It’s Tuesday and that means time for a sneak peek into the legends that provided the idea for my upcoming book The Trials of Hercules. For this Behind the Story installment we’re going to delve into Hercules’s Fourth Labor that is full of swine-y adventure.
(If you need to catch up on the other three labors, scroll down for some handy dandy links)
The Myth of Hercules’s Fourth Labor
After being thwarted in his efforts to kill off his cousin in the first three labors, by the fourth labor, Eurystheus must have been getting hungry or was planning a luau because he sent Hercules out to fetch a boar. And not just any boar, but the dreaded Erymanthian Boar.
This boar did nothing to improve human-porcine relations as he crashed through fields and forest, stabbing everything in his wake with his tusks and basically just causing a mess of things. People who live in states with feral pigs will understand the dilemma, but imagine feral pigs on steroids wielding deadly facial weapons and you’ll understand why this little piggie was such a problem.
In the labor, Hercules sets off for Mount Erymanthus where the boar lives, but on his way he stops off to visit his buddy Pholus who happens to be a very civilized centaur – most of them are brutes. Because boar hunting is thirsty work (as we known from Game of Thrones and Robert Baratheon’s deadly indulgences while hunting) Hercules asks for a cup of wine from his friend. Centaurs are not good at sharing, so Pholus says, “Best not or the other centaurs will get pissy.” Hercules, acting a bit boar-ish himself, says, “Whatever,” and opens the jug of wine himself.
All hell breaks loose when the other centaurs get the scent of their wine and come rushing in. A huge fiasco ensues and many centaurs die. Pholus finds one of his friends dead from an arrow and pulls the arrow out. Being a very philosophical centaur he ponders how such a small thing can kill such a big animal. Unfortunately, Pholus is a butterfingers and drops the arrow. It pierces his foot and he dies. I know…first, centaurs have hooves, not feet; second, what a wimp.
But back to Hercules. After burying Pholus (and probably drinking the rest of the wine) he goes out to chase down the boar. And chase he does, round and round the mountain they go until the boar just tuckers out. Once the boar collapses from exhaustion, Hercules traps it in a net and hauls it home to Mycenae where he delivers it to Eurystheus who is hiding in a giant vase (he’s not big on the bravery thing).
In the Book
In The Trials of Hercules, Herc does indeed go after a troublesome boar. Because the boar hunt takes place “off stage” I’ve left out the centaur bit. As Eury tries to worm his way around the issue of his extravagant spending, Herc captures and kills the boar. When Herc follows orders and brings the boar back, well, let’s just say a dead pig carcass can make quite a mess of a prize object of Eury’s.
Need to Catch Up on the Labors?
The links below will take you to the previous three labors…