HERCULES: A SUMMARY OF THE CLASSIC MYTH
In classic mythology, Hercules is indeed the son of Zeus, the mighty ruler of the gods, but his mother is a mortal named Alcmene. Practical and egotistical Zeus took it upon himself to sire this demi-god in response to a prophesy that the only way to save the world from the Titans - 50 gigantic beasts with the legs of serpents - was with the help of the greatest and strongest of mortal men. When the goddess Hera discovers what Zeus has done, she sends two serpents to kill the child - but young Hercules strangles the creatures with his bare hands.
Aware now of her son's destiny, Alcmene has Hercules trained in all the arts required of a warrior hero: charioteering, fencing, wrestling, and music. Too strong for his own good, Hercules is sent into the mountains as a shepherd, where at age 18 he kills a great lion. He uses the skin as a cloak with the head forming a kind of hood. (This famous costume is depicted in much artwork of the time.)
Hercules' first marriage to Princess Megara produces three sons but comes to a tragic end when a vengeful Hera causes Hercules to go mad. Hera adds misery to his grief by conspiring to have him become the slave of his cowardly cousin King Eurystheus for a period of one year, during which time he is subject to every demand and labor the evil little relative can dream up. With Hera working behind the scenes to suggest increasingly impossible and perilous tasks, the "Twelve Labors of Hercules" begin to take shape and lead to the hero's further glory. The labors include fighting the Nemean Lion, killing the nine-headed Hydra (which grew two heads to replace each severed one), capturing the murderous boar of Mt. Erymanthus, cleaning the stables of King Augeus, driving away the Stymphalian birds, catching the fire-breathing bull of Crete, bringing back the golden girdle of the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, picking three golden apples guarded by a fire-breathing dragon, and bringing back Hades' three-headed guard dog, Cerberus.
His labors completed, Hercules returns to civilization to resume his life and chooses a Caledonian princess named Deianira to be his second wife. On the way home from the marriage, Hercules kills the Centaur Nessus for making ungentlemanly passes at his bride but not before the crafty creature convinces Deianara to take a few drops of his blood to prevent Hercules from desiring other women.
Adventure and trouble continue to find Hercules. Another incident has him indebted to Queen Omphale of Lydia, who forces him to dress as a serving woman for three years and to spin and sew with his big hands.
When Hercules' wife becomes jealous of another woman, she decides to use Nessus' "love charm," not knowing that it will seal his fate. Finding himself in unbearable pain, Hercules begs to be placed on a funeral pyre. Accompanied by a loud thunderclap, he is borne up to Mount Olympus where he is at last reunited with his godly kin, thus making good on that prophesied battle with the Titans. Begging Hercules' forgiveness for all her treachery, Hera gives him her own daughter Hebe (goddess of eternal youth) as his bride.
Hercules may not have been a real person but "The Pillars of Hercules," two giant crags which separate Europe from Africa and which were said to have been placed there by him on the way to a labor, are still in place today.
This story was given to the Yr 7 & 8's as part of a comparison task between the disney animation version and the real classic myth version.