Final Post: Disney’s Ability to Revise Explicit Greek Gods to a G-rated Children’s Cartoon

Greek mythology once influenced the lives, beliefs, and cultures of the people of Ancient Greek times. These myths were an indication of the sophistication that these Greek societies held, but, with a very basic knowledge of Greek mythology, this sophistication is quickly questioned. The gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, creatures and creations that these myths are centered on committed actions that have little to no concern for morality, they were the cause of bloody battles, torture, bodies torn from limb to limb, and many other grotesque events. Thanks to the preservation of Ancient Greek art and the oral retelling of myths, which soon became written, people today have a window where they are able to view these explicit myths and the roles that they played in the everyday lives of the Ancient Greeks. It is inevitable that as stories get passed along they will become modified and manipulated. But is it respectful or appropriate for today’s film producers and storywriters to take these once explicit worshipped myths and characters and turn them into something that would earn a G rating in a cinema? Disney’s 1997 Hercules has taken myths and characters, which were once, gut wrenching to those who based their lives and culture around them, into a humorous and heart-warming children’s film. Disney’s “new approach to the ancient world is … a wrong approach” [1], producers are ignorant to the concrete myths that have been influential factors in the lives of the ancient Greek people and they manipulate these myths to create a cartoon that is satisfying to children.

Greek myths are certainly enticing, but they are definitely not something that today’s world would encourage children to dwell on. Parents are frowned upon when they allow their children to play violent video games and they are pressured to refrain from purchasing them. Yet Disney is able to take these explicit myths and serve them up to children of all ages. Because of Disney’s ability to transform these myths into a child appropriate creation parents are more than likely oblivious to the hidden messages and stories that their children are soaking up. The blame for this cannot be put on the shoulders of the parents; Disney does a remarkable job with the transformation of Greek mythology – so great that there is no obvious evidence of brutal slaughter, incest and infidelity. With an analysis of the Gods presented in Ancient Greek art the question as to how Disney is able to turn these myths into something child appropriate and whether or not it is was respectful for them to do this is heightened and becomes more of a hot topic.


Cronus engulfing his child born from his sister Rhea

Looking at the most widely know Greek God, Zeus, there are some major red flags and concerns for child appropriateness. Zeus was the result of incest between two titans, Cronus and Rhea – first red flag. An oracle told Zeus that one of his children would kill him, second red flag, and so every time his consort/sister gave birth he would swallow the child, third red flag. About half way through this one myth we are already seeing some extreme issues that would not be encouraged in the lives of children – incest, children murdering their parents, and, the most grotesque one, eating their own children. It does not end here, the red flags continue popping up. After Cronus had disposed of 5 of his children, Rhea decided she had enough and hatched a plan, mind you this took five devoured children. She gave birth to her sixth child and sent him to Crete where he would be raised by a goat-nymph, fourth red flag – we don’t send our children straight from the womb to be raised by goats. Once Zeus was grown and strong the goat let the cat out of the bag. She told Zeus about who he truly was and what his father had done to the rest of his siblings. Zeus was outraged and sought revenge and told his intentions to the titaness Metis, who gave him a drug that would save his siblings. Long story short, Zeus managed to get Cronus to take this drug, which caused him to vomit up his children – red flag number five, the fact that he was able to regurgitate his children is just disturbing. A war between the Gods, Zeus and his siblings, and the Titans, the Gods’ parents, was then hatched. With the assistants of the cyclones the Gods were victorious and became the rulers of Mount Olympus and controlled the cosmos.

The Disney recreation of Zeus lacks the very prominent features that make him up in Greek mythology. Disney’s Zeus is devoted and madly in love with his wife Hera and it is presumed, not that this would cross a child’s mind while watching a cartoon, that he would never be unfaithful to her. But, despite the cartoon “Zeus’ relations with his wife were far from tranquil.”[2] In Greek myths, Zeus is the father of many, due to his rambunctious sexual interactions with many different mortals and Goddesses, he “had begun a series of liaisons with female divinities”[3]. Disney leaves this out. Instead, the children that he fathered in the myths become his friends and helpers in the movie. Why did Disney leave this out? A movie that earns a G-rating would not include a detailed record of a characters sexual partners and illegitimate children that resulted from it. If Disney had included this, a good percentage of the Gods and Goddesses would be calling him father, another portion would be looking for their child support and the others would be waging war with him because of his sexual relations and rape with/of their wives and daughters. Long story short, Zeus probably would not have been as well liked as Disney makes him to be. With the lack of these characteristics, Disney had to fill in the gaps with something. They made Zeus kind, caring and humorous. Disney’s Zeus has a little bit of a temper, like the Greek mythological Zeus, but nowhere near as close in extremity. Like many of the other situations, Disney makes this somewhat humorous.


Prometheus sentenced by Zeus to be tortured

Another, less popular, myth that emphasizes the brutality and grotesque actions of the characters involved in Greek myths is the story about Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus was believed to be the creator of the human race. He was a mythical craftsman who formed the humans and also taught them many things about the ways of life. The most important teaching
that Prometheus gave to the people, to this myth, was how to properly sacrifice. A bull was killed and the people didn’t know what part to save for themselves and what part to offer for the Gods, so Prometheus cleverly wrapped the meat in the bull’s skin and wrapped the bones in the fat. Zeus chose the pile of fat and bone and became outraged, so he refused humans fire. Because Prometheus was for humanity, he took their side. He stole fire from the Gods and gave it to the people so they could cook their meat and heat their homes. Zeus was obviously outraged by the fact that one of his own kind was able to steal from him and so he came up with a punishment. This punishment was no slap on the wrist and then sent to be on his way like many first offenses would normally be, instead Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock and had an eagle rip his mid section apart and peck at his liver all day long. It would normally be presumed that this slow torture would eventually result in death – au contraire. Gods cannot die they are immortal, Prometheus’ liver would have just enough time in the evening to heal up and be ready to be ripped and pecked apart by the eagle the next day. Prometheus endured this for thousands of years.

We are then left with a Greek Hero who is a praised and worshipped by most children, Hercules. Without even an analysis of the character we see a bold Disney revision. The Greek myth knows this hero as Heracles, rather than what today’s children know him as, Hercules. Heracles is the illegitimate son of Zeus. Zeus had committed infidelity against his wife Hera, and impregnated a mortal woman. This isn’t just a case of a husband cheating on his wife where his mistress has some sort of knowledge of what is occurring. Zeus had disguised himself as this woman’s husband, impregnates her, and then returned to be with his wife, Hera. With obvious reason for disgust and jealousy, Hera showed great hatred towards Heracles – so great she attempted to murder him as an infant and, with that failure, she drove him to slaughter his wife and children. With this brutal crime, Heracles was to be punished. King Eurystheus of Mycenae came up with 12 apparently impossible tasks as punishment. These labors required Heracles to kill, steal, slaughter, and battle – keep in mind that this is the figure that Disney has influenced children to idolize. These labors where not expected to be completed, but because of Heracles amazing strength, courage and bravery, he prevailed.


The efforts of Heracles with his 12 labours

Greek myths also include mythical beings that young children find themselves fantasizing over. Nymphs, hybrid races and the fates are aspects of Greek mythology and are also included in Disney’s Hercules. These “bizarre beings” [4] shared human and animal features – this is “a way of combining contrasting psychological qualities in one creature. Greek mythology examples of these hybrid races are nymphs, centaurs, and Cyclopes, two of which are present in the Disney film. These creatures were known to “intervene in human affairs”[5] in both beneficial and detrimental ways. The physical appearance and special abilities of these creatures are fascinating; especially to children and this is the only probable reason as to why they are present in children movies. Even with the knowledge of their malicious ways, nymphs, Cyclopes, and the three fates managed to make their way into a G-rated film.


Greek mythology depiction of nymphs

Nymphs are beautiful female creatures draped in white cloth decked with flowers. They are normally associated with a specific area, like a forest, river, or spring. They are able to move swiftly and invisibly, fly, and slip through tiny places. To add the enticement these characters have, their legs are unnatural, meaning they normally have legs like those of a donkey, cow, or goat. Despite their obvious beauty, being the one of the only characteristics that Disney decided to include, nymphs were believed to cause harm to humans due to infatuation, madness, and stroke. This was because these creatures commonly appeared in whirlwinds.

Cyclopes’ are ginormous mythical creatures who are distinguished by their third eye. They are not the brightest light bulbs, but they are great in stature and are well endowed when it comes to physical strength. The Cyclopes in Disney’s Hercules only had one eye, but his massive size and strength was clearly prominent, as were his lack of brains (in both his actions and head size). Again, instead of focusing on the internalized characteristics, Disney put much of its focus on the appearance of this creature. He was extremely large, like the myths and art depict, but the cartoon artists had to add weight to him. So he was not just large in stature, he was exceedingly obese – which Disney has made humorous in the eyes of children. Disney seemed to love the fact that this specific creature was known to be a little dull, and so they accentuated this in every means possible.


Greek mythology representation of the Three Fates

Another group of mythical beings that play a large role in Greek mythology are the Fates. Disney portrays them as three sisters who are somewhat goofy and easily deceived. They share and fight over a single eyeball, which allows them to see into the future. Their role in the movie is to control the lives of mortals by spinning a thread, stretching it out, and then cutting it. Disney has inevitably made death humorous with these three beings and the help of Hades. The film portrays the soul of a recently deceased human entering the underworld, and instead of a mourning sense, it’s seen as a game show or contest. After the soul, the soul of a once apparently young and beautiful girl, passes through the gates of the underworld there is a cheery bell that is congratulating the soul for being a specific, high, number that has passed through. This scene is literally celebrated an extremely high rate of death. But because of Disney’s ability to turn even the most gruesome event into something that is humorous, this scene is not perceived that way. The Greek myths see the fates as the controllers of destiny. One set life in motion, another spun the thread of life, and the other cut it (page 32). They did not share an eyeball; each of them had their own pair of healthy eyes. They also looked like women, instead of the goofy shriveled up creatures that Disney created.

Disney's representation of the Three Fates

Disney’s representation of the Three Fates

Here is where the main question originates from; how do these explicit myths make their way into Disney movies for the entertainment of children? It is quite evident that they are modified; they would have to be in order for them to get a rating of G. But what possesses someone to manipulate and change the culture of a once great civilization? These myths that controlled and constructed the lives of the Ancient Greeks are extremely interesting and intriguing. With just this alone it became evident to Disney producers that these stories would gain lots of attention, and more importantly, revenue. To turn these myths into something more appropriate for children would bring in loads of money – not just from the film, but also from the merchandise that could be created.


Greek mythology’s depiction of Heracles

Producers cut out the ideas of incest, eating ones own children, infidelity, slaughter, murder, torture, and nudity. They kept an aspect of violence, but they dimmed it. Sticking with the main Disney character, instead of portraying Heracles slaughtering a lion, skinning it, and wearing it as a trophy, we have Hercules literally kicking a lion in the butt and then he was shown in a completely separate scene wearing a lions skin, one that doesn’t quite match the skin of the lion he had defeated, so the gruesome idea of him killing and wearing his opponent is lacking from the movie. There are also battles, but they are modified to be entertaining for children, like the battle between Hercules and the Hydra. This was the second labor of Heracles. But instead of showing an epic bloody battle where heads were being cut off and stumps were being cauterized Disney makes it more child appropriate. Instead of making a realistic bloody red scene, they have neon green slime – which takes away the idea that Hercules is actually slaughtering a living-breathing creature. Producers have also created humorous aspects to this scene by creating an audience whose comments and conversations are taken as jokes to children. The cauterizing of stumps is left out of the movie – perhaps to emphasize Hercules’ strength or maybe because this part of the myth was just too difficult to convert into something that wouldn’t disturb children. At the end of the battle Hercules is left victorious. Instead of slaying the monster in a way that is gory and bloody, like the original myths suggest, Hercules simply covers the monster in heavy stones – which does not necessarily mean the monster is dead; this protects the children from this harsh reality.

It is obvious that Disney has come up with, and mastered, ways of camouflaging disturbing stories and myths in order to create a successful entertaining cartoon for children. Producers and artists have taken the art and stories surrounding it from ancient Greece and morphed it into something more acceptable for they younger audiences of today’s society. This can be seen in a very negative light. Some may argue that it is degrading in the sense that it takes away the firm beliefs of an ancient society in order to please today’s society and that it also allows children to worship the incorrect telling of mythical events and characters. Others may see what Disney has done in a positive light. The fact that Disney is broadcasting stories and myths from ancient times could be perceived as a modern version of oral story telling, the way that these myths and stories had originally been handed down. This radiates positivity because, in a sense, it is keeping a deceased time alive. But, “it takes special qualities to make a tale survive from generation to generation – to make it traditional”[6]. Disney does not do this, instead they completely change the myths and combine bits and pieces of multiple myths to get the ideal story for a children’s cartoon. This is  destructive and deceiving to both Greek mythology and the audiences of this film.

Children are not apt to pick apart the single myth that Disney has presented and discover that the story they have just watched is a combination. Instead, they will see what Disney places in from of them. Like the passing of the soul into the underworld; instead of seeing it as a sign of death, they see it as a game and are cheery about it – this scene of death is bringing smiles to children’s faces! But of course they do not interpret this scene the way an adult may. Children find themselves infatuated with these heroic and supernatural characters because of their abilities and stories, but they are only seeing the aspects of the characters that Disney feels would enchant them. It is questionable how Disney is able to do this. Maybe because it seems morally wrong to allow unknowing children to fantasize and idolize such explicit characters and events. The fact that children have given celebrity status and immense amounts of attention to ancient characters that were once the cause for ruthless deaths, battles, and morally wrong events is barbaric; Disney encourages this. Children become so in love with the ideas of these characters that action figures, stuffed toys, clothing, and even dinnerware have been sold. A popular plastic children’s plate, that  was popular at the time of the release of Disney’s Hercules, had an image of Hercules and it read, “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy!” Well no, he’s actually an illigetimate-son-of-zeus-who-brutally-murdered-his-wife-and-children kind of guy. Taking a look at something that may be more moving, the children’s song ring-around-the-rosie. This popular nursery rhyme goes as follows:

Ring around the rosie,

A pocket full of posies;

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

Children are seen dancing around in circles singing this rhyme, but the meaning behind it is dark and something that deserves an attitude that isn’t cheerful or playful. This nursery rhyme became popular in 1665, the time of the bubonic plague. It is in reference to the circular, rose-coloured rash that appeared on the flesh of those infected by the plague. The posie aspect reflects the belief at that time that these sweet herbs protected those from the plague because it was believed that it was transferred by bad smells. The final two lines refers directly to death, those who died were cremated. More than 60% of the population was wiped out by this infectious plague. Disney’s ability to manipulate Greek myths into something with a pretty appearance and humorous aspects allows children to completely disregard the meaning behind the actual stories, creating an unknowing barbaric enjoyment amongst children today.


[1] G.S., Kirk. “The Journal of Hellenic Studies.” 1972. Accessed November 21, 2014. Article Stable URL: 74.

[2] Tripp, Edward. “Z.” In The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology An Alphabetical Guide. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007. 606.

[3] Tripp, Edward. “Z.” In The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology An Alphabetical Guide. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2007. 606.

[4] Wilkinson, Phillip. “Europe.” In Myths & Legends: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings. New York, New York: DK Publishing, 2009. 32.

[5] Wilkinson, Phillip. “Europe.” In Myths & Legends: An Illustrated Guide to Their Origins and Meanings. New York, New York: DK Publishing, 2009. 32.

[6] G.S., Kirk. “The Journal of Hellenic Studies.” 1972. Accessed November 21, 2014. Article Stable URL: 75.


Cronus eating child:

Prometheus Torture:

Heracles 12 Labors:


Greek Mythology: Three Fates:

Disney’s Hercules: Three Fates:

Greek Mythology: Heracles:

How Disney Sculpted the Miraculous Childhood Role Model, Hercules, from the Ruthless Greek Character, Heracles

After analyzing Disney’s ability to transform Greek myths (that, agreeably, would not be deemed as child appropriate) to an entertaining G rated children’s movie, I will now look at the main and, in my opinion, the most important character in the Disney cartoon, Hercules.

Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus

Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus

In Greek mythology, Hercules (or Heracles in the myths) is known primarily for his extraordinary strength, courage, and masculinity. In the myths he is commonly wearing a lion skin. It is known that Heracles was the son of Zeus and Hera, and this is a reasonable belief because Heracles directly translates to the ‘Glory of Hera’. But, as probably anticipated due to the sexual absurdities in Greek Mythology, Heracles was actually the outcome of Zeus’ infidelity. Zeus disguised himself as Amphitryon, the husband of a mortal woman, Alcheme. Heracles was an illegitimate son of Zeus and also half mortal. As you can probably assume, because Heracles was a symbol of Hera’s husband’s infidelity, she learned to hate him. Due to this hate, she sent two serpents to kill him. Because of Heracles magnificent strength, he strangled the serpents and used their dead bodies as toys.

The infant Heracles and a snake sent by Hera

The infant Heracles and a snake sent by Hera

Heracles was sent to tend to livestock in his childhood, after he had killed his music teacher, on a mountain. Here he was visited by nymphs – Pleasure and Virtue. These two nymphs offered him a choice between two lives: a life of comfort and general easiness or a life of glory and brutality. Evidently, he chose the path of glory and brutality.

Heracles married a woman named Megara; she was his first wife, whom he had several children with. The hate Hera possessed over Hercules continued on even this far in his life. She caused Heracles to lose his mind and kill his wife and children. Heracles knew he had committed brutal crimes and he wished to purify himself of them, so he went to an oracle (who was influenced by Hera). The oracle told Heracles that he must serve King Eurystheus for 12 years and complete 12 labors.

There are several events that occur in Disney’s Hercules that can be compared and contrasted with the mythology surrounding Heracles. I will be focusing most of my attention on:

  • Heracles’/Hercules’ characteristics and traits
  • Heracles’/Hercules’ parents and the idea of infidelity
  • The attempt to murder Heracles/Heracles via serpents
  • Heracles’/Hercules’ upbringing: working with livestock
  • Heracles’/Hercules’ romance with Megara

Characteristics and Traits:

In Greek myths Hercules was famously known for his strength, bravery, and masculinity – much like in the Disney cartoon. But, unlike the cartoon, he was also widely known for his arrogance, lack of self-discipline, murderous sprees, and was the object of infidelity. The cartoon is absent from all of these traits, with the exception of minor arrogance once Hercules fame has built up, but he quickly realizes that his actions are inappropriate and he makes up for it. In the movie he possesses traits that leave children starry-eyed; loyal, kind, romantic, humorous, brave, strong, heroic, and humble. The song “Zero to Hero” that is present in the film idolizes Hercules and creates an even larger celebrity status for him by children. The song also highlights some major character traits of Hercules.

Parents and the Idea of Infidelity & the Attack of the Serpents:

In the cartoon, Hercules was the legitimate son of Zeus and Hera (who both loved him very much). Instead of Hera despising him, this characteristic was placed on Hades. Hercules was born a God, unlike the myth. It was after his birth when he was turned mortal by the efforts of Hades and his minions. After he had been turned completely mortal, or so the minions had thought, they attempted to kill him by morphing themselves into serpents; which baby Hercules then strangled (but did not kill) and used them as toys – like the Greek myth says that Hera did. Also, after turning Hercules into a mortal he was adopted by Alcheme and Amphitryon – the name of the woman who Zeus committed infidelity with in the myths while being disguised as her husband Amphitryon. Take a look at turning the “little sun spot” into a mortal and his ability to defeat serpents even after he was stripped of his title as a God – also, notice the names of those who found baby Hercules.

Working with Livestock (in a Farm Setting) Throughout Childhood:

In the Disney film Hercules was brought up in a farm setting. Not because he murdered anyone (like the myths suggest), but because this was the life his adoptive parents chose. Disney refrained from the small detail that Hercules was sentenced to work with livestock due to his murderous crime and instead replaced this detail with Hercules’ innocence as a baby.

Hercules’ Romance with Megara:

In the Disney film, Hercules is shy with Megara at first. He is clearly attracted to her and attempts to rescue her from a river guardian who has her in his firm grasp. Hercules defeats the River Guardian and (very quickly) falls head over heels for Megara like the oh-so typical Disney love story. But, in contrast to the myth, their relationship at the end of the movie does not resemble anything that would lead to the murder of Megara and their several children. Again, in contrast to the characteristics that the myths give Heracles, he would never give up the title of God for love or a woman. His goal in life was to be glorious and no love story would ruin that. The Disney Hercules gave this God title up for the love of his life, Megara. Hera is also delighted with her son and his relationship with Megara. Disney leaves the murderous abilities of Hercules out of the film, for the very obvious restrictions that a G-rating places on a children’s cartoon. See just how true Hercules’ love for Megara is and also notice the additional praised characteristics the hunky hero possesses.

Disney has incorporated some of the aspects from the Greek mythology surrounding Heracles into the 1997 cartoon Hercules. The representation is not consistently accurate for obvious reasons – it is simply not appropriate for children. Producers and directors have found aspects of these myths to be entertaining if manipulated in some way, like Hercules run in with the two serpents. This was originally a brutal attack on an innocent baby’s life by his Fathers wife warped into a humorous and enjoyable scene for children – kind of sick, right? There are many other relatable events that happen in Greek mythology surrounding Heracles that can be compared to Disney’s Hercules, like the 12 labors, that will be soon discussed and analyzed.

The first of the twelve labours Hercules had to complete: Slay the Nemean Lion and bring back its skin

The first of the twelve labours Hercules had to complete: Slay the Nemean Lion and bring back its skin

Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus image found here

The Infant Hercules and a snake sent by Hera image found here 

Twelve Labors Image found here

Sexuality and Relationships that are in Greek Mythology, But not in the Disney Cartoon

It is common to see sexual relationships in Greek myths between cousins, siblings, parents, and aunts/uncles. In today’s society that is extremely frowned upon and because of the awkwardness and uncomfortable feel this topic makes individuals feel it is a topic not often discussed. This is something adults wouldn’t choose to see, hear, or watch, let alone allow their children too. Disney’s Hercules lacks these frowned upon relationships probably because of their obscurity. Some incestuous relationships in Greek mythology include:

  • Zeus and Hera (brother and sister)
  • Cronus and Rhea (brother and sister – Titans)
  • Nyx and Erebus (brother and sister – Titans)
  • Myrrha and Theias (daughter and father)
  • Peresphone and Hades (niece and uncle)

I will be focusing on Zeus and Hera because they are the parents of Hercules and I will also throw in the myth revolved around Myrrha and Theias. Although Myrrha and Theias are not included in Disney’s Hercules they signify the explicit relationships that the many of the Gods had.

Disney's depiction of Hermes

Disney’s depiction of Hermes

Zeus and Hera were siblings from the Titans. The joined together and produced many offspring: Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Dionysus, Perseus, and Hercules. Zeus was known for his erotic escapades and had more children as a result of this: Peresphone by Demeter and the Muses by Mnemsoyne. Many of Zeus’ children as a result of incest and adultery are present in Disney’s Hercules, but they are not portrayed as his children. Instead they are given amusing/entertaining qualities that exclude their explicit reasons for existence, they are seen as friends and assistants of Zeus instead of his children. Click here to see a video of the Disney Gods and Goddesses that are children of Zeus, but not acknowledged for it. 

The Greek myth of Myrrha and her father Theias is one that the Disney movie completely excluded from the film Hercules, except for one character soon to be revealed. The severity of their relationship proves the explicit behaviors of many Greek Gods. Myrrha was the daughter of Theias; she committed incest with him and bore the son Adonis. After having intercourse with her father she became impregnated. Aphrodite was included in this myth for the belief that she urged Myrrha to commit incest with her father (Aphrodite being included in the Disney movie). When Theias heard of his daughters pregnancy he chased her with a knife. She fled to the gods who turned her into a myrrh tree until their son was born. Myrrha gave birth to her son Adonis in tree form.


Myrrha giving birth to Adonis as a Myrrh Tree

The Uncles of Hercules: Poseidon and Hades

In the original Greek myths Poseidon and Hades are Hercules uncles, like in the Disney reproduction. Theses characters resemble much of their mythological counterparts, with a few critical exceptions:

Hades and his forced wife Peresphone

Hades and his forced wife Peresphone

Hades often drew with his brothers Zeus and Poseidon for shares of the world. He ended up getting the worst end of the stick, his draw made him lord of the underworld. In his myths he is greedy, unpitying, terrible, and manipulative – much like in the Disney movie. The myths also spoke of Hades tendency to favor those who increase the amounts of deaths. He paid particular attention to the Erinnyes. There were three of them: Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megaera (the woman that Hercules falls in love with in the Disney movie shares this name – coincidence?). They pursued wrong does until death; they were often the cause for suicide – not directly related in the Disney movie. The Erinnyes were not represented in the movie, maybe because of the fact that they were violent and caused events that were less than favorable for a children’s movie, so instead Disney put the mythological creatures known as Fates at Hades right wing instead.


Disney’s Depiction of Hades

The Fates are three old sisters responsible for deciding one’s destiny. An intriguing aspect of them, which may have been influential in Disney’s choice to use these Greek Gods instead of the Errinyes, was that they shared a single eye. Clotho spins the thread of life, Lachesis measures the lot in life and determines how long their life will be, and Atropos cuts the thread of life at the individual’s death. Now this doesn’t exactly sound Disney, they’re responsible for death! But Disney has it’s way of making it more child appropriate, see this video.

Disney's Depictions of Poseidon

Disney’s Depictions of Poseidon

Poseidon was the God of the sea and he protected all waters. He is known as the second strongest Greek God, next to Zeus. His weapon was a trident that could shake the earth and destroy any object. There is a myth that claims Poseidon once tried to woo Demeter and in his attempts he attempted to create the most beautiful animal – which turned out to be a horse. In the Hercules movie Poseidon’s presence isn’t greatly evident. But there were a few, minimal, important remarks between him and Hades that represents their quarrelling relationship.

The important temple on the Akroppolis, the Erechtheion stands on the mythical site that connects the sea god (Poseidon) and Athena for patronage over Athens. Poseidon was known to be greedy and quarrelsome when he tried to take over other Gods cities. During this contest between him and Athena, Poseidon struck rock with his trident, creating a spout of water. Athena defeated him in this contest by giving Athens an olive tree. The Athenians enclosed this sacred rock in the Erechtheion’s north porch.

The Erectheion

The Erechtheion

The Comparison of a Mythological Battle and a Disney Battle

After reading the previous post and hopefully gaining a sense of understanding when it comes to Greek mythology, we see that Zeus and his battles play a major role this cultures myths. As we have read, he is the savior of the Sky Gods and the God of all Gods, now we will focus on a few wars that he was involved in while keeping Disney’s Hercules in mind for comparison.

Before getting into detail about the wars involving the Gods, click here to view the Disney interpretation of these in order to keep it in mind for comparison.

Looking at this battle between the Titans vs. Hercules and the Sky Gods in Disney’s Hercules we can’t find a single relatable mythological event. Rather, there are numerous myths that seem to have been joined to create the entertaining Disney battle. Two of these mythological events that we’ll look at are The Titan War and The War of the Giants.

The Titan War is something we have already reviewed. It was the battle between Zeus and the rest of the Sky Gods vs. their parents, aunts and uncles (the Titans). A war ensued and the Sky Gods came out victorious, imprisoning the Titans in a pit called Tartarus. In the Disney film, Titans are released from a pit known as Tartarus – although the titans are depicted incorrectly (according to Greek myth). Once the Titans are released they focus their efforts towards revenge on Zeus for locking them up.

Comparison of Disney's battle

Comparison of Disney’s interpretation and the actual myth

Athena Attacking the Giants

Athena Attacking the Giants. Notice the serpent-like features of the giants. Picture copied from

The Greek myth of The War of the Giants describes a war between Giants born from the earth who’s father was Tartaros (the pit). These giants made war on the God, but were destroyed in battle with the help of Herakles. These Giants were depicted as warriors dressed in armor barring spears and flaming torches. In sculptures they were sculpted with serpent tails for legs. There are related myths describing storm giants, one having the name Typhoeus. He was an immortal storm giant who was imprisoned by Zeus in the pit of Tartaros. He was responsible for storm winds. In Disney’s Hercules the “titans” that are released seem to be very similar to these giants or storm giants. The appearance of the titans can be described as giant and can most definitely be seen as storm causing.

Comparison of Disney's interpretation and the actual myth

Comparison of Disney’s interpretation and the actual myth

So as we can see, a collaboration of these two myths has occurred in the Disney movie, Hercules. Soon I will focus on the Gods involved in these battles and their characteristics compared to Disney’s depiction of them.

An Introduction to Greek Mythology and the Foundation of Modern Day-Mythical Entertainment

If we’re getting into Greek mythology we need to understand the origin of the Gods and their myths:

“According to ancient greek legend, the creation of the world involved a battle between the earth gods, called titans, and the sky gods. The victors were the sky gods, whose home was believed to be atop the Mount Olympos in the northeast corner of the Greek mainland.” – excerpt from Marilyn Stockstad, Art: A Brief History, 5th Edition

This war between the sky gods and the titans was known as titanomachy. It continued on for a long 10 years. But before we get into more detail of this epic battle, understanding the reasons behind it would prove to bring a sense of clarity.

Kronos and Rhae with their new born child. Notice the facial expressions on the two. Rhae lacks a smile while Kronos; face is haunted with one.

Kronos and Rhae with their new born child. Notice the facial expressions on the two. Rhae lacks a smile while Kronos; face is haunted with one.

The titans and sky gods were all relatives, it was a battle consisting of aunts/uncles/parents vs. nieces/nephews/children – intriguing, right? There were 12 titans that were ruling, six brothers and six sisters. Each brother paired up with a sister and produced children (this is what they don’t show in our Disney’s Hercules). The titan pair that proves to be most significant of this story is between Kronos (Saturn or Father of Gods) and Rhae (Mother of Gods). Kronos was told by his parents (Earth and Sky) that he would be defeated by one of his children. So he did what he thought was a logical solution – he swallowed each child as soon as they were born (see what I mean by grotesque and explicit?). Because the children were immortal, this did not kill them – Kronos’ logical solution proved to be not-so-logical after all.

Rhae grieved the loss of her children and she searched for a means to prevent further grief. Before the birth of another child (the mighty Zeus), she went to the island of Crete. Here she gave birth to him and hid his cries with the banging of weapons so Kronos would not know about his whereabouts. Instead of giving him a child to swallow she gave him a stone wrapped in cloth. Expecting it to be a child, he swallowed it without any thought.

Zeus grew strong very quickly, and not long after his birth he was able to force Kronos to throw up his siblings. Now this has to be the finest example of sibling love, agreed? This is where the battle originated – straight from the gut of their father to the battlefield. The sons and daughters of the titans (aka, the Sky Gods) versus the their parents (the Titans).

Greek God family tree that illustrates the relations between the Olympians and the Titans. Image found here

Greek God family tree that illustrates the relations between the Olympians and the Titans.

A GIF of Disney's Hercules Titans displayed as an animation of the common ancient greek pottery and paintings

A GIF of Disney’s Hercules Titans displayed as an animation of the common ancient greek pottery and paintings

Now venturing back to how this is all related to modern day entertainment, we can see a battle similar to this near the ending of Disney’s Hercules. Although this is a revengeful attack, it does illustrate the battle that once occurred between the two groups and it focuses on the significance that Zeus played because of the repetition of “Zeus” coming from the newly released Titans. In Greek mythology these titans took human shapes. They were much larger and more extravagant, but they did not take the forms of earth elements – like in Disney’s Hercules. Cyclope is the one titan who is appropriately resembled (in a sense). Contrasting with the original myths and this children’s movie, Cyclope was a titan who had actually helped Zeus with the take down of the titans. The portrayal of this Cyclope’s fighting against him is incorrect and is used to enhance the audience’s entertainment.

Now that we’ve established where the Greek Gods came from and understand some of their disturbing backgrounds we can get into further detail about how they were depicted in ancient art and how they are now viewed.

Sources:                                                                                                                                                  Greek God family tree found here                                                                                                       Kronos and Rhae found here                                                                                                            Hercules’ Titan GIF found here                                                                                                             Ideas gathered from here