Rigel is the less well-known younger brother of Orion, hunter of legend.
Orion, for whom the constellation Orion is named after, was a renowned hunter of ancient Greece. His prowess even attracted the attention of the goddess of the hunt, Artemis. Recognizing the honor for what it was, he accepted, and soon after, the pair could be found roaming the woods nearly every chance they got. Soon, the two fell in love and Zeus rejoiced, for Artemis had sworn never to marry. One person was upset by this turn of events, and that was Artemis’ twin brother, Apollo. Prior to Orion’s arrival in her life, she was closest to Apollo. Out of jealousy, he tricked Orion into swimming in the rushing river. He then called over Artemis and dared her to hit the bobbing rock (in actuality, Orion’s head) in the river. Being the expert archer that she was, she hit her target, instantly killing Orion. She was enraged by Apollo’s trickery but Zeus convinced her to forgive her brother, and placed a constellation of Orion in the sky so that Artemis could always look upon him.
Rigel, however, was not as quick to move on as the gods were. He decided that it was not fair that his brother should have suffer for a god’s jealousy and plotted to bring him back. He had heard of the tale of Orpheus and knew that no mortal could ever retrieve a lost soul from the Underworld, domain of the god of the dead, Hades. Only another god could go toe to toe with him. Rigel decided that this god would be Apollo, the one who had caused his brother’s demise.
Apollo was the god of light, music, poetry and truth, among other things. Rigel called upon Apollo at his temple in Delphi and asked him for recompense for Orion’s death. Apollo appeared, and, feeling guilt over what he had done, promised Rigel he could have whatever he wished. Knowing Apollo would refuse to interfere in Hades’ realm, he asked Apollo to swear on the River Styx (an oath which bound even the gods to their word). Apollo grew indignant over the intimation that he would not keep his promise. Rigel, knowing the arrogance of the gods, taunted Apollo, asking him why he would not swear anyway if he intended to keep his word. Apollo, unable to come up with an answer, swore on the River Styx to give Rigel whatever he desired. Rigel then asked for Apollo to bring Orion back from the Underworld.
Apollo knew then that he had been tricked, but could do nothing about it since he had sworn to fulfill Rigel’s demand. He set off to visit his uncle Hades and asked him to send Orion’s soul back to the mortal realm with him. Hades was annoyed at being dragged into this mess, and at potentially losing one of his many subjects, but with a little pressure from Zeus, gave up Orion’s soul to Apollo, who ferried it back to earth in his chariot, where Rigel was eagerly waiting.
Rigel heartily embraced Orion as Apollo flew off in a huff, still upset over being so blatantly tricked but the two brothers paid him no mind as they set off for home.