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The Challenges (would be good to have them as fables in the oddessy)
- Totalising world views
- The belief that you are right
- Cultural differences
- Fragility in the face of criticism
- Privilege blindness
- Victimhood and revenge
- Shaming and blaming
- Dominator mindset
- Frenetic productivity
- Poverty mindset
- Taking ourselves way too seriously
The Parable: The Labours of Heracles
Driven mad by Hera, Heracles slew his own children. To expiate the crime, Heracles was required to carry out ten labours set by his archenemy, Eurystheus, who had become king in Heracles’ place. If he succeeded, he would be purified of his sin and, as myth says, he would become a god, and be granted immortality.
Despite the difficulty, Heracles accomplished these tasks, but Eurystheus in the end did not accept the success the hero had with two of the labours: the cleansing of the Augean stables, because Heracles was going to accept pay for the labour; and the killing of the Lernaean Hydra, as Heracles’ nephew, Iolaus, had helped him burn the stumps of the multiplying heads.
Eurystheus set two more tasks, fetching the Golden Apples of Hesperides and capturing Cerberus. In the end, with ease, the hero successfully performed each added task, bringing the total number of labours up to the magic number twelve .
Not all versions and writers give the labours in the same order. The Bibliotheca (2.5.1–2.5.12) gives the following order:
Slay the Nemean Lion. Heracles defeated a lion that was attacking the city of Nemea with his bare hands. After he succeeded he wore the skin as a cloak to demonstrate his power over the opponent he had defeated.
Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, a fire-breathing monster with multiple serpent heads that when one head was cut off, two would grow in its place. It lived in a swamp near Lerna. Hera had sent it in hope it would destroy Heracles’ home city because she thought it was invincible. With help from his nephew Iolaus, he defeated the monster and dipped his arrows in its poisoned blood, thus envenomizing them.
Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis, not to kill, but to catch, this monster. A different, but still difficult, task for a hero. It cost time but, having chased it for a year, Heracles wore out the Hind and presented it alive to Eurystheus.
Capture the Erymanthian Boar - a fearsome marauding boar on the loose. Eurystheus set Heracles the Labour of catching it, and bringing it to Mycenae. Again, a time-consuming task, but the tireless hero found the beast, captured it, and brought it to its final spot. Patience is the heroic quality in the third and fourth Labours.
Clean the Augean stables in a single day. the Augean stables were the home of 3,000 cattle with poisoned faeces which Augeas had been given by his father Helios. Heracles was given the near impossible task of cleaning the stables of the diseased faeces. He accomplished it by digging ditches on both sides of the stables, moving them into the ditches, and then diverting the rivers Alpheios and Peneios to wash the ditches clean.
Slay the Stymphalian Birds, these aggressive man-eating birds were terrorizing a forest near Lake Stymphalia in northern Arcadia. Heracles scared them with a rattle given to him by Athena, to frighten them into flight away from the forest, allowing him to shoot many of them with his bow and arrow and bring back this proof of his success to Eurystheus.
Capture the Cretan Bull, the harmful bull, father of the Minotaur, was laying waste to the lands round Knossos on Crete. It embodied the rage of Poseidon at having his gift (the Bull) to Minos diverted from the intention to sacrifice it to himself. Heracles captured it, and carried it on his shoulders to Eurystheus in Tiryns. Eurystheus released it, when it wandered to Marathon which it then terrorized, until killed by Theseus.
Steal the Mares of Diomedes. Stealing the horses from Diomedes’ stables that had been trained by their owner to feed on human flesh was his next challenge. Heracles’ task was to capture them and hand them over to Eurystheus. He accomplished this task by feeding King Diomedes to the animals before binding their mouths shut.
Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Hippolyta was an Amazon queen and she had a girdle given to her by her father. Heracles had to retrieve the girdle and return it to Eurystheus. He and his band of companions received a rough welcome because, ordered by Hera, the Amazons were supposed to attack them; however, against all odds, Heracles completed the task and secured the girdle for Eurystheus.
Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon. The next challenge was to capture the herd guarded by a two-headed dog called Orthrus, the herdsman Erytion and the owner, Geryon; a giant with three heads and six arms. He killed the first two with his club and the third with a poisoned arrow. Heracles then herded the cattle and, with difficulty, took them to Eurytheus.
Steal the golden apples of the Hesperides. These sacred fruits were protected by Hera who had set Ladon, a fearsome hundred-headed dragon as the guardian. Heracles had to first find where the garden was; he asked Nereus for help. He came across Prometheus on his journey. Heracles shot the eagle eating at his liver, and in return he helped Heracles with knowledge that his brother would know where the garden was. His brother Atlas offered him help with the apples if he would hold up the heavens while he was gone. Atlas tricked him and did not return. Heracles returned the trickery and managed to get Atlas taking the burden of the heavens once again, and returned the apples to Mycenae.
Capture and bring back Cerberus. His last labour and undoubtedly the riskiest. Eurystheus was so frustrated that Heracles was completing all the tasks that he had given him that he imposed one he believed to be impossible: Heracles had to go down into the underworld of Hades and capture the ferocious three-headed dog Cerberus who guarded the gates. He used the souls to help convince Hades to hand over the dog. He agreed to give him the dog if he used no weapons to obtain him. Heracles succeeded and took the creature back to Mycenae, causing Eurystheus to be fearful of the power and strength of this hero.