The Nemean Lion and his colleague the Erymanthian Boar were both ferocious monsters. The Nemean Lion – yet another child of Typhon and Echidna – had golden fur that was invincible to attack and claws so sharp they could tear through armour while the Erymanthian Boar was simply vicious and wild with no super-powers.
Both were ultimately defeated by Heracles as part of his Twelve Labours. The destruction of the Nemean Lion was indeed his first task. Heracles trapped the beast in its cave and then clubbed and strangled it to death, having discovered that no weapons could pierce its hide. He then used one of the lion’s own claws to flay it and he then wore the lion skin about himself for protection. The capture of the Erymanthian Boar was Heracles’ fourth labour. On the advice of Chiron the Centaur, Heracles drove the Boar into deep snow to give himself an advantage and then wrestled it.
I decided to draw the monsters waiting around for Heracles to show up. Thinking of the Aesop’s Fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, I imagined them being rather complacent, anticipating easy victory, not preparing at all, as they assumed they would easily defeat their foe. I drew them sitting back to back, trading stories of humans they had ripped to shreds. They both look rather goofy and the Erymanthian Boar would probably benefit from going on a diet.
My sons love reading a book they own all about the Twelve Tasks of Heracles so I am actually surprised it took this long for him to appear on their list. Heracles (or Hercules to give him his better-known, Roman name) is probably the most famous of the Greek heroes and a symbol of machismo. One of the most incredible statues I have ever seen in real life is the copy of the Farnese Hercules in Naples. The sculpting of his bulging muscles, the wonderfully implied weight in his stance, the perfection of the composition are just breath-taking. He also has a rather lovely bum and I am quite a fan of aesthetically pleasing rumps. There was no way I was even going to attempt that sort of version of Heracles.
As a fan of the Disney movie ‘Hercules’, I could have taken the same route as those script writers and animators and made Heracles clumsy in his strength, uncertain of his heroic status, awkward in his role, sweet but naïve, a thoroughly decent bloke. However, what I decided to do was depict him as being a muscle-bound braggart, all swagger and no substance, more braun than brain.
So I drew Heracles with upraised arms, showing off “the guns”. He has a lantern jaw complete with manly chin-bum and a smirking smile of superciliousness. Then there is the priapic quiff hairdo to add to the sense of him being a man’s man, ladykiller macho guy. And then I undermined it all by dressing him up in a leotard and gymslip, like a cheerleader’s uniform that shrunk in the wash.
Three days and three monsters. With forty subjects to draw, there have to be some humans in the mix, but it seems my kids wanted me to start with monsters. Today it is the Hydra.
The Lernaean Hydra was a serpent or dragon that guarded one of the entrances to the Underworld. It had toxic blood and poisonous breath but it’s most famous feature was that, when decapitated, two heads would spring up in place of the one that had just been lopped off. Therefore, each attempt at defeating it would only result in making it much more deadly. The monster was, of course, slain by Heracles (and not Hercules since I am being Greek about this rather than Roman) as his second Labour. His novel idea was to cauterize the neck stumps each time he chopped a head off so that the Hydra was prevented from sprouting replacements. In such a way, the Hydra was then made vulnerable and was defeated when the last head was severed. In an act of “waste not want not”, Heracles dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s blood which then assisted him in completing other Labours.
The Hydra was another child of Typhon and Echidna and is, as such, a sibling to my Chimera from the first day of the challenge. That gave me the idea to draw the Hydra as a baby, as I had done with the Chimera. That handily also meant that I avoided the pressure of trying to make it look terrifying. I find it much easier to draw cute than scary. This, however, was the first drawing in which my finished drawing diverges from the sketch. I had been trying to make the juvenile Hydra look dissimilar from a dragon so had given it horns in my sketch but somehow the other dragon elements crept in so I capitulated and decided to just go with the many-headed dragon look. In that case, the horns just looked lame so I added sharp triangular plates along the length of the body, heads and tail for my finished drawing. When it came to choosing the colour, I was tempted by purple and aqua just because I happen to like those colours together right now. I also thought that the Hydra was definitely a reptile who would not need to resort to camouflage so could be whatever colour it wanted and that, as with poisonous lizards and frogs, maybe a bright colour would advertise its deadly potency. So I justified my use of purple and aqua. I think he looks rather endearing. Nasty Heracles for killing such a cute wee beastie.