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Hermes: Messenger of the Gods
Looking back on things now, I suppose you could use the excuse that I was just a kid, but let’s face it. I was one smart little tike, and I knew exactly what I was doing at the time. There is no “I was just a kid” defense for me.
You’re giving me a blank look. Tell me you know what I’m talking about. I’m Hermes – you know, Messenger of the Gods. The guy who invented the lyre, guides dead people to the Underworld, helps out travelers, etc. etc.
Nothing? Well, that’s embarrassing. Have we really faded into myths so much that the modern world has forgotten who we are? That’s not very fair. I bet you know about Hercules. How about Zeus? Yeah, I thought so. That totally figures. The “big guys” are remembered and the rest of us fade away. Doesn’t anyone remember me anymore? I’m Zeus’ son, too!
Oh, well. I might as well tell you the story since you can’t seem to recall it. Only I’m going to tell it from my point of view; after all, no one knows my story better than I do!
To be brutally honest, my father Zeus was a player. He had so many wives and so many kids I don’t even remember them all. Thank goodness Hera didn’t know about my mom, or I wouldn’t be here right now. (Not that it matters, I suppose, since no one seems to remember me anymore.) My mother’s name was Maia, and obviously she was the most beautiful woman alive or my father wouldn’t have noticed her. She lived in a cave on Mount Cyllene, which is why she was able to give birth to me in peace.
Not to brag, but I was a genius from the moment I took my first breath. My mom hadn’t even wrapped me up in her blankets before I started thinking of mischief. I was born as the sun was rising, and by the time it set that same day I was sneaking out for the first time. I knew exactly where I was going, too. Like I said: I was a genius. (Still am, too.) I knew my half-brother Apollo had a herd of cows nearby, so I stole into his pasture and chose the fifty best cows. Then I led them away, hiding their tracks by wrapping bark on their hooves and tying brooms to their tails. I even led them out backwards…not as easy as you’d think!
Once I was far enough away from the pasture I stopped to sacrifice two of the cows to the twelve Olympians (including myself as the twelfth, of course). I brought the other 48 back to the home and hid them in a grove. I quietly stepped back into my mother’s cave and pretended to be asleep, but I didn’t fool her one bit. She scolded me for stealing Apollo’s cows, but I reasoned that I’d only done what I needed to do, and soon we both went back to sleep.
The next morning Apollo stormed into our cave and snatched me out of my bed, demanding that I return his cows. I tried to use the “I’m just a kid” excuse, but that didn’t go over very well, and the next thing I knew he was chasing me right up to Olympus. All the gods and goddess laughed when they saw us, and though I tried to defend myself, my father wasn’t fooled either and told me to return Apollo’s cows.
When my half-brother saw that there were two cows missing his anger flared again, so I quickly pulled out the lyre I had invented (using the entrails of the two cows) and began to play. As the god of music Apollo simply had to have my instrument and offered his entire herd in exchange for it. I drive a pretty hard bargain, though, and soon convinced him to give me his staff as well.
Later my father Zeus came to me with the intention of scolding me for my theft, but I told him that if he made me messenger of the gods I would never misbehave again. He accepted right away. He gave me my famous winged hat and gloves along with a cape that hid my magic tricks.
Since then I have been good. I’ve never stolen, nor have I lied (though I don’t always tell the whole truth, either). I became as popular with the mortals as I became with the gods. I enjoy helping travelers – they pile stones along roads, believing that I’m hiding within to guide them. I even gained favor with Hera (which is most certainly not easy to do).
And I’m just going to state for the record that I am still here. Hopefully now that I’ve enlightened you you’ll pay more attention to me in the future. When you think of Zeus, just remember that I’m one of his sons and you’re all set. Is a little recognition so much to ask for? There’s a planet named after me, you know. Mercury – my Roman name. There’s something else you can use to remember me. (Though to be honest I much prefer Hermes…it’s more unique than Mercury.)