Why Everybody is Obsessed with Dragons and Other Intense Legends from History
Why Everybody is Obsessed with Dragons and Other Intense Legends from History

Why Everybody is Obsessed with Dragons and Other Intense Legends from History

Khalid Elhassan - October 12, 2022

Why Everybody is Obsessed with Dragons and Other Intense Legends from History
Hercules. Greek Mythology

How the Mythology of this Ancient Greek Super Hero Was Changed to Suit Modern Audiences

1997’s animated Disney movie, Hercules, is about the beloved son of the chief Olympian god Zeus, and his wife the goddess Hera. In the popular musical fantasy comedy, Zeus’ evil brother Hades, the god of the dead and king of the underworld, hatches a plot to overthrow Zeus and become the chief god of Mount Olympus. However, the evil plan depends on Hercules’ noninterference. So Hades sends his minions to kidnap and murder him while he was still a baby. Hercules is kidnapped, but he survives the murder attempt.

The rest of the movie revolves around how the hero grows up, and eventually thwarts Hades. In ancient Greek mythology, however, Hercules – or Heracles as the Greeks called him – was not the beloved son of Zeus and Hera. Hera, who was not Hercules’ mom, actually hated him with a passion: Zeus cheated on her constantly, and Hercules was Zeus’ son with a mortal woman named Alcmene. As seen below, rather than dote upon baby Hercules, Zeus’ wife went out of her way to mess him up whenever she could. And since she was a goddess, with divine powers, she often messed him up good.

Why Everybody is Obsessed with Dragons and Other Intense Legends from History
Disney’s take on Hercules. Alli Express

The Original of This Story Was Not Suitable for Modern Kids or Audiences

The Hera of Disney’s Hercules doted upon her son the famous Greek hero. By contrast, the original Hera of ancient Greek mythology could not stand Hercules. She tried to murder him before he was even born. In ancient Greek mythology, Hera grew livid when she learned that Zeus had impregnated Alcmene. So the chief Olympian’s wife forced Ilithya, the goddess of childbirth, to keep Hercules trapped in his mother’s womb. That plan was eventually foiled when a servant surprised Ilithya, and got her to lose her concentration long enough for Hercules to get born. Hera did not give up, however. A few months later, when Hercules was still a baby, she sent giant snakes to kill him. However, the supernaturally strong Hercules grabbed one in each hand and strangled them to death.

Why Everybody is Obsessed with Dragons and Other Intense Legends from History
Ancient Roman statue of an infant Hercules strangling a snake. Capitoline Museum, Rome

Throughout the life of Hercules, Hera continued to do all she could to harm him. At some point, she inflicted upon him a divine fit of madness, and in the grip of insanity, a raving Hercules grabbed a bow and killed his wife and children. When he regained his sanity and realized what he had done, Hercules fled to the Oracle of Delphi, to find out what he could do to wash away his sin. Unfortunately, Hera controlled the Oracle. She got it to saddle Hercules with a series of seemingly impossible tasks as a condition for cleansing him – what became the Twelve Labors of Hercules. In short, if Disney’s Hercules had adhered to ancient Greek mythology, Hera would not be a kind mother full of love, but the villain of the story.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Ambrose, Tom – The Nature of Despotism: From Caligula to Mugabe, the Making of Tyrants (2008)

Ancient Origins – The Search for El Dorado, the Lost City of Gold

Archaeology Archive, September 23rd, 1998 – King Arthur Was Real?

AV Club – Wikipedia Erected a Page to Explain Ancient Rome’s Fascination With the Phallus

BBC – El Dorado: The Truth Behind the Myth

Best Glam Health and Lifestyle – Gladiator Sweat and Other Surprising Aphrodisiacs of the Ancient World

Bulfinch, Thomas – Bulfinch’s Mythology (1998)

Casual Criminalist – Magdelina Solis: The High Priestess of Blood

Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Oct. 1968) – Father of History or Father of Lies; the Reputation of Herodotus

Clements, Jonathan – The First Emperor of China (2006)

CrimeZZZ Net – Serial Killers Hernandez, Cayetano; Hernandez, Santos; and Solis, Magdalena

Encyclopedia Britannica – Eldorado, Legendary Country

Encyclopedia Britannica – Herodotus

Encyclopedia Britannica – Samu-ramat

English Heritage – Dragons and Their Origins

Evslin, Bernard – Gods, Demigods and Demons: A Handbook of Greek Mythology (2006)

Fry, Stephen – Heroes: The Greek Myths Reimagined (2018)

Fry, Stephen – Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece (2019)

Gonick, Larry – The Cartoon History of the Universe, Part II (1994)

Greek Mythology – Hercules: The Life of the Greek Hero

Hemming, John – The Search for El Dorado (1978)

Heritage Daily – The Origins of Dragon Mythology

Historia Magazine, October 29th, 2020 – Gladiator Sweat and Leech Hair Dye; How to Survive in Ancient Rome

Historic UK – Cottingly Fairies

History Collection – The Real Legend of Hua Mulan

Jones, David E. – An Instinct for Dragons (2000)

Lawrence Today Magazine, Fall, 2004 – European Travel Writings and the Patagonian Giants

Live Science – Dragons: A Brief History of the Mythical, Fire-Breathing Beasts

Mayor, Adrienne – The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times (2000)

Messy Nessy Chic – When the Phallus Was Fashion

Murderpedia – Magdalena Solis

Museum of Hoaxes – Cottingley Fairies

Museum of Hoaxes – Patagonian Giants

National Geographic – El Dorado

Screen Rant – Disney’s Hercules: 10 Things That Would be Different if the Movie Was Mythologically Accurate

Smithsonian Magazine, January 23rd, 2012 – Where Did Dragons Come From?

Snyder, Christopher A. – Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons, AD 400-600 (2010)

Telegraph, The, July 11th, 2010 – Historians Locate King Arthur’s Round Table

World History Encyclopedia – Semiramis

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