Ancient Greek Myths for Kids
Zeus, Hera, and little Io
Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades were the three sons of Cronos. When Cronos retired, the boys divided the world up between them. Zeus took the sky, Poseidon took the sea, and Hades ruled under the earth, the home of the dead. At first, it was great fun. But things had been just a bit slow lately.
Zeus thought about what he could do.
He could turn himself into an octopus and visit his brother Poseidon under the sea, but he didn't feel much like a swim.
He could visit Hades under the earth, but Hades was such a gloomy fellow.
He could hurl thunderbolts, but it wasn't much fun without a target.
He could hunt up one of the other gods. But the truth was, all the other gods were terrified of Zeus. He did have a terrible temper, but only when someone lied to him. Since the gods often lied, they mostly avoided Zeus.
He could call for his wife, Hera. But the truth was, Zeus was a little frightened of his wife, Hera.
He could find a beautiful woman. But he couldn't let Hera catch him. His wife Hera was very very jealous.
Zeus flew down to earth and looked around for something to do. He spotted two men walking along a lane. Zeus cast his voice to make it sound like somebody else was speaking. He was very good at that.
"Hey stupid," Zeus cast his voice loudly, hoping to start a fight.
One man turned to the other angrily. "What did you say?" And before you could say Zeus, fists were flying. Zeus found that very funny.
A glint on the river caught his eye. It was Io, a lovely river nymph.
"What a lovely young woman," Zeus said. He promptly fell in love.
Hoping to hide himself from the eagle eye of his jealous wife, Zeus covered the world with some really thick clouds. Then he flew down to Io. But Hera was not stupid. The thick coat of clouds made her suspicious immediately.
Zeus looked up. "It's Hera!" he gulped.
Quickly, Zeus changed Io into a cow. When Hera landed, all she found was an innocent looking Zeus standing next to a little white cow.
"This little cow appeared out of nowhere," he told his wife, acting surprised.
Hera was not fooled. "What a beautiful cow," she gushed admiringly. "May I have it as a present?"
Not knowing what else to do, Zeus had to agree. Hera sent the cow away under guard.
Zeus arranged for Io to be rescued and set free. He sent his son Apollo to sing the guard asleep. When the guard closed his eyes, Io ran away.
When Hera heard about it, she sent a gadfly after Io. A gadfly is a fly that bites.
"Moo moo," Io screamed, when the gadfly found her.
Io swam across a sea, hoping the gadfly would drown on the trip. No such luck, although Hera did name the sea between Greece and Rome after Io. Perhaps you've heard of it - the Ionian Sea? No matter.
Feeling very sorry for herself, a dispirited Io traveled next to Egypt.
It was then that Hera decided that Io had suffered enough. First, she made Zeus promise that he would never see Io again. Then she changed Io back into human form, and left her in Egypt.
Egypt was a dismal place for a river nymph. There are crocodiles in the Nile.
Back in Greece, Zeus gave a big sigh. Surely there was something he could do ....