| Gods and Heroes|
|by Robert Edward Francillon|
|One of the best introductions to Greek mythology for children. Includes the stories of all the prominent gods and heroes, woven together into a continuous narrative, ending with a full treatment of the twelve labors of Hercules. Ages 8-12 |
HIS FIRST LABOR: THE LION
 HERCULES, being arrived at Mycenæ, submitted himself to
Eurystheus, who, to tell the truth, was a little
alarmed at the sight of his cousin, and suspicious of
what such sudden submission might mean. And he was all
the more bewildered when he saw the humility with which
his kinsman approached him. Hercules could not do
anything by halves; and in Eurystheus he saw, not a
mere insignificant, timid, mean-minded man, but only
the master whom the gods had appointed to him.
"And now," asked Hercules, in his impatience to prove
his obedience, what do you order me to do?"
One would think that Eurystheus would have acted
generously. So far from that, however, he thought to
himself, "I had better send him on the most dangerous
adventure I can think of. If he succeeds, it will be
the more glory for me to have such a man under my
power; and besides, it will prove whether this
submission is real or sham. And if he
perishes—well, I shall be
safe from danger at his hands." So he said:—
"You have proved yourself a good lion-hunter. Bring me
the carcass of the Nemæan lion."
 Now the lion of the forest of Nemæa was far more
terrible than the lion of Mount Cithæron.
However, Hercules set out at once for the forest, glad
that his first service was one of honor.
Eurystheus was quite relieved when he was gone; and,
sending for skilled workmen, bade them make for him a
large brazen pot, big enough to hold him comfortably,
and with an opening just large enough for him to get in
and out by. For he thought to himself, "If Hercules
ever gets angry or rebellious, I can creep into my
brazen pot, and be safe there."
Hercules was not long in finding the lion—the
largest, strongest, and fiercest ever seen in the
world. He let fly an arrow, but it scarcely pricked the
beast's tough hide; then another, and another; but the
lion minded them no more than if they had been shot by
a child from a toy bow. At last one, however, pricked
him sharply enough to enrage him, and he came on with a
rush and a roar. All Hercules had time to do was to
pull up a young oak-tree by the roots, for a weapon to
meet the charge. The next moment the lion sprang. But
Hercules stood his ground, and so belabored the lion
with his club that he fairly beat it back into its den,
into which he followed it. Then was there a fearful
wrestle between Hercules and the lion. But Hercules
prevailed, by getting his arms round the lion and
crushing its breath out of its body.
 Throwing the corpse over his shoulders, and holding it
by bringing the fore-legs round his neck, he returned
to Mycenæ. Thus equipped, he himself looked like some
monstrous lion; and so terrified was Eurystheus at the
news that he crept into his brass pot, and in this
manner received Hercules, to whom he talked through a
speaking-tube in the side.
"Go and kill the Hydra!" he called out.
So Hercules set out an his second labor: and Eurystheus
crept out of his pot again.
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