He’s also the God of Merchants and Commerce, Athletics and Travel, Public Speaking, Shepherds and Thieves. Quite a mixed bag.
Born in a cave and finding his mum asleep, HERMES toddled off to see what was what. What he found was a herd of cattle, and innocently decided to take them home to play with. He didn’t know they belonged to APOLLO but, instinctively realizing that adults can be a bit funny, covered their tracks anyway.
APOLLO went ballistic when he found fifty cattle missing and no clues. He offered a reward for information. Eventually someone mentioned they had heard music from a cave in the district. APOLLO investigated and found two cow hides stretched to dry at the entrance. Inside was a sleeping woman with a baby.
MAIA, when roused, was incredulous. "My little HERMES? He’s only two days old!" But the little cherub was quite nonplussed. "Yes, I took them," he admitted. "There’s only two missing. I killed ‘em as a sacrifice to the Twelve Gods of Olympus."
"Twelve Gods?" queried APOLLO. "Who is the Twelfth?"
"Er, your servant, I think it is going be me. Did you know ZEUS is my dad..?"
"Aww, isn’t he a cheeky little chap?" said ZEUS as HERMES faced judgment. "A chip off the old block indeed. Well APOLLO, there’s no harm done if he returns your cattle and promises not to do it again. Take him back and sort it out."
APOLLO sullenly agreed and whisked HERMES back to the cave, where the baby Godlet attempted to placate him. "The herd is round the corner, here are the two cow skins... Oh, and I also used some cow gut to make this."
HERMES produced a small lyre made from a tortoise shell, and played a few amazing chords using a plectrum (another HERMES copyright). As a musician, APOLLO was very impressed indeed. He just had to have these two musical items. So he offered the cattle in exchange.
HERMES agreed and, as they started talking music, cut some reeds into pan pipes so they could have what may have been the world’s first jam session. APOLLO was enthralled and had to have the pipes as well. He offered his golden cattle-herding staff in exchange.
"I dunno," said HERMES, scratching his head, "you seem to get the best of all these bargains. An old staff for a precision instrument like this? Still, you can really blow, man. How can I deny such a groovy musician as you?"
So they became music buddies, and APOLLO took HERMES back to Olympus where all was happily resolved and HERMES successfully pursued his claim for Godly status.
His gift of the gab made him the perfect choice for messenger duties. ZEUS made him a Herald and kitted him out with a winged hat and sandals. Powered by these he can zoom all over the place delivering news that’s worse than it sounds. The staff he used may be the one he traded with APOLLO. HERMES then made a vow to ZEUS: "I will never tell lies — although I cannot promise always to tell the whole truth."
Despite wheeling and dealing by the seat of his pants, HERMES always manages to leave his customers perfectly satisfied. Mostly due to his incredibly cunning sales talk. He’s such a persuasive salesman he could sell pyramids to the Egyptians. (Wait! He already has!)
Those sandals make him fleet of foot and an expert runner, which is why he’s also the God of Racing and Athletics. Perfect for chasing after new clients. Or running away from old ones.