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Heroes of Mythology

The Greek: Herakles

Professional Criticism #1

The Story of Siegfried (Norse/Germany)

Professional Criticism #2

Hiawatha Tarenywagon (Iroquois)

Comparison Between Myths

Indian: Karna

Contrast Between Myths

Ajax the Less/Ajax the Greater

Other Mythology Links

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The Greek: Herakles

The Greek hero, Herakles, was the son of Zeus and was at once extremely powerful, but very unintelligent.

Alcmene, afraid of Hera's jealousy, left her newly born child in a field outside the walls of Thebes. Athene took Hera to the child pretending to be surprised to find him. Athene commanded Hera to provide the child with milk. Herakles drew the milk from Hera so forcefully that she flung him down and a spurt of milk flew from Herakles' mouth and became the milky way.

However, some say that Hermes carried Herakles to Olympus and Zeus gave the child to Hera himself. Herakles had greedily sucked up more milk then could fit in his mouth and coughed it up to become the milky way. Hera was thee foster mother of Herakles.

Hera sent two serpents to Alcmene's house with orders to destroy Herakles. The gates opened and the serpents entered into the nursery. The frightened cries of the children woke Alcmene. Although. Herakles who had not spoken a word, not even a whimper, displayed the serpents while in the act of strangling, one in either hand. He then laughed as they died. While Alcmene comforted an upset Iphicles, Amphitryon put Herakles to bed.

Teiresais, advised Alcmene to burn the serpents at midnight. In the morning, a maid-servant had to collect their ashes, scatter them in the wind, and run away without looking back. Finally, a boar had to be sacrificed at Zeus's high altar. Alcmene did all this. However, some say the serpents were harmless and places in the cradle by Amphitryon.


The Story of Siegfried (Norse/Germany)

Siegfried, whose name means "Victory Peace", was the son of the warrior hero Siegmund and his wife Sieglinde.

Alberich, the King of Niebelungen, was the master of a vast treasure of underground gold. He was the possessor of a Ring which gave its owner mastery of the world. A giant, Fafner, guarded the ring in the form of a fierce dragon.

When Siegmund was killed in battle, the dying Sieglinde gave birth to Siegfried entrusting him to a dwarf named Mime. Mime had always hidden the truth from Siegfried in hope that he or Mime and not Ow tan or Alberich would gain possession of the ring and the treasure.

One day Wotan, the one-eyed king of the gods, was wondering on earth and came to the home of Siegfried and Mime. Mime asked Wotan several questions and he would tell her only the truth. As Wotan disappeared, Siegfried ordered Mime to reforge Nothing so that he could fulfill his mission. Mime then protested that Siegfried could not reforge the magic sword. Siegfried gathered the pieces of the shattered sword and reforged them at Mime's anvil. Erde, the goddess and sister of Wotan went off to tell her brother what she had witnessed.

Siegfried set out to slay Fafner and reclaim Alberich's treasure including the ring. He had completed his first task and slew Fafner. The blood of Fafner had dripped onto Siegfried's sword. Siegfried then touched his lips to the blood because this enabled him to understand the prophetic language of the birds which told him Alberich's treasure was in a cave nearby. Siegfried went to the cave and took the ring as a souvenir of his exploit. However, he did not know that the ring was cursed: Alberich ensured that any holder of the ring other then himself would die through the treachery of another.

Mime and Alberich then arrived and Siegfried immediately slew Mime knowing that she had intended to kill him and take the treasure. Alberich continued to let him wear the ring and Siegfried's brave deeds were known throughout the world.

The sorceress, Griemhild, knew of this young hero and wanted to marry her daughter Gertrune and Brunnhilde would be the bride of Gunther.

When Siegfried arrived, Gertrune gave a great feast and swore her eternal oath to Siegfried. Griemhild slipped a magic potion into Siegfried's drink that made him forget about Brunnhilde. Siegfried then married Gertrune.

Brunnhilde had believed that Gunther had previously rescued her in a time of need, not Siegfried and married Gunther. However, later Brunnhilde learned the whole truth and demanded that Gunther kill Siegfried. During the night, as Siegfried slept with Gertrune, Hagen (Gunther's brother) stabbed Siegfried. Brunnhilde had fulfilled the curse of Alberich.


Hiawatha Tarenywagon (Iroquois)

Tarenywagon, the upholder of the heavens, was awakened from his sleep one night by the horrible cries of anguish from the earth. The humans were murdering and injuring each other and fighting against giants causing despair.

Tarenywagon took the form of a mortal and he lead a group of human refugees to a place where they could sleep. He then led the people to a great lodge house where they lived happily. He told them to form five great nations and families were separated from the group. They began to speak a different language and were call the "people of different speech." Tarenywagon taught these people how to hunt and be great farmers and then left.

Again he separated the other families and named them Nehawretago, the "tall tree people" because of the forests in their homeland. They too spoke their own language.

Tarenywagon led others to a great mountain called Onondaga, and some to the lake Goyoga each having their own language as well. Tarenywagon led the few families left to a place called Canandaigua, the home of the people known as the Tehonenoyent, the Seneca nation. They were named "keepers of the door" because they were the sentinels of the five nations.

At times, some people had left the five nations and never returned, however those that remained prospered. Tarenywagon gave each nation its own special gift. Then he went to live along with the Onondoga people where he took the name Hiawatha.

Even though they lived in peace, the Wild People (Algonquin tribes) came and attacked the five nations who were not as civilized. The five nation then joined together as a common defense. Hiawatha had come to lead them in his magic birth canoe accompanied by his daughter, Mnihaha. He spoke with each nation in their own language. Out of the heavens came the Great Mystery Bird of Heaven who carried away Hiawatha's daughter. Hiawatha was deeply saddened and never explained the mystery to the people. However, many say the girl was given to God in exchange for peace.

After the mourning period, Hiawatha called the five nations together and they were to remain as one nation forever. They would never act separately. With these last words, Hiawatha, in his magic birth canoe, rode into the sky.


Indian: Karna

The princess known as Kunti, bore a child, a young boy by the name of Karna. His father was the sun-god Surya. Karna was born with golden ear ornaments as well an unbreakable coat of mail. Kunti, in deep distress exposed the boy. She laid the boy in a basket and carried him to the river of Acva. The basket traveled as far as the city of Campa, where a charioteer and his spouse, Radha, were passing alongside the river. Radha was also in deep sorrow because no son had been given to her. She soon saw the basket on the river and the two took care of the young boy and raised him as their very own child.

Kunti later married King Pandu who by a curse was supposed to die in the arms of his spouse. However, Kunti bore three sons. King Pandu died in the arms of his second wife. Kunti's sons grew up and at a tournament arranged by them, Karna appeared. He wanted to test his own strength against Arjuna, the best fighter and the son of Kunti. However, Arjuna refused to fight a charioteer's son which Karna was. Kunti soon recognized Karna as her son and prayed that he would not to compete in a contest with his brother. She had done this by revealing to Karna his true identity. Karna fell in combat, after being hit by Arjuna's arrow.


Ajax the Less/Ajax the Greater

During the sack of Troy, Ajax the Less had offended Athena by raping the Princess Cassandra (who sought refuge at the altar) in the goddess's sanctuary. At the time of Ajax's voyage home from Troy, Athena was the cause of a storm that destroyed man Greek ships including that of Ajax the Less. He swam to a large rock nearby for safety where he said that no god could prevent him from escaping this dangerous sea. Poseidon, the god of the sea, was extremely angry with this and hit the rock occupied by Ajax forcefully with his trident. It was because of this that Ajax was thrown into the water and soon drowned. It is said that Ajax the Less deserved what he got.


Ajax the Greater was a close friend of Achilles. Achilles was killed in battle. After his funeral, the Greek chieftains had to decide who would receive Achilles' armor. Ajax assumed that since he was the closest living friend to the hero, Achilles, he would receive this prize. However, it was given to Odysseus instead and Ajax became furious. He was so enraged that he went mad and butchered a helpless herd of cattle while imagining them as Greeks. When he realized what he had done, Ajax became so ashamed of himself that he committed suicide. When Ajax's half-brother, Teucer, came home from the war, their common father, Telamon, exiled him for not taking care of and looking after his brother, Ajax the Greater.


Professional Criticism Summary #1

The paths of the adventures of heroes of myth undergo a cycle of separation -- initiation --return. "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from the mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." (Cambell, 30) A representation of the tasks of different heroes and the importance of these tasks can be shown in the traditional legend, the Great Struggle of the Buddah. In the narratives of some Greeks or in many stories in the bible, the heroes usually follow a pattern. A separation from the world, a penetration to a source of power, and a life-enhancing return. Both the hero and his gods can be understood as different parts of a mystery; the mystery of the manifest world.


Professional Criticism Summary #2

The first stage of the mythological adventure can be known as the "call to adventure." The hero is going to remove himself from familiar surroundings and would then be thrust into an unknown world. It is up to the hero's creativity and intelligence to decide the tasks he may face and what their outcome may be. The hero must set goals to challenge himself and try to accomplish these goals throughout his adventure. For example, the story of Theseus when he arrived in his father's city. The hero's journey may be good, bad, or involve something unimaginable as he travels into an unknown world.


Similarities Between Myths

Each of the myths based upon a hero or heroes can be somewhat related to each other. Some of the obvious similarities include the of the heroes. Although each mythological hero did not face death, the majority did. Each of the myths dealt with relationships between people, whether they are families, nations, or even lovers. They involve hoe people relate to one another and what the circumstances may be. People are greatly impacted on certain events that occur, especially the heroes. For example, the baby, Karna, being left on the river led him to a new life as the death of Siegfried's parents led him to a new life as well. Hiawatha's loss of his daughter led to deep depression and eventually his disappearance. It is also apparent in most of the myths that each hero is led back to his origins whether it be by fate or mere coincidence. T a tournament, Karna was reunited with his mother, Kunti, soon before his death. Herakles was led back to Hera after greedily drinking her milk causing her to want to kill him. Each of the hero myths were similar to one another in a numerous amount of ways.


Differences Between Myths

While reading the myths based on heroes of mythology, many differences were clearly evident. It is obvious that each individual hero encountered his own adventure and completed the tasks involved with that adventure in his own, unique way. The myth of Hiawatha Tarenywagon seemed to be the most different from the others. Hiawatha organized the five nations where they lived together and in peace. In the other myths, fighting occurred within families because of jealousy or wanting too much power or similar reasons. Some of the mythological heroes were raised by their true parents, others were raised by people they were simply given to or found by, and each of these heroes led a new life. Finally, in some of the myths, people or animals were sacrificed to please a god or someone of supreme power. However in some cases, people would not sacrifice for the sake of keeping families together or to maintain peace. Many differences were present in comparing a few heroes of mythology.


Links To Other Mythology Sites

Index of Mythology on the Web -

Mythology -

The Book of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes and other Characters of Mythology - sindex.html

Mythology and Heroes Home Page -

Mythology -

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