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How Hermes got his wings

originally published here.

A woman frantically spins a crystal in the light from the window making rainbows swirl around the room.  “Iris, storm-footed and golden winged, you who nursed my child when I could not, hear me.  My boy has been taken from his cradle by Apollon, furious to behold.  Tell his father!  Bring my baby back!”

Iris takes Maia’s message to Zeus.  She just barely beats Apollon back to the hall.  Zeus bids her to wait in an ante chamber while he deals with the problem.  As she leaves, Iris sees a very angry Apollon dragging her milk-child by his swaddling clothes.  The clothes have tangled around his legs which is the only thing keeping Hermes from escaping. Meanwhile the child’s arms are flailing about trying to find purchase on something in order to pull himself out of his angry half-brother’s grasp. She hurries out before her laughter can anger the far-darter even more.  She hears Apollon shout, “He’s stolen my cattle!  Then he has the temerity to kill one in the name of the Olympians!”

Her amusement was short lived however.  Here she was cooling her heels when she had a long scroll worth of duties that needed to be done before Helios was done for the day.  “So many gods and only one of me!”, Iris thought. Occasionally she could hear Apollon’s musical tenor and Hermes’ high pitched reply followed by the low pitches of Zeus.  Muttering she started pacing in circles, causing a tight rainbow corkscrew that was taking her perilously close to the ceiling.

Suddenly she heard a “Now son and no more of your lip!”  After they left, Zeus bade Iris return to the hall. With a sigh and a wave of the hand, her colorful trail slowly dissolved allowing her to return to the floor.

When she returned to the foot of Zeus’ throne, she found Zeus with his brows furrowed in thought.  “My lord?”

“Oh that child is a scamp!  He’s going to need to be kept busy and sooner than I thought.  So much energy!  So much zeal for mischief!”

“Listening to the head of the pantheon ponder was NOT on her list of  things to get done today.”  While he thought out loud, Iris proceeded to try to figure out ways to cut out lag time so at least the super important things got done.  Then figure out who she could risk angering when she put off their messages until tomorrow.  The clearing of a throat broke her out of her reverie.

“Oh! I’m sorry my lord!”

“Busy day?” he asks.

“Yes, sir.  There are so many of us now and only one of me.”

“As I was saying, Hermes needs an occupation. Something that will keep him moving and expend his energies in a useful fashion, otherwise only more trouble will follow.  That is where you come in.”

“Me?  You mean…oh yes.  Yes!  I can think of no one better to help me!  Acting as messenger will keep him busy enough that his tendency to mischievousness will be limited.”

“As his wet nurse, he’s used to minding you so there should be minimal problems with training.  He is plenty smart so the training shouldn’t take long anyway.”

“Well, as well as he minds anyone, excepting you.  I think your son will make a perfect messenger for you.”


“Yes, sir.  The acorn didn’t fall far from the oak, sir.  He came by his mischievousness honestly and will, therefore, be much better suited to your needs than I am.”  Privately, she was more than elated by this solution.  It will free her up for her own pursuits and allow her to truthfully claim ignorance to the Queen when her husband committed some misdeed.

Zeus eyed the colorful messenger thoughtfully.  She had the uncomfortable feeling that he knew exactly what she was thinking.  “Well.  Make the arrangements…tomorrow.  I’ve delayed your other duties long enough today.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.” Iris however was no longer paying the King of the Gods any heed.  She left the hall to continue with her duties…after one short unplanned stop, Hephaistos’ forge.  I’ve been wanting a new pair of wings.  Something prettier, more colorful than these golden ones.  I’ll give these to Hermes and ask Hephaistos for something smaller, lighter and more in keeping with my rainbow trail.  Something like Zephyr’s wings.  Won’t he like that!”



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