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Typhon, the terrible

PRABHA MUTHUKRISHNAN

When Typhon headed for Olympus wanting to destroy all the immortals, Zeus knew it was time to intervene.


Typhon was the youngest and the strongest child of Gaia (the world) and Tartaros (the Pit). He was a monstrous mixture of man and beast. When he walked in the ocean the waters reached a little below his knees and when he was dry land his hair brushed against the sky. From his shoulder grew a hundred heads. Only one was human, while the others were of a lion, a wolf, a bull and other fearsome animals. With his matted hair, dirty face and grisly body he created a picture of disgust and dread.

When Typhon went charging to Olympus he wanted to destroy all the immortals so that he could gain supremacy. The immortals were petrified and rushed to Egypt for safety. But Zeus was not shaken. He came out to face the gruesome creature. From the top of the Olympus he tossed thunderbolts at him.

Great fight

Typhoon merely laughed and hurled them back. Then Zeus snatched a very powerful weapon — a sickle. A fierce battle ensued. Both rolled on the ground and struggled. Just when Zeus seemed to have overpowered him, Typhon succeeded in wrenching the sickle from his opponent. With his viper legs he entwined Zeus and deftly pulled out the immortal's sinews. Zeus was left helpless and in intense pain.

The evil creature, also deeply injured crawled away with the sinews. He hid them in a cave. Then he took respite outside the cave waiting for his wound to heal.

Meanwhile, Hermes, the messenger of the gods and Pan, the goat-footed immortal, came in search of Zeus. They were upset to find the powerful Zeus lying maimed and helpless.

They devised ways of retrieving the sinews so that Zeus could recoup and be able to defend himself when the monster returned. As they were immortals, the fiend would recognise them even if they went disguised. Eventually they sought the aid of Prince Cadmus who had come in search of his sister. Hermes explained the situation to him and promised him a great reward of land and wealth if he brought back the sinews.

So, Cadmus disguised himself as a shepherd. Pan, the god of shepherds and herds lent him a flock of sheep and lambs. He also gave his pipe from which emanated sweet music.

The Prince set off. When Typhon heard the music he was charmed and asked him to continue playing. To this the shepherd replied that he had another instrument — the lyre, from which emanated music sweeter than the pipe. So, the monster asked him to play his lyre. But Cadmus explained that the jealous Apollo had mutilated his instrument. The strings had been broken and if he could procure fresh sinews, he could play sweet music for him. Typhon crawled into the cave and brought him the sinews. Pleading that he needed to repair the lyre he placed the sinews in the hole of the lyre, promising to play the next day. Before the giant could respond, Cadmus played a lullaby and put Typhon to sleep. Hermes and Pan were waiting and Cadmus gave them the sinews. The immortals took them to Zeus who at once fitted them back into his arms and legs. Now Zeus was as strong as before.

He marched to where Typhon was lying, still in pain and agony. Zeus flung thunderbolts at him. This time the giant was incapable of self defence and he fled. Zeus chased and flung the island Sicily over him. It is belived that Typhon lies buried under the island. Whenever he writhes in pain or groans he spits fire. This erupts from Mt. Etna as volcanic lava.

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