huge-Head, the stone-headed Warrior! And anyone who has read any of the Ki'shto'ba stories knows our Champion is invariably courteous.
And one final note ... This prophecy of Zeus was spoken: "No man alive may ever kill Heracles; a dead enemy shall be his downfall." I put my version in the mouth of Thru'tei'ga'ma/Teiresias and I phrased it thus: "No Shi would ever witness the death of the second-hatched nymph, nor would anyone ever eat its dead flesh." And from a later Seer, "A dead foe, but no treachery, shall be [Ki'shto'ba's] ruin." These two prophecies play a huge part in the unfolding of the Huge-Head's story. Ki'shto'ba is close to invincible as long as other Shshi are present, and the ambiguity of the prophecy of its cause of death is a constant source of debate throughout the books. In fact, v. 6 will be called The Revenge of the Dead Enemy.
If you want to read the totality of my adaptation of these elements of the early life of Hercules, you can buy The War of the Stolen Mother at Amazon or Smashwords, or if you want a foretaste, you can read the pertinent chapter in the sample listed above as SM, Ch.4 (The Tale of the Huge-Head's Hatching and Nymphhood).