Greek Myths 4 Kids Presents: CASE FILES
FROM THE HERCULES DETECTIVE AGENCY
CASE FILE: The Monster Under the Bridge
No Problem Too Large or Too Small, Reasonable Fees
Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)
Hercules was up on top of his home fixing the roof when he spotted a group of villagers approaching. Hercules felt a job for the Hercules Detective Agency might be approaching, so he climbed down from his roof, curious to hear what the villagers might say.
"Hercules," one man spoke up as the villagers approached. "We need your help."
Hercules nodded encouragingly. He waited. He had learned that waiting without saying anything was quite often the best way to hear a problem.
The spokesperson pulled himself together. "We have long had a monster living under the bridge that connects our city to the main road to Athens."
Hercules tried not to look too excited. But he actually was quite excited. He had not had a chance to beat a monster for quite a while. "Okay," said Hercules, without waiting to hear anything else. "I can take care of your monster for you."
"No, that is not our problem," explained the spokesperson. "Our problem is that our monster has disappeared."
That surprised Hercules and he was not often surprised. He tried not to say anything to allow the villagers to speak, but he was too astonished. "I'm not sure I understand."
"You see Hercules, the monster under our bridge never bothered the people of our village. It only came out if bad men arrived to attack or rob our village. We don't know how it could tell the difference between good people and bad people, but it could. Peaceful visitors, traders and wandering storytellers were never bothered. But bandits and other attackers were dealt with. But now it's gone and we are defenseless."
This was an unusual problem, but Hercules nodded, understandingly. He had a monster of his own that he would miss very much, his friend Tor, the Minotaur, who lived in secret in the hut on the other side of his courtyard. "When did you notice it was gone?" Hercules asked, to give himself a clue.
The men discussed it for a few moments. Then one said, "We think it might have been right after the spring floods. This year the flood was a torrent. It was the worst it has ever been. The flood waters were so powerful that they washed away our old wooden bridge. We have since built a new, stronger bridge but our monster seems to have moved away."
"Are you sure he's gone?" Hercules asked.
"We knew for certain when two weeks ago two unknown men robbed a prominent merchant at spear point, then escaped over the new bridge," explained another villager.
"What is it exactly that you want me to do?" asked Hercules. He needed to know so he could figure out what to charge them. There were quite a few things he needed, a new roof for one. But it was a monster case. That was important too. He knew he would take this case, no matter what.
"We want you to find our monster and bring him home," agreed the villagers.
Hercules tried to look totally unenthusiastic, but did not quite pull it off. He loved cases with monsters. "I will take your case," Hercules said, trying not to sound too excited. "But it will be expensive. Handling monsters is not easy. How are you going to pay me?"
"We are farmers, Hercules. We will pay you with food."
"Deal," said Hercules without hesitation. Roofs were nice. Food was better.
Hercules went with the villagers back to their village. When he got there, he saw the village was well protected by a steep ravine with a rushing river at its bottom. It would have been quite safe from most attacks except for the well-constructed stone bridge over the ravine that connected the village to the road to Athens.
"This is the new bridge?" asked Hercules, just to make sure.
"Yes," agreed all the villagers at once. "We thought the monster would love this new and improved look, but we have not seen it since the original bridge washed away," added the spokesperson.
Then this is where I start, Hercules thought to himself.
Hercules looked around but could find no trace of any monster. He started downstream looking for the old bridge. The villagers followed him.
He turned around. "I'll let you know what I find out." Hercules resumed drifting down stream as the villagers returned home.
He traveled for quite a distance. Finally, a ways down the ravine, on the river bank below, Hercules spotted the shattered remains of the old wooden bridge. As Hercules approached, a large, ferocious looking monster rushed out of the ruins, roaring and waving its arms.
"Monster, stop right there!" shouted Hercules. "I am Hercules and I will put a real hurting on you if you come any closer."
"Hercules!" cried the monster, immediately stopping its roaring. "Hercules, I mean you no harm."
"Why are you here with the ruins of this old bridge?" asked Hercules. "Your villagers have built a strong, new stone bridge to replace it."
"It is a sad story, Hercules," said the monster. "Would you like to hear it?"
"Please," said Hercules. "Enlighten me."
"In my youth I was a typical monster. Terrorizing people, stealing goats and cattle to eat, tearing up houses and barns. And just doing what monsters do."
Nothing he had said so far seemed to require a response, so Hercules did what he had learned to do. He waited.
"One day," the monster continued with his story, "I was rampaging through a village. This village was sacred to Zeus. In the village center was a large oak tree the villagers had planted to honor Zeus. This tree had grown into a magnificent tree."
"Oh dear," blurted Hercules in spite of himself. He had a bad feeling he knew what was coming.
The monster flashed Hercules a bleak look. "As a monster, I had no conception of right and wrong. I ripped the tree up by its roots and smashed the temple of Zeus with it."
Hercules tried not to say anything, to encourage the monster to continue his story, but his face showed pity and understanding. Zeus was his father. He knew Zeus would not have been pleased.
"I can see from your face that you suspect what happened next. And you're right. My actions caught the attention of the mighty god, Zeus. He put a curse on me, attaching me to this tree until I atoned for all my bad actions." The monster sighed heavily. "The villagers had no idea what had just happened but they took the wood from the oak tree. They milled it into timbers. They used the timbers to build a bridge. I have been living under that bridge ever since. I have been trying to atone for my past misdeeds by protecting the village hoping Zeus might take pity on me and remove the curse."
Hercules thought about what he had heard. The monster was right. It was a sad story. But it was a hopeful one, too. "Let me ask you something, monster," Hercules said carefully. "I want you to answer me honestly. There is no right or wrong answer. There is only your answer. Were you happy living under the bridge and protecting the villagers from harm?"
The monster blinked. It was obvious that he had never thought about it before. "You know something, Hercules. I was happy. The villagers loved me. There was one little girl who brought me food. I can find my own food, but it was so sweet." Hercules could hear the happiness in his voice. "A lot of villagers would come by and talk to me. They thought I was wonderful. That made me feel wonderful and act wonderful. I liked that. I liked that a great deal." His voice grew sad. "But I cannot live under the new bridge. I am tied to this bridge whether I want to be or not."
"Actually," Hercules told him. "You are not tied to this bridge. You are tied to the wood. If the villagers want you back, they will need to work hard and carry these timbers that hold you prisoner back to the new bridge. It's quite a ways for people to carry heavy timbers. But I think they'll find a way, especially if I help them. They can use the wood to strengthen the new bridge and make it a safe place for you to live. Would you like that?"
The monster roared. Hercules chose to think of his roar as an expression of agreement.
"Wait here," Hercules directed the monster.
The monster laughed. "I will. I must."
Hercules told the villagers what needed to be done. The entire village, down to the smallest child, hurried down the river to where the old bridge had washed up on the shore. The monster hid behind trees, but the villagers soon coached him out. In no time, the monster was helping the village by piling timbers on their wagons. Hercules helped, too. He carried loads of timber up the riverbank. As the last timber was loaded onto a wagon, the monster followed the wagon home to the new stone bridge.
There was a great deal of hammering that afternoon. And some singing. And some feasting. And some very happy villagers and one very happy monster.
The monster had his home back under the bridge and the villagers had their protection.
That very evening, without wasting any time, Hercules visited his father, the mighty Zeus, on Mount Olympus. When Hercules told Zeus the story Zeus was moved and was going to remove the curse from the monster.
"Father, I think .. if I might make a suggestion," Hercules said hastily before his father could do anything. "Everyone is actually happy with the way things are. If you remove the curse the monster will go away and go back to being a monster, while the village loses it protector. He might not want to leave. But he is a monster and will do what monsters do, unless he is helped. Father, I suggest that it is far better if you leave the curse where it is."
"Hercules," said his father, the mighty Zeus, "I believe that you are right."
Late that night, when Hercules finally returned home, he did not have to think about what to name this case. This was one of those cases that named itself. Hercules filed The Case of the Monster Under The Bridge with the other case files from The Hercules Detective Agency and went to bed. He had had a very busy day.