Today, we continue our week-long celebration of this week’s release of Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, a companion novel to the Percy Jackson series — which this year is marking 10 years in print! Each day this week, we’re bringing you a little more in-depth information about Greek mythology — and a unique chance to win a Percy Jackson prize pack. (Details on that later in this post, so keep reading!) For now, here’s today’s lesson.
Greek Mythology: Heracles (aka Hercules)
You probably know him best as Hercules — but that’s his Roman name. In Greek mythology, his name is Heracles. But whatever you call him, you probably know a little about this guy, as the half-son of Zeus. The result of the god’s affair with a human woman, Zeus’ wifey Hera was not Heracles’ biggest fan. (She kind of hated him, actually.) There’s some pretty iffy biology going on in the story, because apparently Heracles’ mom got pregnant the same night by her human husband, and so he has a 100% human twin. (Yeah, that’s not how that works … but then, we’re also talking about mythological gods. So, let’s just accept this at face value and move on.)
Anyway, Hera hated Heracles so much — because it proved her husband’s infidelity — she basically had it out for him all the time. But little did she know, her half-sister Athena (who just loves protecting heroes), tricked Hera into nursing Heracles, her “divine milk” giving Heracles his famous superheroic powers. (Also, apparently, this nursing supposedly lead to the creation of the Milky Way. So there’s that.)
Later, Hera sent two giant snakes to kill eight-month-old Heracles and his brother — but baby Heracles just grabbed the snakes in each hand and strangled them. Because super strong baby.
Much later in life, Heracles got married (to a princess named Megara – sound familiar, Disney fans?) and had a bunch of kids. But Hera wasn’t done tormenting him, and she drove him to a fit of madness, during which he killed all his children. (We didn’t hear about that part, Disney.)
Once he came back to his senses, Heracles sought penance for murdering his children (gee, thanks). Once again, Hera was pulling the strings — bringing Heracles to his arch-nemesis King Eurystheus, who commanded that Heracles perform “ten labours” — later increased to twelve, because technicalities. You’ve probably heard about some of these adventures:
- Slay the Nemean Lion.
- Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
- Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
- Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
- Capture the Cretan Bull.
- Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
- Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
- Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
- Steal the apples of the Hesperides
- Capture and bring back Cerberus.
Later, after he was feeling relieved of the guilt of killing his kids (I mean, SERIOUSLY! Why do we not talk about this more when we learn Greek mythology???), Heracles also joined up with Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece.
He also helped rescue Prometheus from his punishment for stealing fire from the gods, by slaying the eagle that tortured Prometheus daily.
Aside from his assorted other heroic act, Heracles was also quite the lover. He married four times, had a number of affairs, and was even known for having a number of male lovers (which, at the time at least, was considered a major sign of masculinity and warriorship). All this loving around means Heracles also had a lot of kids — including plenty he didn’t murder.
Heracles died through a complicated plot of trickery — but basically, he was poisoned by Hydra blood. As the poison killed him, he actually built his own funeral pyre. As his body burned, only his immortal side was left — and Heracles rose to Olympus.
Learn more by checking out Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, in stores today:
Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.
Win a Percy Prize Pack
Tell us your favorite Greek hero in the comments below, for your chance to win a copy of Greek Heroes, plus a Percy Jackson backpack. Tune in every day this week for more chances to win!
Earn more entries by entering the Day 4 Code Word: SNAKES
Once you’ve commented below, head to the Rafflecopter form HERE to make it official.
Prizing & samples provided by Disney Hyperion.
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