Giclee Print 60cm by 81cm
The youth, Heracles, still devastated after killing his own children in a drunken rage, woke at the home of Molorchus in the village of Cleonae. His host had taken the boy in, thinking of his own son, given to the hunger of the lion in the pervious month.
"I will pray for you," said the farmer on the morning of the youth's departure. "I will sacrifice an animal every day to Zeus to wish for your safe return."
The boy smiled, stretching. "You need your herd. Don't pray for me. If I am not back in a month, then the lion has killed me, a son of Zeus. I'm not back, pray to me instead."
Heracles kissed the kindly farmer, then turned towards the lion's den, his hefty club resting on one of his broad shoulders and a bow and quiver slung over the other.
The farmer turned away, no longer feeling certain about praying for the boy.
The lion's lair was a cave with two mouths. Heracles stalked the beast in the forest, but it made no pretence of hiding from him. It looked up from the body of a deer and saw the god-hero.
The boy shot at the lion, the arrows finding their mark once and again, but the lion shook them from its mane and let out a grumbling growl. Belly full of deer, it decided that the boy was made of bad meat and padded back to its cave, the arrows bouncing and snapping against its hide.
Casting his bow to one side, the young god raced into the cave, only to find that the lion behind him, having darted out from the other mouth to its den. The boy and the beast tumbled into the cave. The boy struck the lion with his club, his fists and his feet, but gained only deep, bloody wounds for his efforts.
He scrambled back and the lion took a deep breath and huffed. The boy slipped in his own blood before being back on his feet. If he could not cut the beast, then he would choke it.
The lion and the boy wrestled. The boy was the bastard son of Zeus, but the lion was the cub of Typhon and Echidna, the demon-king and the mother of monsters, and for that it was blessed by Hera, mother of all.
The boy was over-confident and threw himself over and over at the lion, until he lay in the pit of bones, his body little more than rags of flesh. The lion placed its thick paw on the wound where his chest had been and opened its mouth.
Heracles, wild with fear, forced his arm into the throat of the lion. Where his arms could not strangle it from the outside, they could choke the beast from within. The lion gagged and snapped. The boy pulled his arm away but lost a finger for his trial. The lion tore at the boy and bit again.
Again, the god-hero forced his arm into its mouth, pushing further and further, rolling on top of the choking lion and pushing until its proud eyes fell back.
Feeling his life fading, the boy tried to skin the lion, but nothing worked. He took the lion's limp paws and cut it apart with its own claws, realising that one cannot hope to better a god on its own terms. Feeling cowardly and ashamed, the boy wrapped his fallible body in the lion's hide.
Nothing would cut him, as nothing had cut the beast. Yet all of his labours would fail were it not for the impenetrable toughness of the lion, not the might of the man.