mercsevera asked:

Hello! I was wondering if you could do a retelling of the birth of Hermes and the fight he gets into with Apollo for stealing his cattle?

OK, so I put this up to a public vote and this myth was by far the most popular choice, so here we go. If people don’t want to read a myth about a mouthy child prodigy stealing his half-brother’s cows, then press J on your keyboard now as this is going to be a long post. More info under the Read More, as always!

The story starts, as all good stories should, with a woman giving birth in a cave. The woman in this instance is Maia, who is giving birth to Zeus’ baby, because approximately 70% of all babies in Greek mythology belong to Zeus. Once she’s popped the baby out, she’s like “well, it’s time for a nap. Hermes, watch over yourself” and then she’s out like a light and Hermes is left to stare at the walls or something.

After a few hours, Hermes gets really bored with living the baby lifestyle, and so he decides to absolutely subvert the infant hegemony by immediately learning how to walk. Like the freakish genius baby that he is, he escapes from his swaddling and toddles all the way down to Pieria, where he finds a whole field of cows. Immediately, he’s just like “sweet, I’ve always wanted a whole field of cows” and starts stealing them. Being a complete genius, he realises that he has to cover his tracks, so he finds a whole load of cow-sized boots that are presumably just lying all about the place in Ancient Greece, and he puts these boots on the cows and leads them away to a little town called Pylos. As soon as Hermes has left, Apollo saunters into the field where he keeps his favourite cows, and when he notices that they’re gone, he drops to his knees dramatically and cries “I will have my vengeance, in this life or… well, the same life, thank goodness for immortality!” and he sweeps away in a haze of sunlight and glory. 

Once he’s at Pylos, Hermes hides all the cows in the grotto, when his little tummy starts rumbling. Apparently forgetting the fact that he’s a newborn baby and absolutely should not be on solid foods at this point, he decides to slaughter two of the cows as a sacrifice, and then he cooks up the leftover meet with a little sage and probably some mixed herbs and a lovely red wine roux. While he’s waiting for the meat to cook, he finds an adorable little tortoise wandering around outside the cave, and immediately he’s like “awesome, time to continue my sociopathic spree of animal slaughter” and he kills the tortoise and cleans out the shell, stretching some of the cow hide and tendons across it, and bam, he’s invented the lyre. After playing a few prodigal ballads on his rad new instrument, he decides that he’s tired and it’s absolutely time for a little nap and maybe a burp or two, and so he waddles back home to Kyllene, where Maia, who is definitely not up for the mother of the year award, doesn’t even realise that he’s been missing and is covered in cow entrails.

Meanwhile, Apollo is doing some absolutely stellar detective work, probably whilst wearing his special detective hat, the one with the blue ribbon around the brim which brings out the cornflower hue of his eyes, because no-one steals Apollo’s cows and gets away with it. Seething with rage, he goes into the heart of the town of Pylos, and to the first woman he sees, he’s like “look, this is probably a really strange question, but have you by any chance seen a shitload of cows?” and the woman nods, briefly dumbstruck by Apollo’s jawline, and she says “this is probably a really strange answer, but I’m pretty sure I saw a baby leading a really well-organised line of cattle wearing shoes right through the heart of our fine town” and Apollo blinks and he’s like “shoes” and the woman says “yes, without socks” and Apollo says “a baby” and the woman nods and says “a human baby” and Apollo frowns and says “are you sure it was a baby and not just a tiny bald man?” and the woman shakes her head and says “it was definitely a baby, I don’t usually get confused between my infant son and my withered grandfather” and Apollo just sighs and says “well, that’s really thrown me for a loop, I have absolutely no idea who this nefarious baby could possibly be” and the woman is like “judging by your cheekbones, I would say that you’re probably a god, so why don’t you just use your whole divine science mojo and get it over and done with?” and then Apollo blinks, briefly denying the woman a glimpse of his azure gaze, and he’s like “that is the best idea I’ve ever heard from a woman, I will do just that”

and so, Apollo taps into his super special psychic abilities, and immediately he’s like “that goddamn little shit, I should’ve known it would be a devious child of Zeus that did this, honestly all of Zeus’ kids are just so terrible and badly behaved, he’s like a walking advertisement for vasectomies” and the woman is like “but aren’t you a child of Zeus?” and Apollo just pushes her to one side and he’s all “quiet, woman, I have a baby to physically overpower” and then he’s off to Kyllene to fuck an infant up.

At Kyllene, Hermes is sitting in his crib, being really adorable and cherubic and basically the epitome of everything a non-criminal baby should be, when Apollo bursts in, stark and handsome against the bright light outside the cave, and he’s like “arrest that baby! I have reason to believe he has partaken in a bovine conspiracy” and Maia is like “you are aware that he is literally three hours old?” and Apollo nods sagely and says “it’s a bitter pill to swallow but the worst kind of criminals start young, now hand that baby over and no-one gets hurt, except probably that baby” and then Hermes opens his little rosebud mouth and says “you’ve got the wrong man, Apollo, this is madness” and he smirks wryly and Maia’s mouth just falls open and she whispers “I’m getting Mensa on the phone right now” but Apollo ignores her and hisses “you won’t get away with this, Hermes, your one man crime spree is over” and Hermes just snorts and he’s like “dude, I’m a baby, you won’t convince a jury” and Apollo narrows his eyes and says “we’ll see about that, sunshine” and then Hermes just says “no, you’re sunshine” and then Apollo leaves to go and do the mature thing, which is to call their dad.

When Zeus arrives, Apollo is like “you have to do something, my incredibly recent half-brother has stolen all my favourite cows” and Zeus sighs and he’s all “can’t your mother fix it?” and Apollo is like “his mother isn’t the same as mine, dad, jeeze, I just said he was my half-brother” and Zeus blinks and he’s like “oh yes, of course, you’re my son. Haha, I totally knew that, son. Let’s go and sort this out, son” and Apollo is like “please stop calling me ‘son’, it’s weird” and Zeus is like “I agree, we will never speak of this again” and they go into the cave.

Immediately, Hermes just throws his little pudgy hands in the air and says “whatever Apollo says I did, I didn’t do it” and Zeus narrows his eyes and says “you’re both more verbose and defensive than the average baby, aren’t you?” and Hermes is like “what can I say, I got some traits from my dad” and then they make finger guns at each other and Apollo just starts banging his head against the cave wall and says really wearily “my cows, dad” and then Zeus clears his throat and tries to arrange his face into a serious expression and says “son, what’s all this about Apollo’s cows?” and Hermes is like “I didn’t steal them from under his nose and sacrifice some of them and turn one of them into a lyre and plectrum” and Apollo just shouts “I can’t believe what I’m hearing!” and Hermes scoffs and says “then fix your hearing, I just said I didn’t do it” and Zeus is like “you totally did it, didn’t you” and Hermes has the grace to look a bit bashful as well as proud and says “yeah, I may have very slightly done it” and Zeus beams and turns to Apollo and he’s like “are you kidding me? This absolutely fantastic baby of mine managed to steal your cows and invented an entire musical instrument! This is better than the time I stole a human male with the promise of cups” and Apollo just whimpers and Zeus sighs and he’s like “right, Hermes, let’s stop your brother’s bitching once and for all. Show me where you hid these cows” and Hermes whines “but daaaaad” and Zeus is like “no buts, I am putting my foot down and temporarily assuming the role of a father figure” and Apollo is like “you are literally our father” and Zeus says “for the next few hours, yes” and before Apollo can make a pithy rebuttal about parental responsibilities, Hermes is leading them to Pylos.

As soon as they get to Pylos, Apollo just runs over to his cows and starts hugging them, murmuring things like “don’t worry, papa’s here, no-one’s going to hurt you now” and Zeus looks at Hermes and says “he’s getting a bit Pasiphaë over this, isn’t he?” and Hermes is like “yeah, I’m starting to worry that he’s going to try and get revenge on me somehow” and Zeus takes him to one side and says “between you and me, son, I think you should apologise” and Hermes is like “I literally cannot do that, it goes against all my ethics as a spoilt brat, but I guess I could give him that sweet lyre I made from the flesh of his pets” and Zeus is like “that’s an excellent idea, son, we’ll make a diplomat of you yet”. So, Hermes goes over to Apollo and gives him the lyre, and says “no hard feelings, bro?” and Apollo just blinks and asks “what is that?” and Hermes is like “well, I tore the skin off your favourite cow and made it into this really beautiful instrument” and Apollo is about to start screaming when Hermes just holds up his hands and says “we can get into the ethics of that later, but first, here’s Wonderwall” and he starts playing a really haunting melody on this fantastic instrument, and when he’s finished, Apollo just blinks and says “I want it” and Hermes is like “if you promise to put this whole silly thing behind us, then it’s a deal” and Apollo is like “put what whole silly thing behind us?” and Hermes is about to clarify when he sees that Apollo is making a finger gun at him, and Hermes rolls his eyes and makes a finger gun back, and Apollo says “bro” and Hermes says “bro” and then Zeus is like “sons” and they all just hug it out in the beautiful scenic fields of Pylos.

And then, many months later, Zeus promotes Hermes to the role of his personal herald and messenger, because nothing says ‘employee of the month’ quite like juvenile petty theft.

My other retellings can be found here; my dedicated mythology blog is here; and my Mythology Mondays Facebook page is here. The latter two links also allow you to follow my progress in writing a whole actual book. Thrilling.

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