THE STYMPHALIAN BIRDS/My Favorite Hercules Episode/Odds Bodkin
Tomorrow night I’ll be telling HERCULES IN HELL, the full 90-minute version, which means I can recount my favorite of Hercules’ Twelve Labors–the killer birds of Stymphalos.
Backstory: Eurystheus, Hercules’ weak cousin, who has complete power over Hercules for the long years of his labors, tells him, “There are some birds I want you to drive off.”
“Birds,” Hercules replies, unimpressed. “They’re dangerous, I take it.”
“Oh, yes. They kill people with their feathers. Feathers of brass. They can hurl them like arrows. The quills are razor-sharp. They’ve infested the forest of Stymphalos and have been carrying off sheep and unattended children, who they peck apart and devour. The people are terrorized. Go solve their problem, Hercules.”
Hercules knows Eurystheus is trying to kill him by sending him on deadly missions like this, so cleverly he takes an extra-wide bronze shield, his arrows poisoned with VX-like Hydra blood (one touch, you’re dead) and a big bronze bell.
Not long after, he’s standing in a field, watching the hundreds of giant birds in trees above deep guano, skulls and bloody clothing. He bangs the bell, startling them into attacking him. He doesn’t fight back though. Instead, he crouches beneath his shield as the brass feathers rain down, then jumps up, unhurt, and yells curses while ringing the bell, bringing the birds again and again, each time diving under his shield.
Since only their feathers are brass, not their bodies, Hercules can soon see bare patches on their wings. With his arrows, he proceeds to shoot them out of the sky. That’s not quite the end of the battle, but as a clever labor, it’s one of my favorites.
You can hear it live, with thunderous music and Hercules’ deep, furious voice, at the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar in Nashua, NH at 7 pm tomorrow night. Fun show.
Bring a friend for some adult storytelling. Great food. Great bar. Intimate setting.