Study Guide

Heracles (Hercules): Birth and Early Adventures The Hero's Journey

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is a framework that scholar Joseph Campbell came up with that many myths and stories follow. Many storytellers and story-readers find it a useful way to look at tale. (That's actually putting it lightly. Some people are straight-up obsessed.) Chris Vogler adapted Campbell's 17 stages of a hero's journey, which many screenwriters use while making movies. Vogler condensed Campbell's 17 stages down to 12, which is what we're using. To read a general explanation of the 12 stages, click here.

The story of Heracles' Birth and Early Adventures doesn't really fit into this structure, since he's just a baby and not a super active hero just yet, but we're going to give it a try anyway. Here's how we've diced up the story:

Stage 1: Ordinary World

This stage doesn't really exist in the way that Vogler defines it. There's not a happy safe time for Heracles. He's being attacked by Hera even when he's in the womb. The vengeful goddess is super ticked off that her husband Zeus has yet again conceived a child with another woman.

Stage 2: Call to Adventure

Heracles' mother abandons him in the wilderness. There's no real quest to go on yet, but baby Heracles does get caught up in a struggle for survival.

Stage 3: Refusal of the Call

Heracles is still a baby at this point, so it's kind of hard for him to refuse much of anything.

Stage 4: Meeting of the Mentor

Athena kind of fills this role when she saves baby Heracles after his mother, Alcmene, abandons him for fear of Hera's vengeful wrath.

Stage 5: Crossing the Threshold

This has pretty much already happened. Alcmene throws Heracles over the threshold whether he likes it or not, when she abandons him in the wilderness.

Stage 6: Tests, Allies, Enemies

Baby Heracles finds a great ally in Athena and a great enemy in Hera. Athena ends up helping him out for the rest of his life, while Hera is always out to get him.

Stage 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

Athena takes Heracles to Hera, his greatest enemy, to be fed. Hera, not knowing the baby is Heracles agrees to breastfeed him. This is a very dangerous time for Heracles.

Stage 8: Ordeal

Baby Heracles feeds on Hera's breast milk, but in doing so bites her nipple. She realizes who he is and is super ticked off.

Stage 9: Reward (Seizing the Sword)

Heracles, who is already stronger than normal babies, is made even stronger by Hera's divine breast milk.

Stage 10: The Road Back

Athena returns baby Heracles to Alcmene, who promises never to abandon him again.

Stage 11: Resurrection

Heracles comes really close to death when the vengeful Hera sends two snakes to eat him in his crib, however the super strong baby kills the serpents with ease. When Alcmene discovers him in the crib with the dead snakes, she's sure she's got a very special little boy on her hands.

Stage 12: Return with the Elixir

Suped up on Hera's breast milk and his godly bloodline, baby Heracles is ready to grow up and become the most famous hero of all time.

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