To Hell And Back: A Look At The Mythological Life Of Cerberus
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To Hell and Back: A Look at the Mythological Life of Cerberus
There was a certain demon that patrolled the gates of Hades in classical Greek
mythology. Known and feared by many as Cerberus (Also known as Kerberos), this impeccable
canine-like monster was known to allow anyone to pass freely into the underworld, Hades, but
make it his mission to let none escape from inside, regardless of how they had entered. What
exactly is Cerberus, and where did he originate? What tales depict Cerberus as a character from
within them, and what were his roles in these myths? For what reasons would the cultures of
old come up with such a beast? One must research to find out all aspects of this mythological
beast, in character and in role, to compare and contrast the many stories and descriptions of
Cerberus. Only after can one come up with a legitimate response to such questions.
“Cerberus was the guardian of the Greek Underworld, and a faithful servant of Hades
(the god who ruled that gloomy realm). He was represented as a grotesque dog who
had three heads (although the poet Hesiod claims that Cerberus had fifty heads – quite
an extravagant number), all of which snarled at those foolish enough to attempt to
leave the Underworld; the dog also had the tail of a serpent.” (
The beast was best known to be represented as a gruesome dog-like creature that had
three heads, a mane of snake heads (because of the snake heads, sometimes depicted as
having 50 heads) and the tail of a serpent. ( It is also a widespread theory that the
three heads may have consisted of the middle head being that of a lion, and the other two the
heads of a dog and wolf, respectively. According to Joel Levy, Cerberus was known to have the
disposition of a pit-bull Rottweiler in a butcher’s shop. He had bright, vicious eyes and a blood
red tongue. The beast was a slobbery one, with polished claws and a sleek, reptilian coat. The
serpentine tail was poisonous. “Like the Gorgons, Cerberus was so dreadful to behold that
anyone that looked upon him was turned to stone.”(Levy). Perhaps the Greeks and other
cultures came about the concept of a multi-headed beast to guard the way out of the
underworld, as more eyes are more watchful — meaning slipping past Cerberus or slipping past
death would be that much more difficult. The frightfully effective description of this gruesome
“watchdog” may be symbolic to its time period in history, to show that people were able to
escape neither the underworld, nor death. Myths and stories were passed down from
generation to generation, and for the most part many people believed in myths and gods,
making the “watchdog” an accurate conceptual symbol of the everlasting clutch of the after-
The origins of Cerberus are mostly the same, regardless of what sources are accounted
for. “…the Hound of Hell is first explicitly called Cerberus. The offspring of Echidna and Typhon,
a brother of Geryon’s dog, Orthus, and the Hydra of Lerna.” (McKay 388). Echidna was a half
nymph, half speckled snake, while Typhoeus was a fire breathing dragon with one hundred
heads. According to J. M. Hunt, these two great beasts were known to mate often in Greek
mythology, birthing many terrifying beasts that are now scattered throughout the tales of
mythology. (Hunt). Some of these beasts worth noting are said to be Cerberus’ siblings, most
well known of these being the Chimera and Hydra, and his brother Orthrus, the two-headed
hellhound. ( It is likely that many of the terrifying creatures from mythology are
unable to have a realistic origin of parents, because, for the most part, the creatures are unlike
any creature known to exist in reality. Giving a realistic parent to an unrealistic creature that is
unlike nothing else would be conflicting with its credibility and may sunder their believability
when it came to storytelling, and so the creatures are unique in their own right. The Typhous —
Echidna theory of them parenting a vast majority of the monster population is perhaps just an
easy and convenient way to explain the origins of such things where the lack of a realistic
example would not be available to myth-tellers and the like.
The monster Cerberus plays a few roles in mythological stories. “…the role Cerberus
played in frightening shades and preventing egress from the underworldвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Leary 314). The
main role of the beast was to guard the link between the living and the dead. Between Earth
and the Underworld, it was his duty to make sure that it was not breached from either side. It is
legitimately valid

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Mythological Life Of Cerberus And Offspring Of Echidna. (April 2, 2021). Retrieved from