Kerber (eleventh feat)
Barely Hercules returned to Tiryns, as he had already sent him to the feat again Eurystheus. This was the eleventh feat that Hercules had to perform in the service of Eurystheus. Hercules had to overcome incredible difficulties during this feat. He had to descend into the gloomy, full of horrors underground kingdom Hades and bring to Eurystheus the guardian of the underground kingdom, the terrible hellhound Kerber. Kerber had three heads, snakes wriggled on his neck, and his tail ended in a dragon's head with a huge mouth. Hercules went to Laconia and through the gloomy abyss at Tanara descended into the darkness of the underworld. At the very gates of the kingdom of Hades, Hercules saw heroes rooted to the rock Theseus and Periphoy, king of Thessaly. They were so punished by the gods for wanting to kidnap Hades' wife Persephone. Theseus prayed to Hercules:
- Oh, great son of Zeus, set me free! You see my torment! You alone can rid me of them!
Hercules stretched out his hand to Theseus and freed him. When he wanted to free Periphoy, the earth trembled, and Hercules realized that the gods did not want his release. Hercules submitted to the will of the gods and went on into the darkness of eternal night. Heracles was introduced into the underworld by the messenger of the gods Hermes, the guide of the souls of the dead, and the companion of the great hero was the beloved daughter of Zeus, Athena-Pallas. When Hercules entered the kingdom of Hades, the shadows of the dead scattered in horror. Only the shadow of the hero Meleager did not run at the sight of Hercules. With a plea she turned to the great son of Zeus:
- Oh, great Hercules, one thing I pray to you in memory of our friendship, have pity on my orphaned sister, the beautiful Deyanira! She remained defenseless after my death. Take her to wife, great hero! Be her protector!
Hercules promised to fulfill the request of a friend and went on after Hermes. The shadow of the terrible gorgon rose towards Hercules Medusa, she menacingly stretched out her copper hands and waved her golden wings, snakes stirred on her head. The fearless hero grabbed his sword, but Hermes stopped him with words:
- Don't grab the sword, Hercules! After all, it's just a disembodied shadow! She doesn't threaten you with death!
Hercules saw many horrors on his way; finally, he appeared before the throne of Hades. The ruler of the kingdom of the dead and his wife Persephone looked with delight at the great son of the thunderer Zeus, who fearlessly descended into the realm of darkness and sorrows. He, majestic, calm, stood before the throne of Hades, leaning on his huge mace, in a lion skin draped over his shoulders, and with a bow on his shoulders. Hades graciously greeted the son of his great brother Zeus and asked what made him leave the light of the sun and descend into the realm of darkness. Bowing before Hades, Hercules replied:
- Oh, lord of the souls of the dead, great Hades, do not be angry with me for my request, almighty! You know after all that it was not of my own will that I came to your kingdom, it is not of my own will that I will ask you. Allow me, Lord Hades, to take your three-headed dog Kerber to Mycenae. Eurystheus ordered me to do this, whom I serve at the behest of the bright Olympian gods.
Hades replied to the hero:
- I will fulfill your request, son of Zeus; but you must tame Kerber without weapons. If you tame him, I'll let you take him to Eurystheus.
For a long time Hercules searched for Kerber in the underworld. Finally, he found it on the shores of Acheron. Hercules wrapped his arms, strong as steel, around Kerber's neck. The dog of Hades howled menacingly; the whole underground kingdom was filled with his howling. He tried to escape from the embrace of Hercules, but only tightened the mighty arms of the hero Kerber's neck. Kerber wrapped his tail around the hero's legs, the dragon's head bit into his body with its teeth, but all in vain. Mighty Hercules was squeezing his neck harder and harder. Finally, the half-strangled dog of Hades fell at the hero's feet. Hercules tamed him and led him from the kingdom of darkness to Mycenae. Kerber was afraid of the daylight; he was covered with cold sweat, poisonous foam dripped from his three mouths to the ground; wherever a drop of foam dripped, poisonous herbs grew.
Hercules led Kerber to the walls of Mycenae. The cowardly Eurystheus was horrified at the sight of the terrible dog. Almost on his knees, he begged Hercules to take him back to the kingdom of Hades Kerber. Hercules fulfilled his request and returned his terrible guardian Kerber to Hades.