The fun thing about writing a series of books is that you’re always looking ahead. I’m still working on the second book in my Heracles trilogy, but I’ve also been looking ahead to some of the labours he will face in the third. This week I’ve been considering Geryon and the tenth labour.
Geryon was a giant who lived on an island at the end of the earth, near the stream of Ocean (the river that encircled the world). He was a son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe. His father, Chrysaor, sprang up from the body of Medusa after she was slain by Perseus, while his mother, Callirrhoe was the offspring of two Titans, Oceanus and Tethys. Geryon owned a herd of red cattle that were watched over by Eurytion and his two-headed dog, Orthus. Heracles’s job was to steal the cattle and bring them back to Tiryns.
Despite his great strength (he was even stronger than Heracles) and his ferocious temper, the most fascinating thing about Geryon is his appearance. As usual with Greek mythology, different ancient writers say different things on the subject. Depending on who you read, this giant had a single body with three heads, or three heads and three torsos with six arms and two legs, or even three heads, three bodies, twelve limbs and wings!
This is an exciting challenge for any writer’s imagination, as is how to kill him off. Some say he was immortal, or that he had powers of regeneration that meant Heracles had to somehow kill all three bodies at the same time. Others say Heracles brought him down with an arrow dipped in the poisonous blood of the Hydra. I can say this much for certain: my Heracles won’t be having it that easy.