Heracles and the Sea Serpent: The Rescue of Hesione

This is my second drawing for Mosaic Medley (the subject being anything to do with water this time). I almost didn't get it done in time, and in fact was planning on doing a different drawing. I thought I'd do my first final drawing of Cecilia the mermaid from my Lunch Note Project. But in doodling to come up with a composition, I ended up drawing Prince Jason battling a sea monster, which morphed into Heracles battling a sea serpent instead. Sooner or later my mind always ends up back at mythology.

For those who know about Heracles' Twelve Labors, this is a side story – or rather, a side story from that side story. Before Heracles could finish all his labors (which, incidentally, would make him a god when he finished), he heard about the Quest for the Golden Fleece, and decided there was no way he was passing this up. This was supposed to be lead by Jason, a favorite of the goddess Hera. The same Hera who was busy trying to kill Heracles with the Labors, for the completely understandable reason that he was her husband's son by another woman. So the last thing Hera wanted was Heracles joining her pet project.

Naturally, all the other heroes are delighted to have Heracles on board, and just as naturally Hera wants him dead even more than before. So en route she sabotages her own mission by having giant six-armed monsters come and attack the Argo (the very ship they need to get the Golden Fleece) simply because the rest of the Argonauts left Heracles to defend it.

This, of course, doesn't work – Heracles manages to take out all the giants and look even more amazing than he did before. This amazing streak continues even after Hera finally manages to get Heracles off the Fleece project and back to the regular way she was trying to destroy him.

What relates to this drawing is the fact that Hera's method never worked. Why? Because this is the side story to the Fleece side story. On the way, Heracles learns that Hesione, the daughter of Troy's tightwad King Laomedon, is to be sacrificed to a sea serpent for some particular bit of double-dealing by her father. So as a fun side project, he decides to take on the monster.

If that's his idea of fun, you can see why Hera was totally on the wrong track.

Another person on the wrong track was Laomedon, but more on that in a bit. The monster comes, and Heracles blasts it with arrows. This has absolutely no effect whatsoever. Just when it looks like Heracles is doomed, and the serpent darts in to swallow him whole, he picks up a giant rock and bashes the monster's head in. Just like that.

Where Laomedon goes wrong is by not learning his lesson and continuing to be a cheapskate. The rescue fee was to be some quality horses, to be picked up at a later date. Having been threatened with divine wrath once, and barely getting away with it, you'd think Laomedon would have the horses all packaged up with nice big bows. But no, he decides to cheat Heracles out of them, or, in other words, cheat the guy strong enough to divert divine wrath.

The outcome is hardly a surprise – Troy is sacked by Heracles and his 18 ships (or even, in earlier versions, 6), Laomedon is killed, and Priam is made king in the aftermath. The same Priam that is king during the big Trojan War. In fact, one of Agamemnon's captains is a son of Heracles, who can't help but point out that dear old dad managed to do with 6 ships what Agamemnon hasn't been able to accomplish with 1,000.

On a final note, Hesione stands out for me as one of the smartest people in all of Greek mythology. After her rescue, when asked if she wanted to go with Heracles or back to her family, she immediately opted for Heracles. Sure, she got saved this time, but if her own father is ready to sacrifice her every time he sees a chance to save some cash, she'd be better off high-tailing it out of Troy. And Heracles wed her to one of his heroes, so she got the happy ever after. Unlike just about everyone else in the city of Troy.