The kids at Camp Half-Blood at Little Shop of Stories (based on Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief) yesterday loved it when I told them that Hercules (Heracles) wasn’t the swiftest boat in the fleet.
They cracked up when they heard about the time Heracles got so irritated at the sun that he tried to shoot it out of the sky with his bow and arrow. Or that when the waves got out of hand while he was on a boat, he repeatedly slashed them with his sword in order to make them “obey.” Or even that he may have had a mild case of “ADD” given that he forgot to get himself back on Jason’s boat during a stopover on the hunt for the Golden Fleece.
There’s just something about a dumb hero that is irresistible.
Still, Heracles wasn’t the only ancient guy who had temper tantrums over what they couldn’t control. Herodotus tells the story of Xerxes, the king of Persia (of “I am SPARTA!” fame–the enemy, anyway), who lashed the ocean 300 times and threw shackles into it as punishment for not “cooperating” when invading Greece.
We can hardly picture the absurdity of that act, and yet, I think, stories like those hit closer to home than we like to admit. After all, aren’t we doing the same thing when we kick the chair leg we stumbled over or curse the rock that “got in our way” and tripped us? And certainly we’ve all had at least one very threatening conversation with an uncooperative computer or printer, right?
That’s the thing about these myths/stories: In their ridiculousness, they remind us of our humanity.
Test my theory. Try leaving a comment. One of two things will happen: You will succeed, make your point, and walk away feeling like a strong man. Or, more likely, blogger will make it so impossibly aggravating, you’ll end up cursing it to Hades and back!