1 May, 2008
Hephaestus was not the most handsome of the gods. His mother Hera, queen of the Gods, had hurled him from Mount Olympus when she saw how ugly he was. His rather forceful landing left him lame and more than a little upset at his mother. He grew up and planned revenge, eventually trapping Hera on a Golden Throne. Only after much persuasion by the other Gods, and the offer of Aphrodite as a bride, did Hephaestus relent and release his mother. His reward was truly a great one, Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and none could outshine her beauty. In her honour Hephaestus forged a great palace where they could spend time together. There Aphrodite would spend her time while Hephaestus worked at his forge deep within the bowels of the earth.
As time passed Aphrodite grew tired of her marriage. She was the Goddess of passion, of heartache, of undying love. Her time with Hephaestus while pleasant, was not enough for Aphrodite. Fortunately for her, Ares, the God of War, was prepared to take up the slack. The two immortals began an affair. It wasn’t long though, before someone noticed. Helios, the all seeing sun, was high overhead while Ares and Aphrodite spent a frantic afternoon rolling around the grass playing “hide the war god’s sausage”. After only a few hours of watching the lovers Helios rushed with all haste to tell Hephaestus of what he had seen. Sparing no detail Helios told the Godly Forger of all the X-rated things that his wife had done with Ares. Hephaestus was crushed. He sent Helios away and brooded.
His plan was simple. He had forged a trap in the past for his ungrateful mother, now he would do the same for his ungrateful wife. Working with steel, and gold, and aluminium, and unununium, he created a subtle weave – a chain that was also a net. He worked all day and all night on the net, and only when the rosy-fingered dawn appeared did he finish. By the time he returned to his palace Aphrodite had already risen. He carefully placed the net on their bed and then announced that he would be leaving for a while.
“I must go to Lemnos for a while oh beautiful wife. They spend their time making such wonderful sacrifices to me there, and I haven’t sniffed a good bit of Ox in ages. Don’t get up to anything I wouldn’t do while I am gone!”
“Of course not husband.” Aphrodite replied. She counted as high as ten before sending a messenger bird to Ares. For his part Ares was already lurking about hoping to get down and dirty that afternoon. Upon getting the messenger bird he rushed to the palace and embraced his lover. They quickly disrobed and ran to the bedroom where the trap was waiting. In mid thrust the golden web caught both of the gods in it’s grasp. Hoisted up they dangled above the bed, unable to move, only able to shout for help. Ever watchful Helios heard them and alerted Hephaestus who rushed back to them. Grabbing the net he dragged them up to Mount Olympus.
“Look at this! My unfaithful wife! I demand compensation from her father the almighty Zeus!”
The Goddesses on Mount Olympus were suitably embarrassed and hid indoors. But the Gods saw the naked forms entwined in a net and rushed out to see what was happening. When they saw the mighty War god being pulled along by the lame Hephaestus they burst into laughter. “Poor Ares, beaten by a cripple! Not so mighty now, his ‘sword’ has led him to a sweet trap.”
“Who wouldn’t like to be trapped like that though, if that’s a punishment bring it on!” said Apollo.
“Wrap me up with whatever you want if it means I get wrapped up with her!” cried Hermes.
Hephaestus awaited the outrage and condemnation for his wife’s adultery, but the Gods just laughed and laughed. On they laughed, longer and longer, they couldn’t stop. Like a simile from the Iliad, it starts off gently enough but keeps going, on and on, with no end in sight. A sentence, maybe two, and before long you have forgotten what the simile is even referring to, so caught up in this mini story you have become. That is how long they laughed.
Eventually Poseidon, Earth Shaker, showed up bearing a bit of gravitas. He calmed poor Hephaestus and offered to ensure that Ares would pay the forfeit for his action. Again Hephaestus relented and released the deathless gods from their trap. Red with shame Ares fled to his sacred alter, and Aphrodite fled to hers. The other Gods left one by one, sides sore from their laughing until only Hephaestus was left. He was a pitiful sight, tears of anger and sorrow flowed down his cheeks. But perhaps one of the immortal women who watched from behind slightly open doors would take pity on him? The goddesses did not laugh as the gods did, maybe one would have the compassion to comfort the forging God?
None came out. None comforted him. They thought of Hera and of Aphrodite and none would risk being caught in his next trap…
Picture ”Hephaestus’ Trap’ by Nancy Farmer