If you have an interest in Greek Mythology, you have probably read or heard about Laelaps, an ancient Greek mythical dog. Laelaps was a magical hunting dog that was destined to always catch its prey. There are no stories concerning Laelaps parentage, but there are some who suggest that it is the same dog that watched over baby Zeus on Crete.
The story of Laelaps began with the abduction of Europa by Zeus. Zeus had taken the form of a bull to abduct Europa. He took her to the island of Crete, where he made love to the beautiful princess. Europa then got pregnant and bore Zeus three sons – Rhadamanthys, Minos, and Sarpedon. Zeus, however, did not remain on the island of Crete; he abandoned Europa there, but not without gifts. He gifted his lover a javelin, which when thrown would not miss its target. The other gift was Talos, the man of bronze who would always protect Europa. The third gift that Zeus left Europa was Laelaps, the hunting dog that would never miss its targets.
Europa reigned upon the island of Crete, and she got married to King Asterion. Being a mortal, Europa eventually passed on and Talos became the protector of Crete. The other two gifts, Laelaps and the javelin were inherited by one of Europa’s sons, Minos. Minos also became the king of Crete after Asterion.
Unfortunately, Minos had major problems because of his jealous wife, Pasiphae. She had cursed him to ejaculate poisonous snakes and scorpions. This curse was meant to limit the extra-marital affairs of Minos because any lover he was with would be killed.
Procris, the Athenian princess, and the wife of Cephalus came to Crete after leaving her husband. It was during this time that the paths of Minos and Procris crossed. Procris promised Minos that she could cure him of his curse, which she did. As a sign of gratitude, Minos gifted her with the javelin and Laelaps.
Procris would then return to her husband, Cephalus. Unfortunately, Cephalus accidentally killed her in a hunting accident. The javelin and Laelaps now belonged to Cephalus. Soon after the death of Procris, Amphitryon came to Cephalus after the husband of Alcmene was tasked by Creon to get rid of the Teumessian Fox, which had been terrorizing Thebes.
The Teumessian Fox was a man-eating monster that threatened the life of the people of Thebes. Unfortunately, this animal was also destined to never be caught, and no hunter had ever come close to catching it. That is why Amphitryon sought to use Laelaps because it was destined to always capture its prey. Cephalus agreed to use Laelaps to hunt the Teumessian Fox. In return, Amphitryon would share with Cephalus the spoils of the oncoming war with the Taphians.
Using Laelaps to capture the Teumessian Fox created a paradox. After Zeus observed what was going on, he decided to bring the chase to an end. Zeus turned both animals into stones. He then transformed them into two constellations so that the chase could continue. The two constellations are Canis Major (Laelaps) and Canis Minor (the Teumessian Fox).
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