|Hercules and Cerberus, Photograph by Maria Daniels.|
When Hercules went mad at the hands of Hera and murdered his sons and wife, he sought penance. The Oracle at Delphi informed him that he should report to King Eurystheus to serve for twelve years. Hercules was advised that, during this period of service, he should undertake any task the King wished. Hercules initially completed ten tasks, two of which were deemed invalid by the King for various reasons (in one, Hercules intended to accept pay for the completion of said task, and the other was completed with assistance). As a result, two new labors were set, the final of which was to capture Cerberus.
Hercules proceeded to sneak into the Underworld in search of Hades to ask Hades if he could borrow Cerberus for a bit. Hades agreed on the condition that Hercules capture the animal without weapons. Hercules was cool with this condition. Within short order, he overpowered Cerberus and dragged him back to Eurystheus.
Eurystheus was duly impressed, and quite possibly terrified of the massive beast. He fled, requesting that Hercules return Cerberus to the Underworld. Upon completion of this task, Eurystheus promised to free Hercules from his service.
Cerberus was returned to Hades, and Hercules went on to other adventures. And Cerberus went on to guard the Sorcerer's Stone and many other important things throughout the course of literature and history. ;)
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