Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Hercules is the son of a mortal, Alcmena, and the god Jupiter. Because Juno is hostile to all children of her husband by mortal mothers, she decides to be revenged upon the child. She sends two snakes to kill Hercules in his crib, but the infant strangles the serpents with ease. Then Juno causes Hercules to be subject to the will of his cousin, Eurystheus.
As a child, Hercules is taught by Rhadamanthus, who one day punishes the child for misdeeds. Hercules immediately kills his teacher. For this act, his foster father, Amphitryon, takes Hercules away to the mountains to be reared by rude shepherds. Early in youth, Hercules begins to attract attention for his great strength and courage. He kills a lion single-handedly and takes heroic part in a war. When Juno, jealous of his growing success, calls on Eurystheus to use his power over Hercules, Eurystheus demands that Hercules carry out twelve labors. Juno and Eurystheus hope that Hercules will perish in one of them.
The First Labor. Juno sends a lion to eat the people of Nemea. The lion’s hide is so protected that no arrow can pierce it. Knowing that he cannot kill the animal with his bow, Hercules meets the lion and strangles it with his bare hands. Thereafter he wears the lion’s skin as a protection when he fights, for nothing can penetrate it.
The Second Labor. Hercules has to meet the Lernaean hydra. This creature lives in a swamp, and the odor of its body...
(The entire section is 963 words.)
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