Greek Myths 4 Kids Presents: CASE FILES
FROM THE HERCULES DETECTIVE AGENCY
CASE FILE: The Three Harpies
No Problem Too Large or Too Small, Reasonable Fees
Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)
One beautiful Greek morning Hercules was out with his friend Pegasus. They were playing an interesting version of fetch. Hercules would throw a large stick up into the clouds and Pegasus would try to grab it before it dropped back to earth. They were having a grand time.
"Here it comes," Hercules shouted. He tossed a stick high up into the clouds. Pegasus darted after it. But neither the stick nor Pegasus came down out of the clouds. Hercules waited patiently figuring Pegasus was playing a trick on him. After a considerably amount of time, Hercules began to get worried. He asked Zephyr, the king of the west winds, to blow the clouds away. Pegasus could not hide in the clouds if there were no clouds to hide in!
Zephyr, who normally blew warm winds whenever it suited him and mostly ignored people cries for warm breezes, heard Hercules call for help. He liked Hercules. Hercules was always appreciative when he blew a warm wind his way, and never forgot to say thank you. Zephyr decided this was a favor he would grant. Using his powerful west wind, he blew at the clouds until the clouds had mostly blown away, except for a few wisps here and there.
"Thank you, Zephyr," Hercules shouted. Then he stared up into the sky. Hercules had been quite sure that he would spot Pegasus, no longer able to hide behind a cloud. But there was no sight of him. The skies were a vast expansion of beautiful blue, and empty of everything except the sun and a few lingering wisps of clouds too narrow to hide behind. If Pegasus had dropped from the sky, Hercules was sure he would have spotted him. Perhaps the sun had been in his eyes.
Hercules started hunting on land, but soon realized Pegasus was no where about. Truly, the only place to look for a sky creature was in the sky. But how could he fly up to search for his friend?
"I need Daedalus!" Hercules shouted to no one in particular. Daedalus was an inventor. One of his finest inventions let people fly. He had invented wings! They were fun to wear, but sooner or later the wings fell apart. People dropping unexpectedly out of the sky was dangerous. With regret, Daedalus had closed down one of his favorite inventions. But perhaps he had kept a pair. Hercules hoped so because wings were exactly what he needed. Thank goodness Daedalus lived nearby.
Hercules ran all the way. "Daedalus," Hercules shouted. "It's an emergency!"
Daedalus came running out of his villa. "Herc! What is it? How can I help?"
Hercules quickly explained what was going on and that he needed to borrow the wings Daedalus had made
Daedalus agreed immediately. After a short explanation on how the wings worked, he handed them over to Hercules. "Be careful," he reminded him. "They don't last long, and you are much heavily than the wings were designed to support. Actually, I'm not even sure you can get off the ground."
Hercules did not hear him. He had already taken to the sky. His powerful arms were flapping rapidly. From above, Hercules was able to spot something he had not been able to see from the ground. Caught in the top of a tall tree were some very distinctive feathers.
Hercules flapped his arms as hard as he could and kept a sharp eye out for more of the distinctive feathers. There - in that tree - there was something. Hercules flew closer. It was a huge nest. Lying in a soft feather-lined bed, surrounded by succulent grass and straw, Hercules found Pegasus with his wings tied so that he could not fly. He had a feather stuck in his hoof. Other than that, he appeared to be in good shape.
"You kicked your kidnappers, didn't you?" Hercules grinned at this friend.
Pegasus threw his head up and down proudly.
Seeing there was no one else in the area, Hercules quickly untied Pegasus. They were about to fly away when they found themselves surrounded by three very large birds. Each had the face of a human female. Hercules had heard of such creatures, half bird half woman, but he had always believed they were the stuff of whispers and legend. Harpies! The hounds of Zeus. Their job was to snatch evil doers with their very sharp claws and drag them to the Underworld, where Hades would deal with them. Legend said they tortured their victims on the way. Some people said they stole food and other things as well. That's what the Greek people believed happened to missing people and missing items. The Harpies had taken them. The word Harpies actually meant snatch. That's what the Harpies were - snatchers. But their faces! Greek artists often painted pictures of the three Harpies on vases. On vases, their faces were always beautiful. But there was nothing beautiful about the faces on the creatures surrounding him. They had wrinkled faces and smelled horribly. It was true about the claws, though, Hercules noticed.
One creature plucked a feather from the wings Hercules had strapped to his body. "They're not very strong are they?"
Hercules gave the creature a glare. "Leave those alone. And leave my friend alone," Hercules blustered. He was not afraid, not really, but he did think that perhaps some quick thinking might be needed immediately. "Why did you kidnap my friend?"
"We are the three Harpies," one of the Harpies announced proudly. "We are sisters. Like all sisters everywhere, sometimes we get along, and sometimes we fight. But we don't fight with hurting words. We fight with slashing claws. After our rage disappears, we often find we have shredded too many feathers to fly. If Zeus calls us, while we are healing, we cannot respond. That is not good. We need someone to settle our quarrels without feathers flying. We talked it over and decided we needed a king, just like the towns. They pick a king to settle their quarrels. We have done the same. This," the creature pointed at Pegasus, "is our new king."
Hercules stared at the Harpies in shock. "This is ridiculous. We're leaving," he bellowed.
The Harpies tightened their circle so that Hercules and Pegasus would have to shove them aside to escape.
"Be reasonable, Hercules," said one of the Harpies. "Zeus does not allow us to come down to earth unless he has sent us to grab someone evil. Sometimes he directs us to steal food and other things. Earth is off limits to us without his permission. How else can we find a king unless we pluck one out of the sky?"
"I'm leaving now," Hercules told them firmly. "I'm taking my friend with me."
The Harpies shook their feathers angrily. "We will not harm this horse and in exchange he will be our king. It's settled."
"It's not settled," Hercules said angrily. "I will put a thumpin' on you if you do not get out of my way."
The Harpies cringed. "But we must have a king," one cried. "We must have someone to settle our arguments."
There was no way around it. Hercules knew he had to make a deal with the Harpies. Even if this time they got safely away from their sharp claws. Hercules he knew they would kidnap Pegasus again first chance they had. Next time, he might not be able to find his friend as easily.
"I see your problem," Hercules said in his most reasonable voice. "But what you do not know is that Pegasus belongs to Zeus. Have you never seen them flying in the sky?"
The Harpies gasped. Their eyes widened in fear. "We don't actually seek out Zeus," blustered one of the Harpies. "If we spot him, we go the other way."
"I think I know someone who would agree to be your king, someone wise and powerful. But to bring that about, you will need to hire the Hercules Detective Agency. I solve problems when I am paid to do so."
The Harpies looked at each other. "How do you wish to be paid?" asked one.
"Some day I will need a group of powerful, flying creatures to do a job for me," said Hercules. "Your payment will be that you owe me one very large favor that I can call in when I need it."
"We cannot come to earth without permission," pointed out one of the Harpies quickly.
"I understand that. This favor will occur in the sky. I can find a king for you, but it might take me a couple of days," Hercules warned the Harpies. "There will be two conditions. One - your king must have a choice of whether or not to live with you, or simply appear each full moon to settle all your quarrels at once. And two - his decisions must be final so that new quarrels do not occur because of his decisions. In exchange, you will never attempt to kidnap Pegasus or any of my friends again. These are my terms. They are not open for discussion. Do we have a deal?"
The Harpies puffed their feathers. They snapped their claws. They made weird faces, possibly to communicate. "Deal," they agreed. "But do not take forever, Hercules, or we will think you have tried to trick us."
With considerable relief, Hercules and Pegasus flew safely away. After dropping Pegasus off at his home, Hercules took to the skies again, this time to confront another group of flying animals, the Griffins. Hercules flapped his wings as fast as he could and reached the mountainous area where the Griffins lived. Each Griffin had the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, and each was smart, strong, and cunning. Hercules figured a Griffin would be a perfect king, someone who was noble enough to awe even a Harpy.
Not many people knew this, but because the Griffins had needed his help once or twice, Hercules knew the Griffins mined, hoarded, and guarded a rich deposit of gold in the northern mountains. Hercules also knew the one-eyed monster tribe who lived nearby was forever battling the Griffins for their gold. It would be very helpful to the Griffin tribe to have three Harpies on their side.
Hercules landed and shouted up into the mountains. "Griffins, who among you would like to become a king?"
Several of the Griffins landed by Hercules. "Tell us more," the Griffins demanded.
"The Harpies need a king and I figured what more noble, strong, and wise creature than a Griffin. The king of the Harpies is a position of great power."
"I don't want to give up my home in the mountains, not even to be a king," said one Griffin. The others nodded in agreement.
"That's the best part. You don't have to. The Harpies have agreed to offer their king a choice. Their king can live with them and solve the quarrels that pop up between Harpies right away, or their king can appear at each full moon and solve all the quarrels they have piled up since the last full moon. Their king will decide who is right and who is wrong, without argument, and his decisions will be final. It's a good deal. It's a good deal for both of you. Being king of the Harpies would cost you nothing except to use your wisdom once each full moon to solve their quarrels. In exchange, you would have three powerful Harpies on your side in case of battle."
"That sounds like a pretty good proposition," said one of the Griffins. "How do we go about this?"
"You must decide amongst yourselves who the new king is going to be. Then I will take that Griffin to the Harpy nest and introduce the lucky Griffin to them. However, there is a cost. The Griffin tribe will owe me one large favor."
"Deal," said the leader of the Griffins. "We will choose one of us to go with you."
This was soon done.
Returning to the Harpy nest, the chosen-to-be-king Griffin settled in nicely and everyone appeared to be happy, at least for now.
Hercules returned the remains of the wings to Daedalus. He apologized for losing so many feathers on his travels, but Daedalus waved his apology aside. Daedalus was delighted to learn his invention had played an important part in solving what could have been a very nasty problem. He too was very fond of Pegasus.
The minute he got home, he jumped in the river near his hut. He was quite filthy. He rubbed oil on his arms to soothe them. His arms were tired after flapping across the sky. Flying, Hercules decided, was very hard work. Scrubbed and feeling better, Hercules realized he had been smelling something quite delicious. He followed his nose to his courtyard. The Minotaur and Pegasus, working together, had created a deliciously smelling stew pot full of vegetables, bubbling over the fire. There was warm bread, too.
"There you are," the Minotaur smiled. "We want to hear all about it."
Hercules settled down to enjoy an especially nice supper. Without mentioning the Griffin gold, or how he had convinced the Griffins to choose one of their own to become king of the Harpies, Hercules told his two good friends - the Minotaur and the flying horse, Pegasus - what had happened.
"Do you think it's possible that there are more than three Harpies in the world?" the Minotaur asked.
Hercules shrugged. It was not something he wished to consider. "I hope not," was all he said.
After the three friends had finished supper and tidied up, the Minotaur yawned home to his hut. Pegasus flew away. And Hercules, with a full, happy tummy, named this file The Case of the Three Harpies, and tucked himself into bed.