The Story of Hercules for Kids
Mythology for Kids: Hercules (HR-ku-leez)
He grew to be the strongest of all; huge rippling muscles, curly long yellow hair, the son of the all-powerful god Zeus (ZOOS), and the mortal woman Alcmene (alk-MAY-nee); Hercules would live to survive twelve impossible tasks to free his spirit of the evil he was tricked into committing.
Hercules or Heracles
Hercules, or as the Greeks called him, Heracles (HAYR-uh-kleez), lived the majority of his life in splendor, displaying his superior powers very early on. His strength was made clear when he destroyed two snakes before they could strike, which had silently crawled into the crib where he and his twin baby brother Iphikles (IH-fih-kleez) slept . What no one knew at that time was that Hera (HAYR-UH), the wife of Zeus, was the one who made certain those snakes got into the crib in the first place.
Hera is Hercules' Stepmother
It was Hera's jealousy and bitter need for revenge that would define most of Hercules' life from his birth on, as well as the struggles he would endure throughout his entire life. Why was Hera's rage aimed at such a young and special child? This will become all too clear as we discover the many trials in the life of Hercules.
Two deadly Snakes Attacked Hercules When He Was Just a Baby
Why Did Hera Try to Kill Hercules
When the news reached Hera that the snakes were destroyed, thus foiling her plan to kill the baby Hercules, she immediately devised a new plan. You see, Hera was the wife of Zeus at that time, who came to discover Zeus had tricked Alcmene—Hercules' mother, who's beauty Zeus could not resist—into having an affair by disguising himself as her husband who had been away on business for many years. When their child was born, Alceme named the baby boy Hercules, which meant "Hera's glorious gift". As you can imagine, this just made the goddess Hera more angry and extremely jealous! It was at that moment Hera swore revenge. She set out to make the life of this child as horrible as possible. She bitterly, yet patiently plotted her revenge and would wait to make her move at just the right time...
Hercules Grows Up
In the mean time, Hercules grew up becoming a gorgeous muscled man with almost godly ability. He learned his lessons from Greek teachers who were known as the most scholarly and wise in their field's. Among the lessons taught were how to become a real Greek man; how to wrestle an enemy, mastering the difficulties of the chariot, the art of war, and how to perfectly aim and shoot a bow and arrow. The only lesson he was unable to truly master was his musical instrument, the lyre1.
1 There are a few types of lyres, but in essence a lyre is a stringed musical instrument with two arms and a crossbar protruding out from the body. It can be plucked or used with a bow. It is most notably used in ancient Greek times and later.
What Weapons Did the Gods Give to Hercules
Some of the most powerful gods supplied Hercules with his Arsenal for Battle:
- Athena (uh-THEE-nuh) The goddess of war and wisdom - Gave Hercules his battle robe
- Apollo (uh-PAH-loh) The god of light and music - Gave Hercules a bow and arrows
- Hephaestus (heh-FES-tus) The god of the forge - Forged Hercules a special golden breastplate
- Hermes (HER-meez) - The messenger of God - Gave Hercules a mighty sword
- Poseidon (poh-SY-dun) -The god of the sea - Gave Hercules his strong horses
Hercules had even made himself an amazingly powerful battle club.
How Hercules Becomes a Warrior
Before Hercules had turned eighteen years old—when most Greek boys were considered men—he had an arsenal of superior weapons and war materials that had been graciously given to him by some of the most powerful of gods. These weapons consisted of a mighty bow and arrows, a powerful club, an indestructible sword, a very special breastplate that was golden, strong horses with great stamina, and a perfect robe to cloak his body beneath. With his grand weapons and powerful beasts, Hercules was prepared to face anything or any enemy that he would encounter throughout his life. But, not even his superior strength, cash of knowledge, and mighty weapons could prepare him for the miserable fate to come; which Hera patiently waited to reign down upon his life.
Hercules Was a Family Man Who Fought for Good
Hercules the Hero Won his Bride
He had been happily married to Megara (mee-Gayr-uh) for many years ever since her father gave her to the strong man in gratitude for Hercules' good works. This was a common theme in the muscular man's life, as he always helped people wherever he traveled and would fight frequently for good. The two were very happy together and bore many children over the years. Megara's hero husband would prove time and time again just how good of a man he was to his family, as well as all those who knew the powerful man. But, as she had sworn to herself those many years ago, Hera would pop back into Hercules' life to follow through with her deadly plan for revenge.
Hera Cast a Devastating Spell on Hercules
The goddess Hera finally knew that the time was right to throw her devastating blow of revenge at Hercules. It was then that she cast her staggering spell on Hercules. Such a horrible spell would cause him to spiral into a vicious rage which he had no control over. He did not know what he was doing while in such a fit and unwittingly brutally murdered his wife and all of their children. Once the spell was over, he saw what horrible things he done to his family. He fell to his knees and was certain he would die as well from the pain of such a great disaster. He knew he could not be around people again until he had purged himself of such awful sin. He recognized that he must travel to Delphi, where the most wise of all lived and used the female Oracle to define events that would please the gods.
A Look at Zeus for Children
- Mythology for Children: Zeus
The story for kids about the mythological god Zeus. How he was saved from certain death as a baby, to becoming the all-powerful master of the universe. Children will discover some familiar names while learn how they are related to Zeus.
The Oracle of Delphi
Once in the presence of The Oracle of Delphi, Hercules was told he must serve Eurystheus (yoo-RIS-thee-us), who was a king known to be a coward, as well as very cruel. He would have to serve him for twelve years, where twelve tasks of the kings choosing must be completed. Once these things were done, Hercules would not only find his soul scrubbed clean again, but he would become an immortal for all time. What Hercules would soon discover was that each of these tasks were chosen because of their impossible nature, with most consisting of facing monsters and vicious beasts.
What is the Oracle of Delphi (1 minute & 34 seconds video)
Hercules Wearing the Nemean Lion as a Headdress
What Were the Twelve Task's of Hercules
To cleanse his soul after being tricked into murdering his wife and children by Hera, Hercules would have to successfully complete twelve most impossible tasks. Each of which would test his courage, strength and wisdom. Here is a list of the tasks he would perform over the twelve years of service to cowardly and cruel king Eurystheus.
1. Hercules Had to Slay The Nemean Lion - The huge man-eating Nemean lion who had an immortal head and hide that could not be penetrated. Hercules defeated the lion by using his wrestling skills; placing a tight grip around its neck from behind until the lion died from lack of breath. Hercules took the lion's head and hide to wear as his own, he could only skin the beast by using its own sharp claws, as its hide was far too strong to be cut by anything man could create.
2. Hercules Must Defeat Hydra - A fiercely powerful man-eating creature related to Typhon, who has nine heads, with one being secretly immortal. Hydra resides in the stinky swamps where it only comes out to feed. As Hercules would cut off one of its heads, two more would grow back. So, with help of his twin brother, when Hercules cut off one, his brother would sear the wound closed using a fiery torch so it could not grow back. This even worked on the immortal head until the Hyrda was defeated and laying dead on the ground.
3. Hercules Had to Catch a Golden Hind - This task doesn't sound too dangerous as a Hind is only a small fast moving deer. Where the danger resided was in the fact that these creatures were sacred to the goddess Artemis. By catching one, Hercules was just asking for trouble.
Erymanthian Wild Boar Head on a Fiery Background
4. Hercules Must Chase Down a Deadly Erymanthian Boar - A large boar with long sharp tusks was stalking and wounding many of the villagers of Arcadia. Hercules was put to task to bring this reign of death to an end. He chased down the boar stabbing it with his spear. The swine fell into some snow where a net was soon cast over him. Hercules swept up the beast in the net and carried it back to King Eurystheus.
5. Hercules Had to Clean the Augean Horse Stables in a Single Day - This task was more a test of humility rather than designed to impress. The Augean stables were full of beautiful healthy immortal horses, who made a tremendous amount of manure over the years which had never been cleaned up. In fact, these stables had not been cleaned in over thirty years, and Hercules had to get them clean in a single day. Impossible for most, but not for the man made of muscles as well as brains. He simple rerouted the Alpheus and Peneus rivers to wash away the disgusting mess in a single day.
Stymphalian Dragon Bird of Prey
6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds - Next, Hercules was sent to kill the Stymphallian Birds of prey, which had beaks of bronze and sharp feathers of metal they could shoot at enemies. These birds produced a toxic dung that killed crops, and poisoned the livestock and villagers of Arcadia. Lake Stymphalian was on the edges of Arcadia and is where the birds quickly took over. They roosted deep in the surrounding swamp so Hercules found his muscular body far too heavy for the gooey swamp floor to support. When the goddess Athena noticed what was happening, she gave Hercules a giant rattle to scare the birds from their perch. When the rattle caused the birds to take flight, Hercules was able to shoot most of them with his bow and arrows. This caused the rest of the flock to leave and never return to Arcadia.
7. Hercules Must Capture the Cretan Bull - Hercules had to sail to Crete to capture the Cretan Bull. This huge bovine had been uprooting crops and knocking down walls, and simply causing too much damage and trouble. Hercules was to capture the bull and return it to King Eurystheus so he could sacrificed it to Hera. Hercules snuck up on the big brute from behind and subdued it with his strong hands around its neck. He shipped it back to the cowardly King, where Hera denied the sacrifice because she didn't want any glory to fall to Hercules. The bull was put out to pasture and later scarified to Athena (and/or Apollo).
Wild Man-Eating Horse of Diomedes
8. Hercules Must Steal the Mares of Diomedes - These mares were crazy and very uncontrollable due to their diet of human flesh, so they had to be tethered to a bronze manger as protection. When Hercules and his helpers came upon these man-eaters he knew he would have to fight the owner, Diomedes, before taking care of the horses. To do this he left his most loved companion Abderus in charge while he went to battle Diomedes. Upon his return Hercules discovered that his companion had been eaten while he was away. In revenge, he fed Diomedes' flesh to mares. After feeding the mares would always become calm. When they finished eating their owner, they were calm enough for Hercules to simply bind their mouths safely shut.
Where Did the Amazon Warrior Women Live
Amazons were said to have lived in Pontus, which is part of modern day Turkey near the shore of the Euxine Sea (the Black Sea).
9. Hercules Had to Get the Girdle of Hippolyta - The cowardly king Eurystheus had a daughter who wanted the belt of Queen Hyppolyta, which was a gift from the god of war, Ares. Hyppolyta reigned over the tribe known as the Amazon Warrior Women. The king sent Hercules to get the gift for his daughter. With a group of friends, the powerful man set out to Themiscyra, which was where Hyppolyta lived. It was a hard journey full of fighting and sadness, but Hercules was able to overcome these struggles. When he arrived, Hyppolyta was impressed with such success that she agreed to simply give him the belt. But, Hera had other plans. The revengeful woman took up a disguise and told the villagers that Hercules and his men were there to kidnap the Amazon queen. Worried about their queen, the women rode to Hercules on horseback to see what his intentions truly were. When He saw the warrior women approaching so suddenly and with anger in their eyes, he thought Hippolyta had planned to kill him all along. He knew right then he must kill the queen. Once the queen was dead, Hercules took the belt from her and delivered it back to Eurythesus and his spoiled daughter.
10. Hercules Had to Get the Cattle of the Monster Geryon - In this task, Hercules had to travel to the Mediterranean island of Erytheia to round up the cattle. It would seem a simple labor, but Hera sent a biting fly (gladfly) to nip the cattle causing them to become irritated and thus spread out as they ran from the biting nuisances. They spread out so far that it took Hercules a full year to round them all up. Hera then flooded the river so it was impossible for him to get the cattle across without drowning. But, this did not stop the strong man, he made a bridge of stones that made the river shallow. This made it safe to cross the herd and complete his task by delivering the cattle to the court of Eurystheus, where upon their arrival the herd was sacrificed to Hera.
The Apples of Hesperides
11. Hercules Had to steal the Apples of Hesperides - When Hercules made it to the garden of Hesperides, he tricked Atlas into stealing some of the apples for him. Because Atlas was related to Hesperides it would not seem so unlikely that he took some apples, making this task much easier for the strong man than any other so far.
12. Hercules Had to Capture and Bring Back Cerberus - Not only was this labor his last, but it was the most difficult. To accomplish the task, he would first have to learn how to get in and out of the underworld alive, where Cerberus—the three-headed guardian hound of the underworld—could be found. To do this, he went to Eleusis and learned the Eleusinian Mysteries. Once in the underworld, Hercules located Hades (the god of the underworld) asking if he could have permission to take Cerberus to the surface. Hades agreed to allow this task, but only if Hercules was able to defeat the three-headed beast without using a single weapon. Hercules was able to beat the beast with his powerful muscles, carrying it out of the underworld over one shoulder. When he presented the beast, the cowardly king was so scared that he begged Hercules to take it back to the underworld. Once he had completed this deed the king would release him from his labors. So Hercules took the beast back to its place at the gates of the underworld.
Hercules is Rewarded for Completing His Twelve Labors
Once all twelve task were completed, Hercules was freed from his sinful past and given the gift of immortality. His father, the god Zeus, would take Hercules' life bringing him into the heavens. Hera put down her revengeful ways, and forgave the now immortal muscle man. As a sign of her forgiveness, she gave Hercules her daughter as his bride to live with for eternity, and so he did.