Hercules the Hero: Understanding the Myth
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The Sixth Labor: the Stymphalian Birds
Eurystheus continued to find increasingly difficult tasks for Hercules to face. The next was to remove a hoard of ferocious birds which had bronze beaks, claws and feathers. The beaks could penetrate a mans breastplate and a feather falling from the air could kill a man. They lived in a dense swamp known as the Stymphalian [stim-FAIL-ee-an] Marsh which was surrounded by a thick forest. It was nearly impenetrable. Hercules attempted to shoot at the birds with his bow and arrow, but couldn’t permeate the thick vegetation. The goddess Athena once again came to his assistance and gave him a pair of bronze krotala, or castanets, which were forged by Hephaistos [heh-FAIS-tos], the god of the forge. Hercules climbed a nearby mountain and clapped the krotala together. Their noise and its echo so disturbed the birds that they flew up out of the hiding place and off to the Isle of Ares in the Black Sea. Hercules was able to shoot down a few with his bow and arrow. He gathered them up to take back to Eurystheus to prove that the deed had been done. It was not the last that Hercules was to see of these fierce and savage birds. He would meet them again later in his life when he sailed with the Argonauts.