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Myth Monday: Hermes

Let’s talk about Hermes!

Hermes is the son of Zeus and Maia and was born in a cave on Kyllene.

Hermes was swaddled and put in a cradle outside of the cave. As all newborn gods do, he got up and walked away. He came upon Apollo’s cows and stole them. To cover his tracks he put boots on the cows’ feet. He hid all of them but two in a cave. Those two he sacrificed, ate, and pinned their hides on some rocks.

Outside the cave he hid the cows in, he found a tortoise. He took its shell, cleaned it, and made strings to stretch across it from the cows he had just sacrificed, creating a lyre! He also invented a plectrum (a thin piece of stiff but flexible material, in this case tortoiseshell, used to pluck the strings of a stringed instrument).

Apollo came looking for his cattle but couldn’t find them. No one knew where they went because they couldn’t trace the footprints, but they had all seen a boy leading them away. Apollo figured out it was Hermes and went to confront him, but when he arrived, Hermes was swaddled in his cradle again. Apollo knew Hermes took the cows, so he took Hermes to Zeus. In the end, Hermes had to lead Apollo to the cows, but when Apollo heard the lyre Hermes had made, he traded the cows for the musical instrument.

While Hermes was tending his new cattle, he created a shepherd's pipe, which Apollo also wanted. Apollo offered to trade his golden staff for the pipe, but Hermes wanted the staff and the knowledge of prophecy. Apollo agreed to the trade. In the end Zeus made Hermes his personal herald and messenger of the gods.

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