Right from the beginning, Hera, Zeus' wife, was very jealous of Hercules. She tried all kinds of ways to kill him, including sending a couple of big snakes into his crib. Hercules crushed those snakes in a flash! Hercules was incredibly strong, even as a baby!
Zeus loved his little son. He figured that sooner or later Hera might actually find a way to kill little Hercules. To keep his small son safe from attack, Zeus sent him to live with a mortal family on Earth. Hercules grew up loved and noble. But he didn't fit in on earth. He was too big and too strong. One day, his Earth father told him he was part god.
Hercules had a cousin named Eurystheus (Eury for short). Eury was the king of a little village in the city-state of Argos. Eury was an evil man. He thought everyone wanted to steal his crown, especially Hercules. One day, when Hera and Eury were chatting about their mutual hatred for Hercules, Hera came up with a plan - a plan to kill Hercules! She was sure this one would work.
Hera helped Eury design 12 Labours (missions or tasks) that Hercules had to complete. Supposedly, when Hercules had completed the 12 Labours, he would earn his immortality, or so Hera promised.
Hercules was no fool. He asked the Oracle at Delphi who agreed. Actually, the oracle had said, "If you complete 12 Labours, immortality will be yours." Being an oracle, she never explained what she meant by "immortality" - would he live forever in legend or for real? Hercules never asked. (She would not have told him anyway.)
The Labours of Hercules are as follows:
- Slay the Nemean Lion.
- Slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra.
- Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar.
- Clean the Augean stables in a single day.
- Slay the Stymphalian Birds.
- Capture the Cretan Bull.
- Steal the Mares of Diomedes.
- Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
- Obtain the cattle of the monster Geryon.
- Steal the apples of the Hesperides (He had the help of Atlas to pick them after Hercules had slain Ladon).
- Capture and bring back Cerberus.
Hercules not only lived, he had great adventures, discovered true friends, and rid the world of some really nasty critters.