Mythology for Kids: Hercules (HR-ku-leez)
He grew to be the strongest of all with huge rippling muscles and curly long yellow hair. Hercules was 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.
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, whose 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 angrier and extremely jealous! It was at that moment Hera swore revenge. She set out to make this child's life 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 meantime, 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 fields. Among the lessons taught were how to become a real Greek man, wrestle an enemy, master the difficulties of the chariot, the art of war, and perfectly aim and shoot a bow and arrow. The only lesson he could not 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 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 any enemy 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 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 frequently fought 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 the time was right to throw her devastating revenge blow 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 did 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 wisest of all lived, and used the female Oracle to define events that would please the gods.
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 king's 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.
Hercules would soon discover that each of these tasks was chosen because of their impossible nature, with most consisting of facing monsters and vicious beasts.
What Were the Twelve Tasks of Hercules?
Hercules would have to complete the twelve most impossible tasks to cleanse his soul after being tricked into murdering his wife and children by Hera. 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.
- Hercules Had to Slay The Nemean Lion: The huge man-eating Nemean lion had an immortal head and hid 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 hid 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.
- 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 the 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.
- 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.
- 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 tasked with bringing 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.
- 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 muscles and brains. He simply rerouted the Alpheus and Peneus rivers to wash away the disgusting mess in a single day.
- 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 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.
- Hercules Must Capture the Cretan Bull: Hercules had to sail to Crete to capture the Cretan Bull. This huge bovine had been uprooting crops, knocking down walls, and causing too much damage and trouble. Hercules was to capture the bull and return it to King Eurystheus so he could sacrifice 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 sacrificed to Athena (and/or Apollo).
- 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.
- Hercules Had to Get the Girdle of Hippolyta: The cowardly King Eurystheus had a daughter who wanted the belt of Queen Hippolyta, which was a gift from the god of war, Ares. Hippolyta 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 Hippolyta lived. It was a hard journey full of fighting and sadness, but Hercules overcame these struggles. When he arrived, Hippolyta was impressed with such success that she agreed to simply give him the belt, but Hera had other plans. The vengeful woman disguised herself 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.
- 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 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 he could not 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 the herd was sacrificed to Hera upon their arrival.
- Hercules Had to steal the Apples of Hesperides: When Hercules made it to his garden, 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.
- 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 could 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 underworld's gates.
Hercules is Rewarded for Completing His Twelve Labors
Once all twelve tasks 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Comments for "The Story of Hercules for Children"
Hercules on January 29, 2016:
Bobert on November 22, 2015:
Nice work I think it was very moving expirince
Lui Calibre on November 23, 2014:
my cousin learnt a lot from that
my cousin learnt a lot
izzy on March 13, 2013:
you know what i am a child and it was great but alittle hard to understand yes the dividing was nice but aliittle better next time think how a kid would write or explaine a story. just remember it was woner full keep up the great work. you are alsome hub
India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on May 16, 2012:
fpherj48~ I am so glad your boys will be reading the story! That is exactly why I wrote it! My hope is that kids will learn more willingly the daunting history of Greek Mythology. Thank you very much for votes!
India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on May 16, 2012:
Denise~ Thank you so much for the message and for stopping by for a read. I am very glad to be back! I so appreciate that you enjoyed a bit of Hercules history from a kids viewpoint. Had a great time creating it! Your comments are very heartwarming my friend!
Suzie from Carson City on May 16, 2012:
I'll be printing this up for my grandsons! Thank you so much. You're hub is going to be very popular with some young boys in WNY!! BTW...Gram liked it too!! Love Greek mythology! UP++
Denise Handlon from Michigan on May 15, 2012:
K9-you have written a thorough explanation of Hercules that is simple for any child, or adult, to follow as only you can do! Welcome back-you've been missed! :)
I enjoyed reading this hub in its entirety, point by point. Your personal illustrations were delightful! I had no idea that you are so multi talented. :) I can imagine this hub as a children's book complete with illustrations by you. It may be an old story, but I loved it. Voted up / U/ I
India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on May 15, 2012:
Teresa~ Thanks for stopping by! So glad you find the mythology for kids series a worthy read! To be honest, I am having an absolute blast doing the illustrations for them! Always nice to see you!
Teresa Coppens from Ontario, Canada on May 15, 2012:
I love your mythology hub. They are so well told and engaging especially for young readers. Bravo! voted up.
India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on May 15, 2012:
Nell~ Thanks so much! Greek Mythology can be so tedious that presenting it with a child in mind does make it much easier to take in. I am so honored you find the work acceptable, my friend! I appreciate that you shared your thoughts here!
Nell Rose from England on May 15, 2012:
Hi, This is great! I always think that the where the kids Greek hubs that you write are concerned they are brilliant for adults too. Sometimes we get so bogged down with the names and details so this is really interesting, useful and just about everything else too! I love my Greek myths and legends, voted up! cheers nell