The Legend of Whoberus

The Legend of Whoberus

Anyone with a passing knowledge of Greek mythology has heard of Cerberus, the three-headed dog (though some accounts describe him as having many more heads than that and not all canine, this is not the story I am here to share).  What many do not know is that Cerberus was not an only child. His immortal father, snake-headed Typhon, also had other multi-headed offspring. There was the Chimera, who had the heads of a lion, a goat and a snake and the Lernaean Hydra, with multiple snake-heads, and lesser known Orthus, a two-headed dog who guarded cattle for another immortal (there is no record of whether Orthus had an inferiority complex based on having so few heads).  We know about these monstrous creatures through the works of Hesiod, Ovid, Plato and other Greek thinkers and writers. We can see images of them in Greek pottery and other artworks, especially images of Cerberus and his dealings with the hero Heracles.

And here is where the family reunion typically ends because the existence of a fourth sibling was lost to mortal knowledge until very recently. History is fickle and dependent on evidence left by the ancients. And when evidence of your existence is nearly wiped off the face of the earth by decree of a goddess, history will most likely be none the wiser.

The fourth sibling of Cerberus was an impressive creature named Whoberus. Like the rest of its family, Whoberus was multi-noggined, with a dog body (looked like a cross between a wolf and a standard poodle) and topped with three owl heads.  As a pup, Whoberus always had its head in books, studying and accumulating knowledge. As the others took up hobbies like cattle guarding and hero-fighting, the fourth continued its studious ways earning multiple PhDs and becoming more and more aloof to the rest of the family.

Whober, as it was known among family, was very critical of those lacking in intellect which resulted in many fights especially with Cerberus who got really sick of its stuck-up attitude and fancy talk.  After a particularly violent and nearly fatal tussle, Whoberus left the family home and disowned its kin. We can only speculate on where the owl-beast wandered and who it came in contact with until it settled in a woodland area in the hills not far from Naousa, Greece.  There it found itself at the center of unwanted attention from the local human population who were intent on routing it from their homeland, declaring it a ‘fell monster devoid of positive attributes’, though according to some interpretations of the ancient scrolls, they actually accused it of upsetting their livestock, causing spontaneous diarrhea and hair loss among every man, woman and child.  At any rate, they were not happy to have it as a neighbor.

Whoberus, with those three brains full of the knowledge of the world and knowing that it could not peck or claw apart the whole population of the area before being overcome by their violence, relied on its wits to save it.  It thought fast and talked faster, convincing the gathered milieu that not only was it not a bad sort of fellow or the cause of their woes, but in fact Knowledge and Wisdom incarnate. It pointed to its owl heads as proof and reminded them that mighty Athena herself, Goddess of War and Wisdom, was often symbolized by a figure of an owl.  It claimed that Athena got that idea from it, that it was the original Divinity of Wisdom and should be worshiped and revered rather than destroyed.

The simple people of the hills were convinced and built a lovely temple to Whoberus, who took residence there (sure was an upgrade to living on the road) and commenced to worship and sacrifice to it.  Whoberus dispensed wisdom and gobbled up the sheep and goats brought in tribute and grew fat and happy in those sylvan hills.

At this point, you are probably asking why you haven’t heard this story before.  Well, we’re getting to that right now, don’t be so impatient. Even without the internet, the immortals of that time were plugged into the divine and semi-divine happenings of the day.  Whoberus had been growing fat in that hillside temple for over a year when Athena got wind of its shenanigans. Poor Whober, as full of knowledge as it was, it wasn’t wise to the ways of humans or humanoid immortals; it never considered how Athena would feel about it bending the truth and obscuring her status.  Athena paid a visit to the owl-headed pretender, masquerading as an old woman, seeking audience and advice. After paying the customary toll of livestock, the old woman began to chat with Whoberus, stroking its ego and listening to it’s story of divine wisdom and greatness. With a flourish, Athena cast off her disguise and revealed herself in angry glory.  Whober whimpered and cringed, begging for mercy, with the explanation that even monsters need to make a living and blaming an abusive childhood for its wicked ways.

Athena was not without mercy but also could not let the sins of self-aggrandizement go unpunished.  She banished Whoberus to a place in Hades known as the Pit of Obscurity and declared that the name and knowledge of Whoberus would be stricken from the history of the world.  The monster was banished, the temple razed to the ground and former worshipers of the owl-headed dog scattered. The only evidence the goddess allowed to remain was a scroll that was magically created on that day to commemorate her actions and remind others of the dangers of defying the gods. This scroll remained unknown until very recently when it was discovered tucked into an amphora recovered from ancient shipwreck off the coast of Greece, not far from Athens.

To this day though, her admonishment remains.  You will not find any other evidence of Whoberus’ existence in any library, literary work or Internet resource.  There is one lasting impact this litter-mate of Cerberus had on humankind and it is found in the word ‘hubris’, a homonym for its name.  Hubris, as you know, means ‘excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance and defiance of the gods. It comes to us from the mangled and altered memories of former worshipers who couldn’t remember why they knew that word, but understood that being so prideful that you defy the gods was a bad thing. It was such a bad thing, that if they even thought about the concept for longer than a minute or two, they’d suffer sudden bowel movements while clumps of their hair fell out.

 

2 Replies to “The Legend of Whoberus”

  1. Back story: some folks at work are doing a Year of Art and myself and another guy were a bit short on inspiration so another participant came up with an idea that would work for both of us. The idea of Whoberus came from some images my other stymied coworker had up in his cubicle, of a dog and an owl. She suggested he create an image of an owl-headed beast, like the three-headed dog. Since I’m a writer, she suggested I write the story of the beast. And that is how the Legend of Whoberus came to be.

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