Study Guide

Heracles (Hercules): The Twelve Labors

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Think of some of the most popular, epic, and exciting stories of all time. We're talking stories that make tons of money at the box office and that are constantly found on people's "Top Ten Greatest Stories of All Time" lists. We bet that Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings are some titles that immediately come to mind. What do all of these great stories have in common? They each involve some kind of hero going on a quest. Authors and Hollywood filmmakers rake in the big bucks with stories about heroes and their epic journeys, defeating monsters and evildoers, and maybe finding a little love along the way.

Hmmm. We might even be so bold as to say that humans are obsessed with stories about quests. "Say what, Shmoop?" That's right. You heard us. We think that people are in love with quest stories. Why is this? Well, one reason might be that quest stories are like detailed road maps of life. Just like life, quests often involve the same elements, or should we say side effects:

  • Huge setbacks
  • Frustration
  • Failures
  • Loss and pain
  • Confusion
  • Love
  • Family
  • Success
  • Jealousy
  • Romance
  • and more

In reading and watching quest stories, we humans can learn more about how to navigate our own confusing, complicated lives.

And the Twelve Labors of Heracles is probably one of the most famous quests in all of mythology. Unlike most of our modern-day heroes, Heracles (you might know him by his Roman name, Hercules) is no ordinary dude. His dad is the king of the gods. He has divine blood. That's how we know he's got a majorly complex and action-packed quest ahead of him.

Best of the Web

Heracles (Hercules): The Twelve Labors Resources


A great source for all things ancient Greek. We're linking to the page on Heracles.

Movie and TV Productions

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (TV Series)
Kevin Sorbo was the man in this popular series about Hercules' adventures.

Hercules (Animated Movie)
When Heracles got Disnified... In this movie, Hera isn't the bad guy (she's actually Hercules' mom), Hades is. In other words, this movie isn't faithful to the original myth, but it's still fun.

Hercules (Animated Series)
As if a movie wasn't enough, Disney also made a TV series about Herc.

Video Games

The Glory of Hercules
A game for Nintendo DS.

God of War III
Heracles gets a whipping from Kratos, Mr. God of War, in this video game.

Historical Documents

The Library
An ancient source of the tale of Heracles.

Library of History
Another old-school source for all things Heracles.


Disney Movie
Watch the trailer for the 1997 animated Disney movie.

Hercules vs. the Hydra
Watch Hercules fight the Hydra in this clip from the Disney movie.


Hercules (Digital Comic)
Marvel Comics gives the hero of heroes his very own series.

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