MovieChat Forums > Hercules Discussion > Does anyone know the real myth of Hercul...

Does anyone know the real myth of Hercules

Not the dumb down version of Kevin Sorbo and Disney.


the plot outline pretty much sums it up.


There's a lot more to the story than just the twelve labors. Someone posted a link to a nice summary on

Of course we'll have to wait and see how much of the story they put into the mini.


From what I read, Hercules(or Heracles) was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. Hera, Zeus's wife and sister, became jealous. So, she possessed Heracles to kill his own two sons. To redeem himself, he had to perform twelve grueling labors. I forgot for whom, but one of the labors was to destroy the Hydra, the three-headed serpent.


The labors were the result of killing his wife Megara and their children after being set in a murderous rage by his jealous step-mother, who had previously attempted to kill Heracles when he was an infant. Heracles had to do the twelve labors for his cousin who was head of a neighboring kingdom. Originally he was meant to only do ten labors, however two were not counted by his cousin as he recieved add from outside sources (when he was helped by Athena in gaining the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides and when he diverts the river to clean out the stables).

I've kinda been obsesed with Mythology for the past couple of years so if you need anymore information just let me know, I took a mythology class in high school and then took another class last spring as a Sophomore in college. I enjoy talking about the subject so if anyone wants to talk just let me know.


Also one thing you'll most likely not see in any movies about Hercules is that in the real myth he was not a very smart guy and always let his feelings get out of control. If you are interested in it, you can read books like "Parallel Myths" by J.F. Bierlein, "Mythology" by Edith Hamilton, or, if you are really into reading actual poems of myths, "The Metamorphoses" by Ovid.




Definitely check out Edith Hamilton's book -- for my money, she's got the best info on all the myths, including what REALLY happened at Troy (I am still a little ill over the blenderization they did for the film .... )

Hercules had his moments of brilliance, but so did Thor, and I know HE was not the sharpest spear in the rack. Hercules had a tendency toward road rage, generally aggravated by too much to drink, and felt really bad afterward, trying to atone for what he'd done. However that generally followed someone dying rather nastily.

I've looked over the cast for this, and aside from Sean Astin, there's nobody much I'm interested in -- I think I can find better things to do for a couple hours. Have fun!


For further reading about comparative mythology, be sure to check out 'The White Goddess' by Robert Graves. Taught me a great deal about celtic mythology. (The celtic equivalent of Hercules is Liew Law Gyffe) [sp?]


It's spelt Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Sounds like an interesting read but I really don't see how he is the celtic(that should really be Welsh, celtic is far too vague a term) version of Hercules, I know the Welsh legends quite well and this one doesn't really compare at all. The only similarity I can spot is Arianrhod's three curses and that is only a small part at the beginning of the story. CĂș Chulainn from Irish mythology would be a better fit as a comparison to Hercules.

Having just looked up Robert Graves I think you need to take this book with a pinch of salt, he was primarily a poet so his knowledge is based in creative speculation. The White Goddess makes many outlandish and ridiculous claims which are easily disproved with the smallist amount of research and is dismissed by the serious mythological scholars as the drivel it is.
It's a neopagan, pseudo history composed of a mish-mash of legends(most of which have been twisted to fit the author's vision) pretending to be a serious look at mythology, don't be taken in by it because it's full of errors and tells you more about modern phylosophy rather than anything about the ancient peoples of Europe and their cultures. At the end of the day it's better to read the original myths instead of somebody else's dodgy interpretation of them.


Partly correct.

First, Zeus disguised himself as the General Amphitryon and bedded Alcmene while Amphitryon was away. Hera, knowing of Zeus' tricks and acts, made him swear an oath that the child born that night to the House of Perseus would become High King. She then had Eurystheus, who would be Hercules' cousin, born prematurely while meanwhile delayed Hercules and his twin half-brother (Amphitryon's son) Iphicles from coming out, trapping them in the womb until the next morning (Hera's intent was for the trap to be permanent, and the twins to be stillborn, only saved by an Alcmene's servant's mistake surprised the lesser deity that Hera had assigned to stop the birth, and the surprise freed up the pregnancy).

Originally to be named Alcides, in an attempt to appease Hera, her was named Heracles (The Greek pronunciation/spelling... Hercules is the Roman version, but more commonly used)... sufficed to say, Hera was not appeased, or we would have a much more dull legend.

While baby Hercules was in his crib, Hera sent two poisonous snakes to kill him, but he grabbed them each by the throat and crushed their spines. He was found by his Nurse, shaking them like toys (Allegedly the origin of the Rattle since they were supposedly Rattlesnakes).

His Step-Father (Amphitryon) summoned a seer, who prophesied that Hercules was destined to slay monsters.

Hercules was supposed to be raised a royal and peaceful life, but when he killed his music tutor (Bashed his head in with a Lyre), and so was sent to tend cattle.

The nymphs, Pleasure and Virtue were sent to him, and offered him a choice, a pleasant and easy life, or a hard but glorious life. He chose the life of adventure, glory, and hardship over the easy and happy life of mediocrity.

He married his first wife, Megara, daughter of King Creon of Thebes. Hercules and Megara had some lovely children, and he was happy... which of course meant he was in trouble. Hera induced madness into Hercules, causing him to slay his own children. After he was cured, in his sorrow, he went to the Oracle of Delphi for guidance. Hera directed the Oracle to send Hercules to his cousin, King Eurystheus (you remember, the premature cousin, who got to be King instead of Hercules or his brother, from the beginning of this Myth), to perform 10 Tasks/Labors. Eurystheus was a whiny and egotistical King, and adored the chance to subjugate his mighty cousin, and he tried to come up with some of the most impossible deeds he could.

1. Slay the Nemean Lion
Golden fur was impervious to attack, so it could not be killed by mortal weapons, claws sharper then any mortal sword which could rend through any armor, so it was supposedly impossible to kill. Hercules caught its forepaws, breaking the bones, crushing the bones within, and then snapped its neck. He then used its own claws to cut it open and make a mantle and cape (frequently depicted on Hercules)

2. Slay the Lernaean Hydra
Hercules found the Hydra in its swamp, and cut its head off, but as most people know, for every head cut off it grew two back in its place. This is the first Task that Hercules needed help on, as he kept the Hydra distracted and cut its heads off, someone else (usually identified as Iolaus, Hercules' nephew.. you know, Iphicles' son) meanwhile used a torch to cauterize the wounds, thereby keeping the heads from regrowing. Hercules took the time to dip all his arrows in the Hydra's lethally poisonous blood. (So now he has Super Strength, a Helm and cloak/cape that is essentially impervious armor, and ordinary arrows with a super lethal poison... nice collection of power and super items). Also, because she reminded him of his misdeed, Hercules gave Megara (about age 33) to Iolaus (about age 16).

3. Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis
A giant hind that could outrun any arrow, but since he'd successfully killed the two deadly and supposedly unkillable creatures, Eurystheus was trying to find something that required more then brute strength, and cause Hercules to anger Artemis at the same time. This was a relatively easy one, all things considered, he just chased it for an entire year before he eventually caught it (stories vary on how, trap, while it slept, arrow tripping it), and as he returned he encountered his Artemis and Apollo (half-siblings by Zeus, incidentally), and explained his plight, but promised to free the Hind as soon as he proved his task successful. Artemis accepted, foiling Eurystheus' plan. When Hercules returned, Eurystheus was frustrated, but said to put the Hind in his menagerie (which would of course violate Hercules' promise to free it), but Hercules said that Eurystheus needed to come down and collect it himself. So when his cousin got near, Hercules released his hold, letting the Hind free (which means if Eurystheus could have caught it himself, he would have been able to put it in his menagerie, but it meant Hercules had freed it), at which point is ran off at full speed.

4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar
A giant boar that was rampaging the countryside. Hercules got some advice, chased the boar into the snow, wrestled the Boar into submission, and then took it back to his cousin. Not easy, but pretty straight forward. The boar scared the heck out of Eurystheus, who ended up hiding in an urn and demanded Hercules get the boar back out.

5. Clean the Augean Stables in a single day
The cattle were divine, immortal, and giant... the stables had not been cleaned in over 30 years, and there were 1000 head of cattle, so you can do your own math on how deep of cow pies Hercules was in for. This task was meant to be less impressive (unlike his previous tasks) and more of just plain humiliating. Hercules diverted a nearby river, which washed away all the... you know what, and successfully completed his task.

6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds
Metal beaked and feathered monster birds, Hercules scared them into the air, and then shot some with his arrows. He then brought the dead ones back to Eurystheus as proof..

7. Capture the Cretan Bull
Hercules went to Crete, got permission from Minos to take the bull but refused aid. He snuck up on the bull, took it by the horns, and forced it into submission. Again, when he returned with the bull, just like the boar before it, Eurystheus hid, but said to sacrifice the Bull to Hera. Hera, seeing the bull as an example of Hercules' glory, refuse the sacrifice, and so the Bull was released where it went to Marathon, and became the Marathonian Bull (See Theseus for its eventual fate)

8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes
Wild Man-Eating Horses, kept by Diomedes who would cut people's throats and feed them to his horses. Hercules stayed awake (though a favorite servant of his got killed and fed to the Horses) and captured Diomedes, feeding him to his own horses. He then bound the horses mouths shut, and took them back to Eurystheus. Eurystheus tried having the horses sacrificed to Zeus, but Zeus sent wild animals to consume the horses instead.

9. Obtain the Girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons
Admete, Eurystheus' daughter, wanted the Girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, a gift from her father Ares (Hercules' half-brother, Hera's 2nd and favorite son, by Zeus), so Labor number 9 was to get it. This one was going to be easy, Hercules brought some friends along, they came in friendship, were gracious, were polite, and Hippolyta, impressed with Hercules' exploits, was going to happily treat him and his friends with kindness, and let Hercules have the Girdle to prove his glory further. Hera disguised herself as an Amazon, and then spread gossip that the men were going to abduct their queen. The Amazons rushed to camp of Hercules and his men, and confronted them... Hercules though Hippolyta had betrayed him... so the results... many dead Amazons, some dead men, one dead Amazon Queen, and Hercules took the girdle back to his cousin so Admete could have a fancy belt she was never again mentioned wearing.

10. Obtain the Cattle of the Monster Geryon
Accounts vary on what Geryon looked like... some say he was just three headed, others say he had 2 legs and 3 full torsos, each with a head and pair of arms, and some even said he had 3 heads, 6 arms, 6 legs, 3 torsos, wings, and more... whatever this look, he was big, had a herd of magnificent red cattle, and had the two-headed hound Orthrus (Cerberus' little brother) to help him guard his cattle, as well as being a great warrior himself. Hercules killed poor Orthrus with a single club blow, then Geryon in anger took up arms and pursued Hercules. Hercules crossed a river, and then shot Geryon with those Hydra-Blood poisoned arrow into one of his foreheads, splitting open from the force and poisoning him. Hercules then herded the cattle, though along the way Hera sent thieves to steal some of the cattle (Hercules slew them and got the cattle back), gadflies to cause the cattle to run off (Hercules retrieved them), and a flood to raise a river to stop him (he piled rocks and pebbles until he made an area he and the cattle could ford the overflowing river). Finally after more then a year the cattle were brought to Eurystheus' court. They were then sacrificed to Hera (this time she accepted... real generous of her).

Labors done... oh wait... nope... cause Iolaus helped Hercules with task 2 (and maybe cause of a combination of other factors), Eurystheus demanded Hercules complete another task. But he needed time to think. So...

Interlude, Iolaus, now older, and his uncle Hercules signed on to a grand voyage with some of the greatest heroes of the time, Castor and Pollux, Theseus, Orpheus, Pirithous, Hylas, Atalanta, Autolycus, and especially Jason, on the Argo, becoming known as the Argonauts. (If you want to know more on any/all of them, see Jason, the Argonauts, and most of them can be read about individually... go look them up sometime). Key points, Hercules made lots of friends, showed off, and after a little competition (Who could throw something the furthest... Atalanta's javelin, Hercules with shot put, some tales related it was Castor and Pollux with hammer and discus, and finally Hylas with a single stone... All the others propelled their item through the air, toward and island off the beach where the Argo was to launch from, but Hylas skipped his stone across the water... shooting well past the island, eliminating the need to sail to the island to see which item had landed the furthest, and endearing Hylas to Hercules who pledged to teach the young scholar how to be a real warrior.)

During one of the stops on the journey, while the crew were all hunting and collecting food and supplies, Hylas happened upon a spring, there a group of nymphs fascinated by him, enchanted him and captured him. Hercules and Polyphemus went in search of their friend, and when the journey was being held up too long, Hercules told the others to go on without then, for they would not leave their friend behind. Sadly, they found only the slightest signs, and eventually came to accept that Hylas was gone.

Returning to Eurystheus, Hercules was given his replacement Task

11. Steal some of the Apples of Hesperides
Golden Apples, magical, guarded by the Hesperides, daughters of Atlas, and the dragon beast Ladon. Hercules traveled to the guardian, but when he arrived he did not know how he could complete the task. Finding Atlas (Technically his Great-Uncle), holding the weight of the sky/world on his shoulders, Hercules offered a deal, he'd give Atlas a break, if Atlas would get a handful of apples for him. Atlas accepted the deal and Hercules took his burden. Atlas retrieved the apples, and as he came back he realized he was free, and could leave Hercules to the burden instead. Hercules saw he was in trouble, but asked Atlas to just let him adjust his mantle real quick, as it was not straight and therefore uncomfortable with the head askew and the claws cutting into his shoulders. Atlas shrugged, put the apples down, and braced the burden so Hercules could fix his mantle, but Hercules leaped down and used his mantle to carry the Apples instead, leaving Atlas to his burden forever more. As he left, Hercules was faced with Ladon, the three-headed serpent-like dragon that guarded the garden, and ended up overcoming Ladon... knocking him out. The next day, Jason and the Argonauts passed by, and overheard one of the Hesperides crying over the still twitching Ladon.

Either on his way to or from the garden, Hercules encountered Antaeus the Giant/Antaeus the Wrestler, a monster of a man, son of Gaea and Poseidon (makes him both Hercules' cousin through Poseidon, and Great-Uncle through Gaea... not to mention means that Antaeus was his own father's uncle... but Greek Mythological family trees are always a bit messed up), who never back down, and killed hundreds, forcing any man to fight him to pass, and never stopping until his foe was dead. Antaeus drew strength and power from direct contact with his mother, and would almost instantly recover from any injury and even seemingly death as long as he touched her. Hercules fought Antaeus for a long time before lifting him up in a bear hug, crushing Antaeus, and then hanging him off the ground (the tales vary, some say on a tree, others on the bones of his victims, others say Hercules used Antaeus' own garments so he was not even touching the tree, but literally suspended in midair, so he was touching nothing but his own clothes.

So Hercules brought the apples to Eurystheus, but since he was being observed, he again was called on not fulfilling his task on his own, soooo...

12. Capture and Bring Back Cerberus
(DUMBEST TASK EVER... seriously... Eurystheus was afraid of a boar and a bull, essentially oversized livestock, and now he wants the Three Headed, Snake for a tail, giant guard dog of the Underworld...) Hercules made his way to Hades, found Theseus and Pirithous had been trapped in the chairs of forgetfulness (tale for another time, but lets just say Hades tricked them, because one of them wanted to kidnap Persephone and make her his own bride). Hercules lifted Theseus from the chair but when he reached for Pirithous the ground shook (Theseus was helping, but Pirithous was the fool who wanted Persephone... Theseus had just wanted this 14 year old girl named Helen... yes... over a decade before Paris would be kidnapping her, Theseus and Pirithous did it first... and was going to wait a few years to marry her... she got rescued while the two were trapped in Hades. So, Hades was willing to let Hercules save Theseus, but not Pirithous, for Pirithous' audacity in trying to take a goddess for his bride... of course Hades should have seen some similarities, since he had kidnapped Persephone to make her his own bride in the first place). Hercules asked Hades permission, and then agreed if Hercules could defeat Cerberus without a weapon, he wrestled Cerberus, and then slung him onto his shoulders and carried him back to Eurystheus with predictable results (terrified, hiding in a urn, demanding Hercules take the massive hellhound back down to Hades)

Tasks over!!!

There are some other accounts, but those are the major deals...

Hercules went on to kill the bird that was eating Prometheus' liver every day, then freed the Titan from his chains.

He married his 3rd wife, Deianeira (2nd wife was a slave he received, and has no real notable mentions).

Hercules challenged Dionysus to a drinking contest... Hercules lost.

He went to Egypt and was captured and to be sacrificed, but broke free of his chains and left (may have hurt some people as he left)

And of course the major finally. Soon after Hercules wed Deianeira, they had to cross a river, Nessus, a centaur offered to help by carrying Deianeira across, but as Hercules sloshed across the river, Nessus ran off with Deianeira intent on doing very naughty things to her against her will. Hercules shot Nessus with one of his poisoned arrows, bringing the centaur down. As he lay dying, Nessus even near death plotted his revenge, he said to Deianeira that if Hercules ever seemed to lose interest in her, or she felt he might cheat on her as his father cheated on Hera, that she need only us the mix of Nessus own blood and manly/horsly/manhorsely fluids on a shirt, and as soon as Hercules wore it he would lover her completely again. Nessus knew his own blood was now as toxic as the poison on the arrow. Taking some of Nessus in a pouch, Deianeira doubted she would ever need it, and was unaware of what she really had. But years later, when Hercules eyes seemed to wander, Deianeira did as Nessus had said. The shirt, carried by a servant, was taken and worn by Hercules, instantly it began to burn and seer to his his flesh, and when he tried to remove it it tore his flesh from his bones, but it would not kill him. Seeking a voluntary death, Hercules ordered a pyre be made. Now, depending on the tale, either the fire burned him to death and he was then for all his deeds and birthright, elevated to be made a deity, or the fire burned away all that was mortal about him, and what was left was his deitic self, either way, Hercules was no longer a mortal being, his mortal form placed in the heavens as a constellation, while his deitic self resides in Olympus along side his father.


Not the dumb down version of Kevin Sorbo and Disney.