“‘Don’t be rash, Orpheus,’ came an impish, high-pitched voice behind him. Orpheus lowered his lyre and said, without turning around, ‘What foul mischief brings you to our charming sector, Hermes?’”
- Age of the Ashers
Welcome back, myth lovers! Today I’m going to share yet another mythological figure who plays an important role in The Petros Chronicles. Unlike Orpheus, who I discussed here, Hermes is free to wander and do what he pleases, which usually involves meddling in the lives of mortals and stirring up all manner of mischief.
Hermes was known by the ancients as one of the cleverest and most beguiling deities. He was a herald, a messenger, and an escort to dead souls making their way to the River Styx.
One of the most famous myths about him was penned by the Greek poet Hesiod in the seventh or eighth century B.C. and tells of how Hermes slew the 100-eyed monster Argos in an effort to free one of Zeus’s lovers, with whom his wife Hera was quite, well, put out. As was his preferred modus operandi, Hermes used not overt strength, but subtle strategy, to defeat the giant. He played his panpipes and lulled Argos to sleep, then distracted him with stories while Zeus freed Io, the lover he’d turned into a white heifer in order to disguise her from Hera (a disguise which had miserably failed).
The impish god was also responsible for stealing Poseidon’s trident, Artemis’s arrows, and Aphrodite’s girdle. But he also did a few inarguably amazing things, like inventing fire (pretty significant, I’d say!), creating dice (they should rename Las Vegas “Las Hermes”…), the first lyre, and the alphabet (another fairly noteworthy achievement).
Travelers embraced him as their patron, so much so that all across ancient Greece one would find stone statues of his likeness scattered across roadsides, crossings, and land boundaries. Passersby would regularly throw stones upon the statues, or anoint them with oil. Homeowners, including the villainess in book 2 of my series (War of the Ashers), often had marble versions of these statues (called “Herms”) standing outside their houses. (As you’ll find out, the villainess had more than a religious appreciation for the god…)
Hermes would fit right in with modern Marvel and DC comic book characters. Not only is he charmingly devilish like Iron Man, clever like the Joker, able to soar like Superman and fly between realms like Thor, he wears a cap which grants him invisibility, and a golden staff which, in my series, is capable of just about anything, such as conjuring strong illusions, turning water to glass, and reeling the moon in like a fish.
“Leto looked up in awe at the beaming orb, then went up on tiptoes and brushed it lightly with her fingers. The hair on her arms stood on end as she felt the powdery dirt of a foreign world. She jumped up, straining to pull the moon down, but it drifted higher, not stopping until it was once more nestled among the stars.”
- War of the Ashers
Hermes was one of my favorite characters to write. I had a ball diving deep into his psyche and digging beyond the surface layers of his rascally ways and capricious nature. I won’t say too much else, lest I majorly spoil things for you, but Hermes is one of those figures you just can’t help but be captivated by. As the myths surrounding him can attest, he is bold, resourceful, inventive, inquisitive, and frankly, unforgettable.
I hope you enjoy reading about him in The Petros Chronicles!
“Hermes just gave his boyish smile, a smile that one could describe as endearing had it not belonged to Apollo’s slyest emissary. The spirit twirled his golden rod, then, mimicking a sailor heaving an anchor out of the sea, he leaned back and tugged on the wand, grinning as he pulled the lyre to shore.”
Who’s your favorite figure in Greek mythology? Comment below or tweet me at @dandersontyler. I would love to hear from you!