I used to love Greek Mythology when I was younger. I love reading about the Greek gods — the wars they inflict, their polygamous lifestyles and the heroes they make of their bastards. They were the DC and Marvel superheroes of their time.
One of my favorite Greek heroes is Hercules, for all I know he’s the only Greek superhero that didn’t die because of a stupid weakness as he was devoid of any weakness or more popularly known as the Achilles’ heels. So imagine my youthful excitement when Disney’s made an animated film based on him.
But then again, Disney is known notoriously for “taming” old tales to make them more child-friendly. Remember how in their adaptation the little mermaid and Prince Eric fought the evil sea witch, Ursula, and lived happily ever after? In the original The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, the little mermaid had feet in exchange for her voice and saved his prince charming but she didn’t get him to kiss her and so she turned into a foam on the day the prince married the girl arranged for him. No happily ever after.
Disney’s Hercules movie poster from deviantART
In Disney’s Hercules, Hercules was the son of Zeus and Hera and therefore he is immortal. On his presentation to the rest of the other gods, Zeus gave him Pegasus for present which he formed from a scoop of cloud. Every god welcomed the boy happily except his sulky uncle Hades who had no other desire but dethrone his brother Zeus and rule everything high and below.
He consulted the Fates who told him of an the upcoming planetary alignment, an opportunity to overthrow his brother and be the ruler of all. But first he must dispose off his nephew or he will interfere with his plans. He plotted the assassination but failed without his knowing.
Moving forward, Hercules had lost his immortality but had retained his godly strength and with proper training from Philoctetes, the trainer of all Greek heroes, he was able to stop Hades’ evil plan, restored order in Mount Olympus and became reunited with the gods.
But then again this is Disney so there must be the element of love and that was taken cared of by the beautiful but not-so-damsel-in-distress Megara whom Hercules fell in love with. But she had sold her soul to Hades so he must help him trick the hero but love conquers all and they lived happily ever after.
And now for the facts (or fiction)…
Walt Disney vs. Edith Hamilton
- Hercules was the son of Zeus to the mortal Alcmene. When her husband, Amphitryon, was out fighting a war, Zeus came to her in her husband’s likeness and got her pregnant. Hera was so furious when she found out and it was she that she kept plotting for his murder and not Hades.
- Zeus did not create Pegasus from a scoop of cloud, the winged horse sprung out from Medussa’s head when Perseus slayed the Gorgon Medusa. He did not yielded to Hercules but with Bellerophon with the god Athena’s help.
- The Fates were not sharing a single eye as they were depicted in the Disney adaptation. The Graiae, the sisters of the Gorgons whom Perseus tricked to show him the winged sandals, did.
- Philoctetes was not the trainer of Hercules. Philoctetes is Hercules’ young follower whom he asked to set him on fire towards his end. He didn’t had goat’s horns and hoofs, it was the Pan.
- There were nine muses, not just five.
- Hercules did not do his Twelve Labors to prove himself a true hero. He did those to atone his sins for having slain his wife Megara and their three sons when Hera sent him madness so the Megara love angle was totally blown out of proportion.
- Hercules did not went down Hades to retrieve Megara’s soul, he went there to take the three-headed dog, Cerberus, for one of his 12 Labors. He could have also been there to take back the soul of his friend Admetus’s wife, Alcetis, on his way to slay King Diomedes’ man-eating mares.
So Disney Films not only did turned the Greek hero’s story into something more fit for a fairy tale, it tried to confuse its younger audiences by mixing the other heroes’ tales into one.
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton was first published in 1942. In contains Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies as taken from other classic stories such as Homer’s Odyssey. My favorite stories so far are those of Demeter (and the Hades’ rape of Persephone), Cupid and Psyche, Pegasus and Bellerophon and Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece.