The Real Hercules Was A Rage-Filled Killer

When the Art Institute of Chicago commissioned me to tell the story of Hercules for an exhibition, I wasn’t aware that the glossy hero Hollywood had told me about was actually a sociopath and killer. His temper was volcanic and nobody near him was safe. This is the actual myth we’re talking about.

 
In order to free himself from the guilt of murdering his young family in a blind rage, Hercules is given a way out: ten labors (it ends up twelve). Worse, he must perform them for his weak, cowardly cousin, the king of Mycenae. It makes for a good story, though, how his cousin hates him and tries to send Hercules on labors that will kill him. The Nemean Lion, for instance, has a hide that blades or arrows cannot pierce. Hercules breaks its neck and ends up skinning it with its own claw, hollowing out its skull and wearing the dead lion as a helmet and robe. After that, arrows bounce off him.

 
Later, as poison blood hisses onto his lion’s skin, he kills the Hydra by knocking off its many heads, but makes a fateful mistake by dipping his arrows in the blood, which kills on contact like VX. That one act haunts his life and in the end, kills him. But being less than immortal, he can’t know that will be his end. At first he thinks nothing of people, or of slaying them, until after his labors he is forced to live as a woman and a slave for three years. Something in him changes and he is free to love again, but even so, he must still kill again to save his newlywed wife.

 
Hercules in Hell is a full-blown immersion into Greek mythology, told in a very fun way. Lots of amusing character voices and a score on 12-string guitar. The show is on the The Boston Calendar. 8 pm, Sunday April 23rd. Tickets are here.

FALL OF THE TITANS: THE ORIGINAL GAME OF THRONES/upcoming show in Nashua, NH

Along with Homer, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod essentially codified old spoken tales of the Olympian gods into the wondrously complex mythology we know today as the Greek myths. It’s good to bear in mind that in their day, these were deeply religious stories and the Greeks believed them as fact. Where had the Earth come from? What caused day and night? Who created the stars? How did the sea become salty? How did memory and prophecy enter the world? Why did weather change? What caused volcanoes to erupt?

Religions do this, each in their own way, even fossil religions like Greek pantheism, and so all these questions Hesiod tried to answer in his poem, The Theogony. “Theo” means deity and “gony” means “the birth of,” and so Hesiod’s “Birth of the Gods” covers all these topics and many more, all filtered, of course, through the mind of a brilliant man who lived circa 700 B.C.

Most folks know about the antics of Zeus, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo and the other gods as grownups, but far fewer know the tale of how they were born into a Game of Thrones-style family feud among their parents and grandparents–the Titans.

This coming Sunday, January 15th at 7:00 pm at the Riverwalk Music Bar in Nashua, NH, I’ll be telling my storyteller’s version of this wild old yarn. I call it FALL OF THE TITANS because after they created the Earth, the Titans did indeed fall. It has echoes of Moses in the reeds (Zeus is the hidden baby) and features gorgeous scenes of creation as well as sordid adult moments. If you don’t know this story, you’ll learn how the goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born. Be warned: it’s fairly chilling for most guys. Ambition, lust for power and child-devouring also play significant parts in this Bronze Age narrative.

This is an adult performance and not recommended for children under 13.

As usual, I’ll have my Celtic harp for background lore and my 12-string guitar for scoring the tale itself. I last told this tale in Boulder, CO to an adult audience and they had a great time, so I hope you’ll consider coming to the show. Tickets are $10 here.