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Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books for Kids

Meet the Monsters – Hydras

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Meet the Monsters is a web series providing background on the mythological creatures featured in MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES.

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HYDRAS

According to Greek and Roman mythology, the Hydra of Lerna (aka Lernaean Hydra, or simply Hydra) was a multi-headed snake-like water monster. The Hydra’s counterpart in Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian mythology was a seven-headed serpent. The Hydra’s lair was the spring of Amymone, a cave at Lerna lake in the Argolid region of Greece. The Hydra served as a guard for Lerna lake, which was considered an entrance to Hades’s underworld.

 

hydra02The Hydra was the offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna (herself half snake and half woman). These two begat other famous monstrous spawn, including Cerberus (the three-headed dog who guarded the gates of Hades), Chimera (part lion, part goat, and part dragon), the Sphinx (a monster with the body of a winged lion and woman’s head), the Nemean lion, and the Caucasian Eagle (who subsisted on a daily diet of Prometheus’s liver). Imagine the family dinners…

hydra03The seven labors of Hercules began with him slaying the Hydra’s sibling, the Nemean lion. Hercules second labor was to defeat the Hydra. According to legend, Hercules approached the spring of Amymone and fired flaming arrows into the cave. As Hercules cut off heads from the Hydra, he discovered its rather disturbing ability to grow back two heads in place of a severed one. Hercules’s nephew Iolaus suggested using fire to cauterize the Hydra’s neck after each decapitation to prevent regeneration. This gruesome innovation succeeded. Finally, Hercules dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s poisonous blood. He subsequently put those poison arrows to good use fighting the Stymphalian Birds, the giant Geryon, and the centaur Nessus.

hydra04Hydras appear in the movies Jason and the Argonauts and Hercules, the fantasy miniatures game Warhammer, and the books BIBLIOTHECA by Apollodorus, PERCY JACKSON: THE LIGHTNING THIEF by Rick Riordan, and MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES by Henry Herz.

Interestingly, two real-world animals now bear the names of hydra and echidna.


Gustav Moreau’s 19th-century depiction of the Hydra

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Pollaiuolo’s Hercules and the Hydra (c. 1475)

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Caeretan black-figure hydra (c. 346 BC)

 

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Author: Henry Herz

Children's book author

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