Hercules: Character Variation There was one hero in ancient Greece who stood out the most; he was the strongest, the bravest, and the most god-like. Hercules was a favorite hero among men because he suffered and was therefore relatable. Through multiple sources the story of Hercules has been told: in Mythology, by Edith Hamilton (the most accurate version); in the History Channel’s 2009 episode, “Hercules” from the series, Clash of the Gods; in the 2014 movie Hercules directed by Brett Ratner, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; and in the 1997 animated movie Hercules directed by
John Musker and Ron Clements. Throughout these stories there were many similarities, but also many differences. In the book Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, the story Hercules is the most true to its first form. Hamilton wrote that Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmena, enemy to Hera because of her husband’s, Zeus,’ betrayal. Throughout the story Hera is intent on killing Hercules; when he was just a year old she sent two giant snakes to kill him, but even then Hercules was incredibly strong and he killed the snakes.
Hamilton described Hercules as strong, emotionally driven, but not very smart. Hercules was married to Princess Megara and had three children, however his happiness didn’t last. Hera put a madness on Hercules that caused him to kill his family; in order to be purified from his crimes he was told by the Oracle of Delphi to go to his cousin, Eurystheus (who was working with Hera), who would order Hercules to complete tasks, later known as the ‘Twelve Labors of Hercules. ‘ Hamilton then lists the labors in detail, describing each one.
After Hercules completed the labors he married again to a women named Deianira, who eventually put a love charm on Hercules ecause she thought he wasn’t being faithful. The charm didn’t kill Hercules as it would have another man though, instead it just tortured him. Deianira then killed herself because she felt awful for what she did, and after that Hercules decided to kill himself. He built a funeral pyre and set it on fire, burning himself to death. The Gods then accepted him into heaven, where he finally made peace with Hera and married her daughter, Hebe.
While Hamilton’s book may be the closest to what the Greeks believed, that didn’t stop others from drawing their own conclusions. The History Channel also did a retelling of Hercules in their episode, “Hercules,” from their series Clash of the Gods; there story was a mix of the myth and of what historians have concluded happened. Llke in Hamilton’s book, the History Channel said that Hercules was the son of Zeus and Alcmena, and that Hera was Hercules greatest enemy. Hera also sent the two snakes in this story that Hercules ended up killing as a baby.
One difference would be that in this version Hercules was described as unable to connect with people, while in Hamilton’s version that wasn’t directly stated. In this story Hercules does marry a princess, but he only has two sons; again Hera sends madness to him (but in his sleep with time), that causes him to kill his family. He is described as feeling ‘blood guilty,’ which wasn’t a phrase Hamilton used. Again, Hercules went to Delphi the oracle, who told him to go to Eurystheus. Unlike in Hamilton’s version, the historians think that the oracle was an accidental stoner instead of a magical being.
Another difference would be that Eurystheus was being controlled by Hera instead of working with her, however, Hercules was still order to complete the twelve labors. In the video the labors were described as well as in Hamilton’s book, but with some slight differences; Hercules is helped in some of his labors by his nephew, lolaus, and by Athena in Hamilton’s book, but not it this retelling and in this story Hercules makes poisonous arrows out of the Hydra’s bodily fluids, but not in the book.
After the labors Hercules still has inner turmoil, so he, like in Hamilton’s book, builds a funeral pyre, kills himself, and goes up to Olympus. There he is forgiven by Hera, but he doesn’t marry Hebe as in Hamilton’s book. While the History Channel’s telling ncluded more realistic facts along with the story, it was still relatable to Hamilton’s version. The 2014 movie Hercules directed by Brett Ratner offered a look at the man behind the myth in a condensed format. It showed how the myth of Hercules could have actually happened, but it isn’t backed up by fact.
Hercules again is the son of Zeus and Alcmena and again Hera wanted him dead, so she sent the two snakes to kill him and they didn’t. Hercules had a wife and three children, but in this retelling he can’t remember anything from the night they died. After that, Hercules worked as a mercenary to complete he 12 labors, which are mentioned throughout the movie, but never all at once or in great detail. Unlike in Hamilton’s book, Hercules had companions on these adventures and he was doing these things for money. The labors themselves, like killing the Hydra, were not as they seemed.
The people in the movie believed he had actually killed a monster, but it was actually men disguised. The main storyline of the movie revolves around the city of Thrace, where the king has hired Hercules and his companions to defeat Rhesus, a man who they are told is terrorizing villages and farms. Like in Hamilton’s book, Hercules prevails and defeats his opponent, however, he soon realizes that something is amiss. Unlike in Hamilton’s book, Hercules is clever as well as strong. Rhesus tells Hercules that he has been fighting for the wrong side, that it is the King who is destroying and taking villages.
Hercules and most of his companions decided to stay and fight against the king; they were captured and almost killed by Cerberus, who is actually just three separate wolves. But, when Hercules remembers how his family died, by another man, King Eurystheus, who is working with the ing, he is empowered (Eurystheus also appears in Hamilton’s version, however he is not working with Hera in this story). Hercules escapes with his companions due to his use of strength and together they kill Eurystheus and the King, saving Thrace and it’s people.
Unlike in the other versions so far, Hercules did not kill himself that the views know of. In this movie Hercules remained strong and heroic as he was portrayed in Hamilton’s version, however any god-like abilities were explained as sleight of hand or luck. Hercules was portrayed as an actual god in the 997 animated movie Hercules, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. Unlike in Hamilton’s book, Hercules’ parents, Zeus and Hera, are both gods who love him very much and the villain of the story is Hades, Zeus’ brother and the ruler of the underworld.
The movie includes many characters from mythology that don’t appear in Hamilton’s story of hercules (and are not completely accurate). For example, five Muses narrator the story, while in another part of Hamilton’s book there are nine Muses, and the Fates are portrayed as three old women who can see the past, present, and future, but they only share ne eye between them, unlike in Hamilton’s book. The movie begins in Mount Olympus where the gods are having a party to celebrate Hercules.
Hades has learned from the Fates that if Hercules lives to be eighteen, he will be the destruction of Hades plan to take over the world; so, Hades sends his two henchmen, called pain and panic, to steal Hercules and kill him. The henchmen do succeed in taking Hercules, however when they give him a position to make him mortal, Hercules doesn’t end up drinking it all, so he retains his strength. Thinking that they can kill Hercules now, they transform into two giant snakes, plot point featured in Hamilton’s book, and try to kill him, however, they fail.
Hercules is found and raised by two mortals until he learns that he isn’t their real son and he decides to he to the temple of Zeus to ask for answers. Once there, Zeus reveals that he is Hercules father and that in order for Hercules to rejoin him in Olympus Hercules must prove that he is a true hero. This is what turns out to be the start of this version twelve labors, different from Hamilton’s book because Hercules is not repenting but instead trying to prove himself. Hercules go and ets trained by a satyr named Philoctetes, or Phil, who gets Hercules seemingly fit to be a hero.
Together they travel to Thrace, but on the way there the met Megara, Meg, Hercules love interest in this movie, similar to in Hamilton’s version, however there is no mention of marriage, simply of love. Hercules saves Meg from an angry centaur and they they part; at this point the viewer learns that Meg is working for Hades because Hades has her soul. This is very different from Hamilton’s version because Meg actually plays an important and continuing role in the story instead of simply dying, as she did in he book.
Hercules and Phil continue to Thrace, where Hercules starts to beat the adaptation of the twelve labors; the labors are never mentioned by name, however the same beast he fought in Hamilton’s book are depicted. Hercules meets up with Meg again and they end up falling in love, so Hades decides to use this to his advantage. Hades traps Meg and tells Hercules he can have her if he gives up his strength for 24 hours and Hercules agrees under the condition that Meg isn’t hurt. This is very different from Hamilton’s book because in the book Hera never makes a deal similar to this with Hercules.
Of course now that Hercules isn’t strong enough to stop him, Hades frees the Titans and heads to attack Mount Olympus, revealing to Hercules that Meg was ‘working’ with him all along. Again, Hamilton’s book differs because Hera never tried to rule Mount Olympus or take over, she simply wanted Hercules to suffer. Heartbroken, Hercules then tries to stop a giant Cyclops that Hades had sent to Thrace from destroying the city. Meg and Phil cheer him on and Hercules defeats the monster, however Meg gets hurt while protecting Hercules. The deal is broken between Hercules and
Hades and Hercules regains his strength back, so he goes to Mount Olympus and stops Hades and the Titans. However, by the time Hercules gets back to Meg, her soul has passed to the underworld. Similar to in Hamilton’s book, Hercules travels to the underworld and masters Cerberus, but unlike in the book, Hercules makes another deal with Hades. If Hercules can retrieve Meg’s soul, Hades can have him and Meg will be free. Hades agrees with the deal, knowing that getting Meg’s soul would kill Hercules; but, Hercules doesn’t die. Instead, Hercules becomes immortal because he has proved himself a true hero with a strong heart.
The deal with Hades is broken and Hercules ends up pushing Hades into the area where the other dead souls are where Hades gets taken further and further into the underworld. Hamilton’s book varied greatly from this because the villain, Hera, is not punished and because Megara is not brought back to life. Hercules and a revived Meg travel to Mount Olympus, where Hercules can live with the gods, but chooses instead to stay with Meg, unlike in Hamilton’s version where Hercules goes to live with the gods, but similar in that Hercules does end up with a significant other in both stories.
The animated movie that depicted Hercules story strayed from the Hamilton’s original version a lot, but they did still have some similarities. The story of Hercules is a well known tale retold by many people. In Mythology, by Edith Hamilton the original story of Hercules is told. In the History Channel’s 2009 episode, “Hercules” from the series, Clash of the Gods historians have summarized Hercules’ story and told how some aspects of it could have been realistic.
In the 2014 movie Hercules directed by Brett Ratner, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson the tale of Hercules is shown as it may have actually happened, with false monsters, hyperboles, and money trading hands. In the 1997 animated movie Hercules directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, the last version of Hercules examined, the story differs the most from Hamilton’s original book, the main plot point being a young god in love. All of the stories of Hercules were entertaining and they each had their own twist, however, they all did have some similarities.