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Maddy’s tale of Hercules’ 13th Labour Awarded First Place in the National Athena’s Owls Competition

Maddy’s tale of Hercules’ 13th Labour Awarded First Place in the National Athena’s Owls Competition
Competitions Academic

Many congratulations to Maddy (Year 8) who has won the 12-14 yr category in the Athena’s Owls Competition organised by the Manchester Classical Association.

Competition organiser, Dr Kat Mawford said:  “We had a fantastic turnout for our 2nd Athena’s Owls competition, which invited children aged between 5 and 14 years old across the UK and Ireland to create their very own myths and come up with a new fabulous labour for the famous Greek hero! Over 180 people entered, and we recruited a team of fourteen judges to cover all the stories – we had a wonderful time reading all the fabulous myths and hearing all about Hercules’ exploits, from defeating horrifying monsters, retrieving magical artifacts from far flung locations, to travelling through time and even into space!”

Maddy’s tale, telling of Hercules’ encounter with the Teumessian Fox – a creature made of constellations – was described by judges as ‘very touching,’ and they enjoyed the thoughtful depictions and illustration.

 Congratulations as well to Elise and Ella, who were highly commended for their stories.

You can read Maddy’s winning entry below.


The 13th Labour of Hercules – Maddy Bobin 


Of course there was another, there always was along the dark road I choose to walk. Always another challenge, always another sacrifice in the battle I had been fighting for my humanity since the day my world was splintered into a million pieces, shards of my life lost beneath the thespian waves as I saw their broken bodies.

The rain fell like tears as I trudged down the ochre road, torrents of water streaming through the small cracks in the track. Traversing the length of the Greek isles to get to this remote island that lay before me had drained me of my energy, yet I continued through the water, the relentless lapping of the waves soothing as the cold engulfed me, not letting me go until I reached the rocky beach. 

This particular labour didn’t strike me as particularly different from all the others really in this saga of my life, the god’s soap opera. The Teumessian fox had been dealt with before, albeit not in a conventional way. What could be so difficult about a fox that could never be caught, I had done the impossible before. 

I was just about to open myself up to my role as the god’s plaything when the sky began to ripple as if a cosmic stone had been tossed into its mighty depths. Gyrating in a heaving mass of constellations, the great beast of the sky opened its magnificent sapphire maw as the stars where sucked into a reeling mass. Rubbing my eyes in disbelief, I stared in wonder as the shape slowly resolved itself into the figure of a gargantuan fox, its jaws a great pit of gleaming daggers. The spectral figure seemed to hang in the air for a second, before being torn from the heavens and plummeting to earth, landing before me with a world tearing shudder. 

So here it was, the all-mighty Teumessian fox.

Its eyes were pools of dying stars, its fur dotted with constellations. Alone in the stars for all this time, the once mighty fox had found peace amongst the eternal beauty of the inky void and now it had been ripped from its happiness it was unsure and afraid of the world it had observed for so long. I could see the longing to be returned in its very soul as the god like fox trudged towards me.

I was snapped out of my daydream as the creature began to speed towards my frozen form, taking advantage of the wonder that crept through my veins, turning my limbs to rock. No. I am Hercules, ‘glory of Hera’, child of Zeus and I will regain my humanity, I will make up for what I did. Across the beach I cantered, eyes blazing, legs ready to pursue the Teumessian fox, the uncatchable beast for as long as it took. 

But something was wrong, the monster didn’t leap up and scramble away, didn’t sprint off and leave me to my impossible task. Forlornly, the fox lay down on the rock-festooned ground and gazed at my oncoming figure, not even moving as I came up beside her great ginger flank, weapon pointed at the heavens. This is good, I almost laughed to myself. Perhaps she knows she’s already beaten. Yet that was not it, I felt it in my very bones as the beast raised her lolling head and looked into my eyes. In the moment our gazes met I could see it all.

 Cursed to never be caught, pursued relentlessly by one who would always catch, the Teumessian fox’s life was a paradox, a continual loop of misery until the stars rescued her from her plight. They condemned her to a life of solitude, doomed to forever gaze down upon out little green planet, yet a life of loneliness, was a happy one for her. So when the stars released her from their comforting hold and she fell to earth the only thing she wanted was to be returned to the numbing darkness of space.  How could I kill this wretched being tugged from her only solitude to amuse the gods, how could I call myself a hero to kill this miracle that only wanted peace for her aching mind? How, how could the murder of a beast that made up the cosmos itself cleanse my soul? Sensing my distress, the doomed fox nuzzled her head against mine, and the stars watched as two lost souls temporarily found peace in each other.

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Maddy’s tale of Hercules’ 13th Labour Awarded First Place in the National Athena’s Owls Competition