Cerberus was a three-headed hellhound who guarded the entrance to the Underworld. Except sometimes he was not three-headed. Sometimes he was depicted as having a whole bushel of heads and other times as having just one. Apparently – and I did not know this before I embarked on my drawing – he also had a mane composed of snakes, the tail of a serpent and lion’s claws. I bet he was at the pound for a long time before he was rehomed.
Cerberus was another of the monstrous offspring of Echidna and Typhon, making him a sibling to the Chimera and Hydra. The capture of this monstrous beastie was one of the Labours of Heracles. Ultimately the real challenge for Heracles was entering and exiting the Underworld while being very much alive. When it came to capturing Cerberus, all he actually had to do was ask Hades who in turn set him the task of overpowering the dog without recourse to weapons. Heracles, with his legendary strength, found this to be no bother at all. It’s almost as if Hades wanted shot of Cerberus so as to avoid the massive pet food bills ….
As I had done with his siblings, I chose to depict Cerberus as a young’un. I asked myself what a monstrous three-headed puppy would look like. My 7 year old has an obsessive notion for a pet pug. He’s even picked a name out for it: Russell. It’s not happening. However, this meant that I did a rough sketch idea for a pug version of Cerberus. I just could not get the scale to work though: three round heads would not fit on to such a short and stocky body. Trying and failing to resolve that problem then resulted in my brainwave of making Cerberus a dachshund.
In order to maintain some of the monstrosity of Cerberus – as opposed to him being the type of critter my kids would beg to have as a pet – I did add some sharp claws and painted him red. I thought red was the most obvious colour for a hellhound. Though I’ve never been a fan of chartreuse so maybe that would be the colour of hell. The heads, however, don’t have even a modicum of menace in them. They are just dappy, sloppy and sappy, like those of a pet puppy. Clearly Cerberus would have to go to dog training school to learn how to be a ferocious beast who ate raw flesh and protect the gates of the Underworld.
Here, Cerberus! Good dog!