was half man and half god. His mother was a mortal. But his father was
a king - a very special king, the king of all the gods, the mighty Zeus. But Hercules did not know he was part god until he had
grown into a man.
Right from the
beginning, Hera, Zeus' wife, was very jealous of Hercules. She tried all kinds of ways to kill him,
including sending a couple of big snakes into his crib. Hercules crushed those snakes
in a flash! Hercules was incredibly strong, even as a
Zeus loved his little son. He figured that sooner or
Hera might actually find a way to kill little Hercules. To keep his
small son safe from
attack, Zeus sent him to live with a mortal family on earth. Hercules grew up
loved and noble. But he didn't fit in on earth. He was too big and
too strong. One day, his earth father told him he was a god, well,
part god anyway.
The rest of the story
of Hercules is a bunch of little stories that together tell the tale
of how Hercules earned his way into the heavens, to take his place with the
story goes .....
Hercules had a cousin named Eurystheus (Eury for short).
Eury was the king of a little village in the city-state of Argos. Eury
was an evil man. He thought everyone wanted to steal his crown,
especially Hercules. One day, when Hera and Eury were chatting about
their mutual hatred for Hercules, Hera came up with a plan - a plan to
Eury design 12 Labors (missions
or tasks) that Hercules had to complete. Supposedly, when Hercules
had completed the 12 Labors, he would earn his immortality, or so Hera
promised. But really, Hera and Eury were certain that one of their
"labors" would surely kill Hercules, probably the very first
Hercules was no fool. He asked the
Oracle at Delphi if this was a smart thing to do. The oracle agreed
that it was. Actually, the oracle had said,
"If you complete 12 Labors, immorality will be yours." Being an oracle, she never explained what she meant by
"immortality" - would he live forever in legend or for real?
Hercules never asked. (She would not have told him anyway.)
Hercules not only lived, he had great adventures, discovered true friends,
and rid the world of some really nasty critters.
The 12 Labors of Hercules:
Wild Boar of Erymanthus
Stag of Artemis
Girdle of Hippolyta
Cattle of Geryon
Mares of King Diomedes
Golden Apples of the Hesperides
Capture of Cerberus