Stories and Myths for Kids about the clever, creative, amazing Hercules, the 12 Labors and Many More Illustration

Stories and Myths for Kids about Hercules

The famous myths about The 12 Labors of Hercules are a bunch of little stories that together tell the tale of how the half-man, half god Hercules used clever tricks and great courage to rid the world of some really nasty critters, and lived to tell about it.

As the story goes ....

Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of the gods, had two children, Ares - the god of war, who loved to destroy things, and Hephaestus, god of forge, fire, and volcanoes, who loved to build things. But Zeus also had other children. One of those kids was named Heracles, also known as Hercules, also known by his nickname, Herc.

Zeus loved his little son, Hercules. But Hera, Zeus' wife, was very jealous. She was jealous of all of Zeus' other kids, but she especially hated Hercules. Because Hera was not very nice sometimes, actually most of the time according to ancient Greek myth, she tried all kinds of ways to kill Hercules, including sending a couple of big snakes into his crib. Hercules crushed those snakes in a flash! Hercules was incredibly strong, even as a baby!

This troubled Zeus, but he loved his wife, Hera. To keep his small son safe from attack, Zeus sent him to live with a mortal family on earth in the ancient Greek city-state of Argos. Hercules grew up noble and loved. He married and had a couple of kids. He was happy, but he did not fit in on earth. He was too big and too strong. He was hard to miss. Hera soon discovered his location. That's when the trouble started.

Time had passed, but Hera had not changed. She still wanted Hercules gone, as in dead. One day, while Hera was thinking up ways to kill Hercules, she came up with an idea that might not kill him, but it would certainly devastate him. Using an evil magic spell, she made Hercules fall into a fit of madness. While under this spell, he butchered his wife and children. As the spell passed and his vision cleared, Hercules saw what he had done. He knew it was a mistake. He knew he had been bewitched, but he was filled with guilt. He wanted to find some way to atone for his terrible mistake, only he had no idea what to do. In desperation, he visited the most powerful wizard of his day, the Oracle at Delphi, and asked for her help.

The trouble with oracles was that their advice was often misunderstood. This time, the Oracle was clear. She believed Hercules would never have butchered his family unless he had been in the grip of an evil spell. She had no doubt that the evil spell was probably cast by Hera. She also knew that Hercules would never forgive himself unless first he was punished. She told Hercules exactly what he needed to do to atone. She whispered that he had to visit his cousin, King Eurystheus, who would give him 12 labors (tasks) that Hercules must successfully complete. Once all 12 tasks were accomplished, Hercules would be forgiven.

"Are you sure that such a simple thing will atone for my mistake?" Hercules asked her.

The Oracle answered: "If you complete 12 Labors, immortality 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 could barely hear her, her whisper was that soft, yet somehow, just as the Oracle counted on happening, Hera's spies discovered what the Oracle had told him.

Before Hercules could arrive at his cousin's palace, Hera got there first. Eurystheus (Eury for short) was the king of a little village in the city-state of Argos. Hera convinced Eury that Hercules was coming to steal his crown! It was not enough that Hercules had killed his family, she told Eury, without mentioning that Hera herself had put Hercules under an evil spell. Now, she told Eury, he wanted to be a king! Eury believed her. Hera suggested that Eury challenge Hercules to 12 labors (missions or tasks), each so difficult that Hercules would surely die, probably on the very first task. Hera and Eury put their heads together and came up with 12 impossible labors.

When Hercules arrived, Hera hid. If he had spotted her, Hercules might have been suspicious, but possibly not even then. Hercules was not interested in Eury's crown. He was interested in atoning for his terrible mistake. He immediately accepted the challenge as Hera knew he would.

That's how the 12 Labors of Hercules came about. Sadly for Hera and Eury, the great Hercules not only lived, while solving each of the 12 Labors, he had great adventures, discovered true friends, and rid the world of some really nasty critters. Here are the famous 12 Labors of Hercules, each myth told in the form of a very short story.

Here are the 12 Labors of Hercules, retold by Lin Donn:

1. The Nemean Lion

2. The Lernaean Hydra

3. The Wild Boar of Erymanthus

4. The Stag of Artemis

5. The Stymphalian Birds

6. The Augean Stables

7. The Cretan Bull

8. The Girdle of Hippolyta

9. The Cattle of Geryon

10. The Mares of King Diomedes

11. The Golden Apples of the Hesperides

12. The Capture of Cerberus 

More Stories and Myths about the clever, creative, amazing Hercules

 Find out how kids get an education. How did men get their hair cut? How did people meet each other to get married? Who were the Oracles? What were the gods really like and how did they get along? What was the stone zoo?  What happened to the missing olive trees? How did Hercules and the Minotaur become best friends? These questions about daily life in ancient Greece, and many more, are answered though the case files of the Hercules Detective Agency.

Like always, it's best to start at the beginning: How It All Started  

  1. The Misunderstood Minotaur

  2. The Enchanted Well

  3. The Missing Olive Trees

  4. Kerberos on Strike

  5. The Very Inventive Rescue

  6. The Scaredly Fish

  7. The Tricked Bully

  8. The Stone Zoo

  9. The Reluctant Oracle

  10. Olympic Team Herc

  11. The Bad Barber

  12. The Talking Tools

  13. The Mad Machine

  14. The Constant Chatterbox

  15. The Voiceless Storyteller

  16. The Monster Under the Bridge

  17. The Stinky Sandals

  18. The Awesome Actor

  19. Hercules Challenged

  20. The Golden Lyre

  21. The Mischievous Trickster

  22. The Magic Earrings

  23. The Rhyming Poet

  24. The Three Harpies

  25. The Pearl Divers

  26. The Festival Arrow

  27. The Dragon Egg

  28. The Dangerous Dragon

  29. The Golden Nugget

  30. The Moving Mountain

  31. The Monster on the Causeway

  32. The Amazing Matchmaker

  33. The Temple Worm

  34. The Charcoal Burners

  35. The Ionian Sea Pirates

  36. The Island of the Sirens

  37. The Magic Wool

  38. The Minotaur to the Rescue

  39. The Missing Trident

  40. The Terrible Tutor

  41. The Dance Teacher

  42. The Water Rights

  43. The Winged Monsters

  44. The Treasure Map