Cerberus was the guardian of Hades, the underworld, domain of the dead. He was the child of Echinda, a half-woman, half serpent, and Typhon, a fire-breathing giant. With three heads, and (some say) a serpent for a tail and snake's heads on his back, Cerberus had a double task - he would not allow any creature still living to enter earth's realm, and he would allow none to leave, whether alive or dead.

Only a few were ever able to get past Cerberus. One of these was Persephone, goddess of innocence and mistress of the underworld. She was the child of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and Zeus, ruler of the gods. The ruler of Hades kidnapped Persephone to rule with him, but after Demeter threatened that nothing would ever grow again, the gods arranged that she would spend half the year in Hades, and the other half on earth, giving us winter and summer. Cerberus allows Persephone to pass each time the seasons change.

Another who got past was Orpheus, a musician. He played the lyre, a kind of harp. When his wife, Eurydice, died, he went to Hades to get her back. He played his lyre with such grace and skill that it lulled Cerberus to sleep. Orpheus was able to bring Eurydice to the gates of Hades, but in the growing light, he looked back to see if she was behind him (which he had been forbidden to do until they were both safely among the living), and she was returned to her place among the dead.)

Hercules, however, was the most famous to best Cerberus. As the last of his twelve labors, Hercules had to bring Cerberus to the king Eurystheus. Hercules went to the ruler of the underworld, who said that if Hercules could take Cerberus without the use of any weapons, Hercules would be allowed to leave the underworld with the beast and to return to the land of the living. Cerberus is one of the few monsters who ever met Hercules and survived.

Cerberus: SIR- ber- uss
Echinda: eh- KIN- duh
Typhon: TIE- fon
Persephone: per- SEFF- uh- nee
Demeter: duh- MEE- ter
Orpheus: ORFF- ee- uss
Eurydice: you- RID- ih- see (that third syllable is the short "i", like in "sit".)
Hercules: HER- kyoo- leez
Eurystheus: you- RISS- thee- uss


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