King Eurystheus was desperate to find a task that Herakles could not complete! Knowing that he had only two more opportunities he instructed Herakles to bring him four of Hera's healing apples that were said to cure even old age! Now, Herakles knew this would be a formidable task because Hera had given The Hesperides, formidable warriors despite their short stature, both the males and the females fought and were equally formadible, the task of guarding the apples. Besides this, there was a six headed dragon, Ladon, who guarded the grove where the apples grew. To make the task even more difficult the grove was in the land of Atlas, who Zeus had made responsible for taking care of all the deviices they had in the heavens. Before Herakles could do anything he would have to get his consent to go into his country, because after arriving on Earth he had taken on the form of one of The Olympian Confederation's strongest races. He stood three times taller than an ordinary man, and his body was covered with shell segments that were stronger than any shield! It was said he held the sky up on his massive shoulders.
2 Herakles did not want to fight him. He sought Creos' help. "Yes!" Creos remarked, "I know of those apples. They contain a natural anti biodic that will cleanse the body of any infection. It is true they will help the aged appear young again for several years. Sadly the trees have reached their prime and have not been able to reproduce. Their seeds are dormant. In a few years the apples will be gone. Like so much that your father's people brought with them they cannot sustain themselves in our world. I think I know how to deal with Atlas! He is so large no woman can endure him! He is constantly looking for animals that he can satisfy himself with. I know of one he has not yet discovered. If you get a female of the species and bring it to him as a gift, he might well give you consent to try to fetch some of the apples, though he will not help you. Come! I'll show you where these creatures live!"
3 He took Herakles to a far country where the forests were almost unpenaterable. In an open field grazing happily were some very large animals. They, too, seemed to be armored, and they had great horns on their heads. They charged at anything that came near them. Herakles realized it would be a formidable task for him to capture one of these and carry it. But he was determined! Soon he had one bound and with great effort taking him more than a week, he carried it back to Atlas' territory where he sat it down and let it feed for a while before calling Atlas.
4 When Atlas saw the creature he was more than excited! "What do you want for it?" he asked.
5 "Merely to travel in your land," Herakles answered, stroking the creature's side as he talked, making it emit low moans, "and fetch a few apples."
6 "Go!" Atlas answered, "You have my leave!"
7 Herakles hurried off. Creos joined him for he had been hiding because he and Atlas did not get along. "Now," Herakles managed, "there is only the dragon and The Hesperides!"
8 "No problem!" Creos answered. "The answer to The Hesperides is right up ahead! I had some people bring it up while you were travelling. I guarantee you, when you present it to them, they will let you pass through their land unhindered!"
9 Herakles came around the corner and found a large cart holding six large vessels. "What's in them?" Herakles asked.
10 Creos smiled. "Butter!" he answered. "I've gathered every bit of it I could get in the area, called in a lot of favors. The Hesperides are addicted to it! They will do virtually anything for it! Offer this to them for free passage in their land and they will let you pass!"
11 Herakles grabbed up the cart's tongue and hurried off, pulling the cart with ease. Before long the road was blocked by hundreds of warriors! "I wish to pass through your land!" Herakles cried. "I mean you no harm! I only desire to take four apples. I will take no more. In exchange I give you these vessels full of butter."
12 "Butter?" one of the warriors screamed. She dashed forward, jumped up on the cart and opened one of the vessels. "It IS butter!" she cried. "It IS butter! Let him go! The dragon will eat him anyway. We cannot refuse butter!"
13 The warriors parted and Herakles hurried on. "Now," what about the dragon?" he asked Creos.
14 Creos took off the pouch he was carrying and handed it to Herakles. Inside were six pieces of very smelly meat. "Throw these, one at a time, to the dragon!" Creos instructed. "As each head eats a piece it will go to sleep. Make sure each one is asleep before you throw the next piece. You will have only a few minutes to get the apples before the first head wakes up. But it should be more than enough time."
15 Herakles obeyed. In a short time the dragon was sleeping. He got the apples and hurried off. But the dragon woke up and took up persuit! Herakles hid the apples in a cave too small for the dragon to enter, and came back and fought him. After three heads were beaten unconscious the dragon had decided it had had enough and retreated. Herakles returned to King Eurystheus and presented the apples. The King immediately consumed one himself, gave one to his aged grandfather, one to a neighboring King, and cut one in half for his concubine and his wife. All were filled with new vigor, the concubine so much so, that she decided the lazy old King was no longer to her liking and ran off with one of his young captains! The King was furious but there was nothing he could do. He was occupied with other problems, mainly Herakles' final task! He was desperate to find something that Herakles could not accomplish but that The Gods would accept as a reasonable challenge!