Book two of Bernard Evslin’s extraordinary work opens with the story of Hercules, the strongest man on Earth. Son of a mortal woman and Zeus, feared and hated by Zeus’s wife, Hera, Hercules is condemned to twelve labors in which he must fight the world’s most terrifying monsters. It seems that the world’s mightiest hero may have met his match against the Hydra, a beast with one hundred heads that spew lethal poison.
Other tales feature Atlas, the Titan condemned to bear the world on his shoulders; the hideous gorgon Medusa, who turns men to stone; the half-man, half-bull Minotaur; the Sphinx; and many more. Greek myths come to thrilling life in these timeless stories of love and revenge, sorcery and enchantment, in which gods and demigods, mortals, fiends, and demons battle between good and evil. It is a world where bushes become bears, the four winds go to war, and the Nemean Lion and giant crab Cancer strike terror into the hearts of all.
About the Author
Bernard Evslin (1922–1993) was a bestselling and award-winning author known for his works on Greek and other cultural mythologies. The New York Times called him “one of the most widely published authors of classical mythology in the world.” He was born in New Rochelle, New York, and attended Rutgers University. After several years working as a playwright, screenwriter, and documentary producer, he began publishing novels and short stories in the late 1960s. During his long career, Evslin published more than seventy books—over thirty of which were for young adults. His bestseller Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths has been translated into ten different languages and has sold more than ten million copies worldwide. He won the National Education Association Award in 1961, and in 1986 his book Hercules received the Washington Irving Children’s Book Choice Award. Evslin died in Kauai, Hawaii, at the age of seventy-seven.
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Monsters of Greek Mythology Volume 2
By Bernard Evslin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
All rights reserved.
War of the Winds
Long ago, when the world was very new, the silver-eyed Titan, Astraeus, trysted in a corner of the sky with Eos, the dawn goddess, siring the Four Winds and a litter of stars.
The Wind Titans quartered the earth, each dwelling in his own castle—Notus in an ivory pile on the southern edge of things; Eurus in a jade palace on the eastern edge; kindly Zephyrus in an oaken tower on the western rim, while brutal, blustering Boreas dwelt in the north in a castle whose beams were walrus tusk and mammoth bone, whose walls were solid blocks of ice.
Boreas slept through the summer and awoke in early autumn, raging with hunger and evil tempered, ready to howl across the sky, bending trees and breaking ships, toppling hillside villages into the valleys below, and sweeping coastal villages into the sea.
Eurus, the East Wind, was of a less violent nature than Boreas but could be deadly in his own way, striking suddenly out of fair skies. He was a menace to shipping when his mood was foul, and was much feared by mariners. He was especially cruel and capricious in the springtime, and seamen then were careful to keep lee shore to the eastward. At other times he would hover over swampland, drawing in great breaths of pestilential air and letting them out in malarial gusts so that people sickened and died.
Notus was also treacherous. At times he would blow warmly out of the south, scattering clouds and drying the fields. Often, though, he drove cold rain before him, and savage hailstorms that could scythe down a season's crop in a single night.
But the West Wind, Zephyrus, was a friend to man. He came in the spring with warm gentle showers. And the waters of the melting snow and the warm rain sank into the earth and brought up flowers and young trees and all the crops that feed mankind.
The Wind brothers were not sociable. They did not mingle with the other Titans, nor, indeed with any of the god tribe—with one exception.
They passionately followed Iris, the rainbow goddess, who appeared after storms, casting her arch of colors across the new-washed sky. The Winds hovered, watching as she danced on her radiant bow and sang a fair-weather song. For three of the winds had fallen madly in love with her.
But she ignored the tempestuous wooing of Boreas, and the rich gifts of Eurus, and the honeyed words of Notus. She preferred Zephyrus—who loved someone else.
So the Winds went to war.
Eurus and Notus, although rivals for Iris's affections, were quite willing to join forces against Boreas, who was much the strongest of the brothers. Once rid of him, they thought, they would be able to fight it out between themselves on more or less equal terms.
Choosing a time when Boreas was sleeping his summer sleep, the South Wind blew into the arctic wastes, melting the ice floes, making the sea swell into a mighty flood. The East Wind, who had been waiting to strike, now blew at an angle, whipping the swollen seas into a huge torrent that rushed toward the North Wind's castle, threatening to drown him as he slept.
But it was very dangerous to arouse Boreas. Awakened too soon by the roaring of a strange surf, he saw a mass of wind-driven waters cresting toward his castle. Angrier than he had ever been before in his wrathful life, he filled his chest with icy air and blew it out in a blast that froze the waters, forming an ice mountain where there had been a flat stretch of permafrost.
But the stilling of the waters did not quench his fury. He immediately launched a counterattack. Blackening the sky with his cape, he stormed out of the north, hurling gales before him—which grew to hurricane force as their coldness met the warmer airs. Leaving a swath of destruction in his wake, Boreas flew farther south than he had ever been—over deserts and jungles. And the people there, and the apes and elephants and lions and zebras, whimpered and shuddered and stared at the sky from which strange white stuff was falling. The terrible cold whiteness lay on the ground like a shroud. Indeed, hordes of those who dwelt in southern lands froze to death.
Then the North Wind turned east. He roared over the rain forests, freezing man and beast, and sheathing the trees in ice so that they glittered and chimed. All the way to the eastern rim of the world Boreas flew, and blew down the wonderful jade palace belonging to Eurus before turning north again.
Eurus and Notus knew when they were beaten. They sent messages of surrender to Boreas, humbly begging his pardon and asking to meet with him so that they might apologize properly. Traveling north in abjectly gentle breezes they visited Boreas in his ice castle, and begged him to grant a truce.
Huge, fur clad, he sat on his walrus-ivory throne, frowning down at them as they stammered out their apologies. In the enormous, freezing throne room, where arctic wolves prowled like hounds and great white arctic owls flew like parakeets, the North Wind sat in state, and his younger brothers trembled before him.
"I shall pardon you on one condition," he growled. "You must promise to abandon all claim to Iris."
"We do! We do!" cried Eurus.
"But," said Notus slyly, "we are not the problem, you know. She looks with favor upon none of us. For some weird reason she seems to prefer Zephyrus."
"Nonsense!" roared Boreas. "Where did you get that idea?"
"I happened to meet a meadow nymph whose clan gathers wildflowers for the colors that Iris flings across the sky. And she told me that all the nymphs are gossiping about this. For when Iris touches earth, she wanders about, murmuring
'Zephyrus ... Zephyrus ...' and gazes yearningly westward."
"I'll give those gabby sluts something else to wag their tongues about," said Boreas. "Iris will be mine before the month is out."
"How will you manage that, noble sir?" asked Notus.
"In my own way, the simple direct North Wind way. I'll snatch her out of the sky and bring her here. And keep her close until she agrees to marry me."
"A brilliant plan," cried Eurus. "Bold and brilliant. Is there any way we can help?"
"I need no help from pitiful puling puffs of nothing like you two. Just skulk back to your own lairs and stay there until I give you permission to leave."
"Thank you, mighty Brother," cried Notus. "May your courtship be prosperous."
"Get out," growled Boreas.
And the South Wind and the East Wind bowed and smirked their way out of the ice castle, vowing to each other never to cross their powerful brother again, no matter what.CHAPTER 2
At the age of fifteen Hercules was still only half grown, but bigger than most men, and much stronger. He had stopped wrestling with other boys because he was afraid of hurting them. Yet, he knew, he had to find some way of using the perilous strength he had been given. At times he felt that only the iron hoops of his ribs kept his energy caged, kept it from bursting his keg of a chest and splitting him like an overripe melon.
So he sought ways of spending his energy. He uprooted small trees and wrestled yearling bears. It was at this time that the vengeful North Wind blew too far south, bringing arctic weather to places that had never known real winter before. And when Hercules went out that day to seek bears to wrestle, he found a land transformed by snow. Although his body was almost hairless, his skin was tough as horsehide, and he was untroubled by the cold. In fact, he found the snow helpful. It held animal tracks, among them the imprint of bear paws—and this clear spoor, he knew, would save him hours of searching.
Now he had wrestled all the yearling bears in the Theban forests. They knew him well and enjoyed the wrestling as much as he did, and never used their teeth and claws against him. And now, when Hercules heard a bear growling savagely in the underbrush, he couldn't believe it was growling at him, but that it had been attacked by a lion—the only beast about that would dare attack a bear.
Hercules raced toward the sound to see if he could help. He had run only a few steps, however, when something came charging out of the brush. He stared in amazement. What he saw was a giant wearing armor, and it was growling like an angry bear. Looking more closely, he saw that it was a bear rearing up on its hind legs, but such a bear as he had never seen—a full-sized one, sheathed in ice. The sun striking off the ice made it glitter like armor.
It moved toward him, growling more savagely than ever. Now bears do not usually grow angry unless they feel themselves threatened, or, in the case of a female, if she sees someone approaching her cubs. Thinking fast, Hercules realized what must have happened. This bear, emerging from a swim in the lake, had been caught in the sudden frost, and the water froze on its fur, sheathing it in ice. This made the beast very uncomfortable. And now, in confused rage, it sought someone to fix the blame on.
The huge glittering animal was very close now, and Hercules prepared to fight. It was his custom, in a fight, always to charge first. But he hesitated. He did not relish the idea of those arms closing about him in a mighty icy hug. Nor did he particularly want to hurt the bear. But it was coming at him; he had to do something. He cast his spear with the full-armed throw that could split a tree—and was astounded to see it skid off the bear, just chipping away a few flakes of ice. He realized then that the thick ice sheath was indeed like armor, but even better protection because it was slippery.
So Hercules, who had never avoided a fight in his short life, whirled now and raced away.
Denied his wrestling that day, and feeling himself aflame with the unfinished fight, he galloped home through the heavy snow, seeking the thickest drifts to plow through.
The weather warmed again, and spring resumed. The fund of wild energy that was in Hercules seemed to grow and grow. He wandered far from the city and began to climb mountains, the steeper the better, not plodding up, but running as hard as he could, and never stopping to rest.
One day, he came upon a range of foothills, not too high but quite steep, and he happily raced up one slope, over the top, down the back slope, and on to another hill—until he had done every one of the eight hills without stopping.
It was a hot day, and coming down the last hill he was delighted to find that a fast-moving stream was tumbling over a rocky ledge to become a waterfall. Without doffing his tunic, he jumped under the fall and stood under the icy shower, shouting with joy. Cooled off now, he began to explore, and found himself on a high meadow, cupped by the eight hills. It was the loveliest meadow he had ever seen, carpeted by wildflowers, a great mix of them, filling the air with fragrance and the sleepy hum of bees, and blazing with sudden pure colors among thick grass and loose underbrush.
This meadow became young Hercules' secret place, and he came there as often as he could after wrestling bears, and uprooting trees, and racing up and down the hills. He was further delighted to find that the meadow was inhabited by a clan of flower nymphs, who spent part of each morning plucking the wild blossoms and steeping them in a great vat of springwater. As soon as they saw Hercules, though, they would leave the flowers to steep themselves and run across the meadow to dance with him.
At first, he thought they were making wine in the vat, but when he asked for a drink they laughed at him.
"That is not wine we're making," said a nymph named Numa, "but various dyes. For know, oh handsome youth, that we serve Iris, the rainbow goddess. Every so often she comes down here and dips her gauze into our vat; they become the colored streamers which she flings across the sky after a storm, and which then gather themselves into a great bridge of colors."
"Do you think I might see Iris sometime?" asked Hercules. "Will you tell me when she's about to visit?"
"No, we don't think so," said Numa. "She's enchantingly beautiful. Once you saw her you would fall in love with her and forget all about us."
"Love? Love ..." said Hercules. "I don't know. I told my mother I thought I was in love with all of you, but she laughed at me and said I was much too young to know what love was."
"Tell her we'll teach you," said the nymph.
When Hercules next came to the meadow, it seemed deserted. He listened for the happy voices of the nymphs, but did not hear them. Then he did hear something. It was not a happy sound. It seemed like the sound of weeping—not an ugly aggressive sobbing, but like the mourning of doves. He searched and found the nymphs huddled in a glade. All were weeping, but each one was trying to comfort the one next to her, while still weeping herself.
"What's the matter?" cried Hercules.
They lifted tear-stained faces to him. Then arose and surrounded him, all talking at once.
"One at a time," said Hercules. "I can't make out what you're saying."
Then Numa gestured the others to silence, and said, "Let me tell him. Remember that rainstorm we had last week? Well, when the air cleared, we watched the sky because we knew that after so hard a rain Iris would appear. And she did. She stretched her bow across the sky, and we rejoiced to see that one foot of it was planted here because that meant she would slide down and visit us. Then we saw her sliding. She grew larger and larger as we watched until we could see the yellow hair whipping about her face, and were calling to her joyously when, suddenly, the sky blackened, blotting the rainbow. An enormous black-caped figure came hurtling down toward Iris. It engulfed her, snatched her off her bridge of colors, took her into its darkness—spread the wings of its cape and flew north. Oh woe and wail away, our Iris was gone, our lovely goddess. She's gone, gone, gone, and we'll never see her again."
"She's a goddess, after all," said Hercules. "And can escape from whatever monster it was that took her."
"Ah, no," said Numa. "It was no monster but a Titan, a Wind Titan, the most powerful of all. It was Boreas, the North Wind; we recognized him. And from his clutch no one escapes."
"And he flew back north, you say?"
"Yes," she said. "There he dwells in an ice castle on the very northern rim of the earth. And there, no doubt, he means to cage up our poor bright Iris, and freeze her into submission."
"Farewell," said Hercules.
"Where are you going?" cried the nymphs.
"North," he said.CHAPTER 3
The Frost Demons
The fleet, joyful goddess who had used the entire blue vault of heaven as her playground was unprepared for captivity. As soon as she knew the great clutch of the North Wind upon her, when his black cloak quenched her colors, she felt so grossly violated that she wished to shed her immortality and die.
But she was a goddess. She could not die. She could suffer, but not die.
She tried to call for help. The terrible icy clutch froze the screams in her throat and she could utter no sound. Boreas clasped her to him as he flew northward. His cloak covered her body, but her head poked out, and she could watch the water sliding away far below.
She swooned briefly then. When she came to, she saw a whale spouting; its spume froze, glinting in the weak sunlight and casting fractured colors. The shards of light reminded her of her own blotted colors, and a hot pang of grief pierced her breast.
But the heat thawed her. Her courage awoke, and she began to think how she might free herself. "I'm supposed to have many friends," she thought. "Will they dare? Will they attempt to save me? Who among my admirers on Olympus will brave the North Wind's wrath? Oh, the gods can be courageous where their own interests are concerned, but they don't like to put themselves out for anyone else. There may be someone though. I can only hope there may be one who will follow me here and seek to rescue me. But how will anyone find me? Who could possibly guess that I've been taken to this icy waste? If I could only leave some kind of sign. But of course! There is one unmistakable sign of my presence. How stupid of me not to think of it before."
But she knew she could do nothing yet, so she bided her time. And when Boreas came to earth and began to drag her toward his ice castle, she slipped his grasp and flung her colors into the sky—where they immediately froze.
And that arch of color frozen into the leaden sky was what Hercules saw as he approached the rim of the world. He knew then that he must be nearing the North Wind's castle and pressed forward with renewed hope.
Now, Boreas knew that he was well hated, and that many enemies wished his destruction. And while he also suspected that they were too much afraid of him to attempt an assault, he did not believe in taking chances and had surrounded himself with creatures so fearsome that no one would dare trespass.
Excerpted from Monsters of Greek Mythology Volume 2 by Bernard Evslin. Copyright © 2014 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
THE NEMEAN LION,
SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS,
About the Author,