The Greek Myths That Disney's Hercules Is Based On

The Walt Disney Company has been a money-making juggernaut since its inception. The company's film and production arm, known as Walt Disney Studios, has been responsible for a lot of the corporation's success. Beginning with the release of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, Disney has continued to pump out successful films that delight and entertain children and families all over the world. Many of these films are based on children's fairy tales and cultural mythologies and legends from across the world. In 1997, Disney took on one of the most well-known Greek myths when they released the family-friendly version of the story of Hercules.

The legends around the Greek hero Hercules (via Greek Mythology) are both numerous and fantastical. According to History, Hercules (Herakles in Greek) was born from an affair between the Olympian god Zeus and a mortal woman, Alcmene. This was a problem for the goddess Hera, who was Zeus' wife. Controlled by jealousy, she did everything she could to make Hercules' life as difficult as possible. She even caused him to go temporarily insane, which in turn resulted in Hercules' murdering his wife and two children. However, it was this tragedy that ultimately turned Hercules into the beloved hero of legend.

Path to redemption

After the deaths of his family, Hercules actually begged the god Apollo to punish him for his crimes. Instead, Apollo showed him a path to redemption by asking him to complete a series of tasks for King Eurystheus, which would become known as the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Among these astronomical feats were slaying the Nemean lion, stealing Hippolyta's belt from the queen of the Amazons, and kidnapping Cerberus, the three-headed hound of hell. Once he accomplished all of these labors, Hercules' guilt would leave him and he would become fully immortal. Legend says he did achieve his goal, had many other adventures later in life, and spent eternity with the gods on Mount Olympus.

When Disney told this tale, they definitely changed a few things in order to make it family-friendly. While killing lions and stealing Hades' pet along with women's clothing makes for an interesting adventure story, it was not exactly suitable for Disney's target audience. The Disney movie does follow Hercules on his path to achieving his immortality, but he takes a different route. Sure, he fights some creatures and has a bit of drama with his mentor, Phil, and his father, Zeus. What it all comes down to is him finding love and being willing to sacrifice his chance at immortality to protect it. In true Disney fashion, Hercules beats the bad guy, attains immortality, and of course gets the girl. Definitely a different ending compared to the original myths, but it's obvious where the inspiration came from.