Do you have troubles? Current events got you down? Did you bet on the Kansas City Chiefs? Break into the Capitol Building only to find the FBI is now after you? No matter. As the Master of Ceremonies said in “Cabaret,” “Leave your troubles outside. In here life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the Orchestra is beautiful.” We don’t have an orchestra but today you can forget your troubles through the German custom of Schadenfreude which is taking pleasure in the misery of others. Hercules had major problems that will make you feel better about your own life.
Let’s fire up Mr. Peabody’s time machine to find out why Herk was sentenced to hard labor and what he had to do to get a pardon from the Greek God Apollo. Herk was the love child of Zeus who was King of the Gods. Zeus wandered off the reservation resulting in his Baby Mamma Alceme becoming in the family way. When Zeus’ wife Hera found out, she was none too pleased. Heck hath no fury like a Goddess scorned. While Herk was a mere toddler cooing in his crib, Hera sent a couple of large snakes to strangle Baby Herk. Like Davy Crockett who killed him a bear when he was only three, Herk strangled the two snakes instead. Herk was not a baby to be trifled with.
Although Herk foiled Hera’s serpentine plot, she did not give up her anger but bided her time. Today’s helpful tip for men of the male persuasion: Anytime a woman is biding her time, you had better watch out. Herk grew up to young manhood, got married, and had two kids. It was the perfect Grecian formula for happiness. Unfortunately, it was not to last. Hera put a spell on Herk which made him insane in the membrane. During his period of Hera-induced insanity, Herk in a murder most foul, killed his young wife and children. When he came to his senses, he was stricken with horror and remorse. As Edgar Allen Poe wrote: “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” He went to see Apollo who oversaw healing to beg to be punished for his
Apollo knew Hera was behind Herk’s misdeeds, but temporary insanity was not yet accepted as a defense to murder. Apollo ordered Herk to perform 12 seemingly impossible jobs to obtain forgiveness and absolution. These tasks later became known as the 12 Labors of Hercules. They also made Steve Reeves a lot of money playing Hercules in the 1950s. To feel better about your own troubles, imagine what Herk had to go through. Enjoy his misery, like a psychic poultice you will feel better fast.
Herk’s first job was to kill the Nemean lion that had been chowing down on the good folks of Nemea. Herk fought the lion and strangled him in his very own den. Not being one to waste a good lion skin and having an excellent fashion sense, Herk wore the lion’s hide as a cape from then on. His next task was to kill the 9-headed hydra snake. The problem with the hydra was when you cut off one head, like a hungry relative it would come right back. Herk solved that problem with the help of his nephew who took a torch to the stump of the head as soon as Herk cut off the head. The torch cauterized the stump and prevented the regrowth of the head.
Herk then had to capture the favorite pet deer of the Goddess Diana. Apollo figured that Diana would never let Herk take her pet, but Apollo did not count on Herk’s charm with the ladies. He sweet-talked Diana into giving him the deer. Next up was catching the giant man-eating Erymanthean boar. This is not to be confused with your uncle Fred who is a stultifying bore. Herk made a big net and caught the boar. Then it was barbecue, black eyed peas and hushpuppies for the whole town. Next it was on to clean up the Augean stables where zillions of cattle had been doing their bovine business for centuries without anyone cleaning out the stables. It was a dirty job but Herk did it by changing the course of two rivers to flood the stables and wash the cattle poop away. This was before the EPA and no environmental impact statement had to be filed.
Herk moved on to a little town called Stymphalos which had an even worse problem with a ravenous flock of birds than the town of Bodega Bay, California, in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” The Stymphalan birds weren’t satisfied with just pecking the townsfolk, no Siree Bob, those birds ate the people like so much sunflower seed. Once again, Herk’s way with the ladies came to his rescue. He direct messaged the Goddess Athena for help with his avian issue. She gave him some cool bronze noise makers called krotala. Herk clanged the heck out of the krotala and the angry birds flew away never to bother the town again.
Unfortunately, we have reached the first six labors of Hercules but have run out of space in today’s column. Kindly come back in two weeks, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel to find out what Herk’s final six labors are and learn whether Herk obtains immortality. Now don’t you feel a little better about your own troubles? See I told you so. Herk was in a pickle. The worst is yet to come. Odds are you will not have to fight any 9-headed snakes, carnivorous birds, or muck out a giant stable tonight. Rejoice in the Schadenfreude that Herk has made and be glad in it.
To be continued …