The Golden Apples of Hesperides
The third labor Hercules and this is one of my favorites. It is the gathering of the golden apples of Hesperides. Hercules was commanded to go and gather these golden apples in this elusive field, he was told it would be difficult and he was not given much instruction as to how to do it. He was just told to go and find the golden apples of Hesperides. This was the third great labor and his teacher sent him on this mission.
He was not even sure what he was looking for outside of golden apples and they were well guarded and so he went high and low around the countryside and asked people everywhere he went about the golden apples and nobody seemed to know where they were. In other labors he confined his search to certain areas but in this one he searched throughout the entire earth – searching north and south and east and west even though he had very few clues.
Finally, the teacher thought Hercules was not making much progress “so we are going to send one of our guys to give him some help.” So they sent him Nereus to help Hercules find these apples. So Hercules kept bumping into him and Nereus kept giving him these hints and Hercules was oblivious to them as he bumped into Nereus again and again. He gave him other hints and Hercules ignored him.
This happened repeatedly until they about gave up trying to help Hercules find the golden apples but Hercules did not give up and kept looking and he finally received a clue. He went south and he found the golden apples, but a great and powerful dragon guarded the golden apples. Now Hercules had fought a dragon just after he was born and he thought fighting this dragon would be easy. He wrestled with this dragon and found that he could not overcome it and he struggled and struggled and the dragon kept getting stronger and stronger and then finally he had an idea. He noticed that the dragon seemed to take power from the earth and so he picked up the dragon and held it up in the air and as he held the dragon in the air the dragon seemed to lose its strength. So he kept the dragon in the air until he died and then he continued on his quest for the golden apples.
Then he met this teacher named Busiris and this teacher seemed to have the answers for everything and was so wonderful that he forgot all about searching for the golden apples. This teacher seemed to have great wisdom and completely captivated Hercules. Finally the teacher turned on him and bound and chained Hercules to a chair and kept him there for a full year bound and chained to this chair.
During this period Hercules still loved his teacher and finally after about a year Hercules realized this was not right – that his teacher should keep him bound like this – and he finally lifted himself as a son of God and he broke free from the chains and took his teacher and bound him the chair with the chains and he left him.
Then he continued on his quest to find the golden apples again. The next step as he was searching for the golden apples he came across Prometheus and he was bound and chained on this mountain and the vultures were trying to eat him up. They were picking at his liver and he was bleeding and he was in great pain. When Hercules saw that Prometheus was suffering so he said I cannot let this man suffer. So he gave up his quest for the golden apples and decided to help Prometheus and he broke Prometheus free and lead him to safety.
So Hercules began his quest to search for the golden apples one more time, and as he was searching for them again he came across Atlas who was holding the world on his shoulders. This was a great struggle for Atlas because he had the whole weight of the world on his shoulders and he was in great pain and discomfort, but Atlas felt a tremendous responsibility and he continued to hold the world upon his shoulders.
Hercules felt sorry for Atlas so he said, “I will give you reprieve. If you will slide the world over on my shoulders then I will hold it for you and you can go free.” And Atlas said well that sounds like a good deal and so Atlas slid the world over to Hercules shoulders and as he did this the world slid off of Hercules shoulders.
It turned out that the world could take care of itself. Not only was Atlas free but Hercules did not have to carry the weight of the world. After this happened Atlas said, “I have the golden apples,” and he went and picked apples from the tree and he handed them to Hercules. Then three maidens also picked apples from the tree and handed them to Hercules. It turned out that the apples could only be found through the journey that Hercules took.
So let us go through this parable and examine it. What do you suppose the golden apples represented?
Copyright by J J Dewey
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