Weird myths: Baby Hermes

It’s been ages since I did a mythology post! After my review of The Dark Prophecy, I think it’s about time. This one even features Apollo!

Being a baby is for babies

If you’ve read my post about Hermes, you know I promised you a weird myth. So let’s get on with it!

First, try to imagine a newborn Hermes, in a crib in the cave where his mother, Maia, lives. Makes sure you’ve got that image in your mind. Baby god. Only just born this very morning. Got it? All right. Now imagine that baby thinking ‘Acting like an actual baby? Ain’t nobody got time for that!’, and crawling out of his crib to discover the world.

Inventing a musical instrument? No big deal (a baby could do it)

When Hermes left the cave, he encountered a tortoise. Somehow he got the brilliant idea to kill the tortoise and turn its shell into a string instrument – thereby inventing the lyre. He was playing the instrument by midday. By that time, he’d also gotten hungry. So instead of going back to his mother to ask for food, he decided to steal Apollo’s herd of cattle. Because who wouldn’t pass up a chance to annoy their half-siblings?

Make a sacrifice to yourself, why not

Hermes stole the cattle at night, carefully covering his traces. He did meet an old man along the way, but he promised him a good harvest if he wouldn’t tell anyone he’d seen Hermes. By morning, Hermes made fire – the first one to make a fire using friction between sticks – and sacrificed two of the cows to the gods, including himself. (Gods don’t actually eat meat, but inhale the vapours coming from sacrifices.) Then he destroyed the evidence and went back to his mother’s cave.

Don’t trust mortals (but also definitely don’t trust Hermes)

The next morning, he acted like a normal, helpless baby. His mother wouldn’t buy any of that, though. So he assured her she didn’t have to worry because even if he had been up to no good, he was really good at it. By then, Apollo had found out who had stolen his cattle through the old man and a few friendly omens. He went up to Maia’s cave to confront Hermes. Hermes, of course, denied everything. He couldn’t have committed any crime, because he had only been born yesterday! In the end they had to get Zeus involved to solve the dispute. He ordered Hermes to show Apollo where he had hid the cattle, and that was that.

Music solves everything

In reconciliation, Hermes showed Apollo his new invention, the lyre, and played a few tunes. Apollo was immediately entranced by the instrument, Hermes gave it to him as an apology, and the two became BFFs. (Hermes also promised never to steal anything from Apollo ever again.)


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