The Hercules Detective Agency The Voiceless Storyteller
No Problem Too Large or Too Small, Reasonable Fees
Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)
Herc and his good friend, Tor (the Minotaur), were relaxing in the courtyard behind Herc's hut. They were having a cookout.
Herc had placed a large "Do Not Disturb" sigh on his front door and another "Do Not Disturb" sign on the courtyard entrance.
Hercules needed a rest. These past few months, since he had opened the Hercules Detective Agency, had been a blur of activity. Hercules had not really expected the amount of business that had come his way. He was looking forward to taking a couple of days off.
Suddenly, the gate to the courtyard flew open and a pompous looking little man stood there.
"It is I, Eupiddle," said the self-proclaimed world's greatest sculptor. "Herc, I need your help."
"Not again," moaned Herc. "What is it now? Marble statues crumbling to dust, clay statues melting, wood statues bursting into flame? I must tell you, Eupiddle. Right now, I don't care. We're roasting chicken. Want some?" Herc invited and smacked his lips, being mindful of his manners.
The Minotaur gave Herc a look.
"No, no. None of those things. In fact, I don't have any problems. But a friend of mine, one of Greece's greatest storytellers, a man from Athens, has lost his voice."
"Explain," Herc sighed. "But keep it short. My dinner is almost ready."
"Well," began Eupiddle in his best storyteller mode. "My friend, Dinonocles, is a traveling storyteller. He wanders about and visits all the city-states, telling the tales of the gods and of great mortals. He even tells of the twelve trials of Hercules. That's you, Hercules."
"Yes, I know. I was there. And - "
"He has been doing this for many years. Suddenly, this morning, his voice was gone."
"Sounds like one of the gods," the Minotaur stuck in knowledgeably. "This is not new, Herc. They're always up to something. I'm begging you, could we not simply share a nice, quiet supper without worrying about what the gods have done now? I went to a lot of work to catch these wild chickens."
Herc sent his friend an apologetic glance. "Tell me, Eu, has he been telling tales that show one of the gods in an unflattering way?" Herc tilted his voice up at the end, as if he was asking a question, but actually, it was a statement. Herc was quite sure that a god had created this problem. The Minotaur was right. The gods were always up to something. He should know. He was half god himself.
"It can't be that, Hercules. He makes the gods look great," Eupiddle was quick to defend his friend.
"Hmmmm," decided Herc. "This looks like a job for the Hercules Detective Agency. By the way, who is going to pay me? Him or you, Eu?"
"I will pay Herc. Storytellers never have any money."
"Since it's you, Eupiddle, I'll do it. Tomorrow. Get your friend and meet me at your place tomorrow morning, bright and early."
"Thank you, Hercules," Eupiddle said happily. He glanced at the chickens cooking on the fire. He looked up at the Minotaur who was watching him carefully. The Minotaur pulled his eyebrows together in a discouraging frown. "Yes, well thank you, Herc. I'll see you tomorrow." Eupiddle took himself off and closed the gate behind him.
"Thank goodness," snorted the Minotaur. "I thought for sure he was planning on staying for supper."
"There are seven chickens," Herc pointed out. "I think there would have been enough to go around."
"I plan on having four."
"Leaving me with three? You're too kind, Tor. Always thinking of others."
"I would have captured more but it's hard to catch wild chickens in the dark."
The next morning, bright and early, Hercules headed towards Eupiddle's studio courtyard to meet with Eu's friend. Herc started by asking the storyteller questions, questions like what stories had he been telling later, and which god might be angry with him? Herc's questions were getting nowhere as the storyteller had no voice.
"Just nod yes or no," Herc suggested. "Have you been doing anything out of the ordinary lately?"
The storyteller shook his head vehemently no.
"I think I'm going to have to leave you men here while I go and talk to some of the gods," Herc decided. "It's early. They're probably still home on Mount Olympus."
Up on Olympus, Herc asked around until Apollo clued him in.
"I think it was one of the Muses," Apollo offered. "They have been complaining about this guy for quite a while now. Check with Calliope. She seems the most vocal about it. This time of day, she'll probably be sunbathing on her deck."
"I will do that," said Herc. "Hey, Po, how is your latest poem coming? I hear you're trying to rhyme."
Apollo grinned and wandered away, mumbling too softly for Hercules to hear. "He must be composing," Herc thought.
Calliope had eight sisters. They were known as the Nine Muses. Trying not to play favorites, Zeus had ordered Aphrodite's husband, Hephaestus, to build nine identical homes for the nine sisters. Hercules never could keep straight whose house was whose. They all looked the same to him. Herc checked each deck. Naturally, Hercules found Calliope on the 9th deck he checked.
"Calliope, did you take away the voice of a storyteller recently?" he started right in, skipping the part about hello and how have you been. Small talk like that bored Calliope to tears.
"I did," announced Calliope, sounding pleased.
"I am your brother. If he said something bad about you, I want to know," Hercules stood very tall. He looked most threatening. It worked. He knew it would work. Calliope had always been the easiest to talk into believing anything he told her. Although, in this case, if someone was embarrassing his sister, he would want to know about it. He sounded quite sincere because he was sincere.
Calliope smiled at her brother, her half brother actually. They had the same father, the mighty Zeus, but different mothers. "Herc, I am the muse of epic poetry. The Iliad, The Odyssey, these epic poems were created because I inspired Homer. I inspire all the great storytellers. I am proud and happy to do so. But this guy. He changes his stories from day to day. Every village hears a different story. How are we going to pass down tradition and Greek culture if we don't have a common oral history? For the sake of all Greece, I had to silence him." She grinned. "Not to mention he has such a nasal voice. I don't know why people listen to him."
"Hmmmm" hmmmed Hercules. Herc paused to consider, then nodded gravely. "Calliope, can you please give him his voice back if I promise to do what I can to make him change his ways? For me? I promised a friend I would do the best I could."
"That storyteller is your friend?" Calliope laughed. "I don't think so, Herc. Have you heard how he tells the stories of your 12 Labors? Trust me. You would not recognize them."
"He changed my Labors? The Labors that made me famous? The Labors that nearly killed me?"
"Still want to give him a second chance?" his sister laughed at him.
Herc sighed deeply. "I promised Eupiddle."
"That pompous, self-proclaimed world famous sculptor?" Herc heard the laughter in her voice. "All right. For you, I'll do it. But the friends you have - Dionysus, the god of wine, and that beast, the Minotaur. And now that sculptor. I worry for you, Herc. But I have conditions. He must stop changing the stories he tells from village to village. He must understand that to do so could reduce, perhaps even destroy, our common culture."
"I'll make him understand," Herc promised. "Thank you, Calliope. You truly are the best of my sisters."
"I'm going to tell them you said that," she sang.
"I'll tell them you're a liar," he sang back.
It was an old song between them, one they both thoroughly enjoyed.
Hercules returned to Eupiddle's studio where he found both men waiting nervously.
"Say something," he said to the storyteller. Sure enough, his voice was back. "I got your voice back for you. But it comes with conditions." Herc explained that Calliope had insisted the storyteller stop changing his stories from town to town. And to stop changing the stories that everyone knew."
"I am just making the stories fit the town I'm in, to better relate to the local people," the storyteller defended himself. "You know, when I'm in Sparta, I make the hero more martial. When I am in Athens I try to give the story a nautical theme. When In Olympia I make them more athletic. See?"
"I do see what you are trying to do," said Herc. "But you are changing the same story each time you visit a different town. We need the stories to be the same for every town, otherwise, instead of having a common culture, we Greeks will be fighting about what happened in the story. Especially the 12 Labors of Hercules. You better not change those. I don’t want you making them sound easier."
"But Hercules," the storyteller started to argue.
"No, listen. Listen to me carefully. Unless you wish to lose your voice forever, listen. You storytellers are quite inventive. And that is good. You each tell a story in your own way. But each god's personality and powers must remain the same from story to story. The Greek people know their gods well. So, no matter who tells the story, Zeus must always be king, unless of course he resigns, and Hera must always be jealous, and so on. You can tell new tales of the gods, if you wish, but once you tell a story, you can't change it each time you enter a new town." Herc took a deep breath. "Greece is not one country. Each city-state has its own way of doing things. Yet, we are one people. We have our ways. We need those ways to be in common to remain one people. Do you understand what I am telling you?"
"How about Sparta? Sparta is not like the others," the storyteller argued.
"Sparta is a perfect example. Sparta is Sparta with their own way of doing things. But Spartans are also Greek. They speak the same language as the other Greek city-states. They worship the same gods. They compete in the Olympics. They fight other city-states from time to time, but they team up with all the Greek city-states against an outside invader. You see? One people. We need our storytellers to remind us of this. That's why storytellers are so important. It's not just entertainment. It's survival of our culture."
Both Eupiddle and the storyteller sat quietly, thinking things over. "Herc," whispered the storyteller. "I do see. I do."
"And take some voice lessons. It will make you a better storyteller." Herc frowned. "If you have any questions about the 12 Labors, ask me. I was there. I will know the answers."
"I promise," promised the storyteller. Although his voice was weak, Hercules knew he meant it.
Hercules named this case "The Voiceless Storyteller." What else could he have possibly named it? Herc made a notation on the case file that Eupiddle owed him one statute or perhaps one favor. Herc decided to leave the form of payment open, and filed this case away with the other case files of The Hercules Detective Agency. He was very proud that he had solved this case so well. The storyteller would make a difference. He would change his ways. He would become much better at spreading and sharing Greek culture. Herc had no doubt that today he too had made a difference. But Herc still needed a rest. He would take tomorrow off, he decided.
Although it was late, there was knock on his door. "What now?" grumbled Hercules and stomped his way to the door. When he opened the door, he found his neighbor, a farmer who lived on the other side of the woods. "Herc, I'm sorry to bother you so late. But I need to hire you. I've lost my chickens. They have disappeared! I will pay you in eggs if you will please find my chickens."
"Chickens?" Herc repeated with his most innocent expression. "I'll see what I can do," Herc promised.
"Thank you, Hercules." He hurried away. Once the farmer was out of hearing, Herc burst out laughing. Wild chickens indeed! Even though it was late, Herc went behind his hut and knocked on the hut of the Minotaur. "Tor," he bellowed.
"I saw him," Tor said. "I almost ran into him. I was going to take a walk, and - "
"Did you steal his chickens?"
"I thought he would not notice."
"That's no excuse, Tor. You need to replace them."
"How can I? I can't go into town. People will shriek at the sight of me. You know I stay hidden." The Minotaur looked down at his feet.
"You can sneak off to the polis of Oropus. Ever since you trained their team for the Olympics, they love you. They'll sell you chickens. They'll probably give you chickens. But I will give you money to take with you." Herc shook his head. "Wild chickens! I can't believe I fell for that."
"They were good though, we're they?" the Minotaur said in a tentative voice, not quite sure how angry Herc was with him.
"Just fix this." Once the Minotaur had given his word that he would buy some chickens to replace the ones he had taken, Herc gave him a warm, forgiving smile and went home to bed.