The Twelve Labors of Hercules refer to great feats carried out by Hercules in the classic mythology. However, due to a drastic change in narrative between the original myth and the Legendary Journeys television show, the labors were instead referenced by various challenges Hercules faced during the show. Some of these encounters stayed more-or-less true to the myths, while others strayed wildly in the name of artistic license. Some of the labors never actually occurred in the Xenaverse at all, and bear no relation to the show's narrative.
Comparison to MythologyEdit
In mythology, Hercules was married to a woman named Megara, and had six sons, all of whom he slaughtered after being driven mad by Hera. Seeking for a way to atone for this deed, he was instructed by the Oracle of Delphi to spend twelve years working for King Eurystheus, performing whatever labors the king asked of him. These became the Twelve Labors of Hercules.
In the Legendary Journeys, many traits of Megara were merged into the character Deianeira, and the story was changed so that it was Hera herself that killed Hercules' family, which consisted of his wife, a daughter, and two sons. Most of the labors Hercules performed were either out of vengeance against Hera for killing his family, or necessity to defend the innocent or himself.
First Labor: Slay the Nemean LionEdit
The differences between the myth and the show regarding the first labor are hard to pinpoint, as the Nemean Lion is only briefly mentioned within the show a few times. Hercules is shown using the lion's hide to play with his children in Hercules in the Underworld, but little information is given as to how the battle itself played out. The biggest known difference between the myth and the show is that, in the myth, Hercules was known to wear the lion's hide as armor, while in the show, it barely makes any appearance on screen.
Second Labor: Slay the nine-headed Lernaean HydraEdit
With exception to the motivation behind the battle, Hercules' encounter with the Lernaean Hydra remains fairly true to the myth, though several smaller details of the battle were changed.
In the myth, Hercules traveled to the lair of the hydra and provoked it into attacking him by firing flaming arrows into its den. He then attempted to fight it alone, but failed, and called upon Iolaus for help, who came up with the idea of burning the stumps as the heads of the hydra were cut off. The battle ended by Hercules severing the final head of the hydra with a golden sword given to him by Athena, and then placing the still-living head under a rock.
In the show, Hercules and Iolaus happen across the Hydra while on their way to Alcmene's house. The battle is much shorter in duration, and while the idea of using fire on the hydra persists, when Hercules uses the torch on the Hydra, it simply bursts into flames and is eradicated. The Hydra also demonstrates the ability to disguise itself as a human girl, something that was never attributed to it in the original myth.
Third Labor: Capture the Ceryneian HindEdit
The entire narrative of this labor was rewritten in order to better fit the theme and feel of the show, and very little of the original myth remains.
In the myth, the Ceryneian Hind was a large golden deer, and was a sacred animal to Artemis. Hercules was tasked with capturing it, as Eurystheus (who was conspiring with Hera) had determined that Hercules could likely overcome any challenge that involved slaying a creature, and hoped that sending Hercules after the Hind would bring down the wrath of Artemis on the son of Zeus. There are several different variations on the third labor, with some stating that Hercules caught the Hind while it slept, and others saying he shot it with an arrow and wounded it. All versions, however, state that Hercules encountered Artemis and Apollo while bringing the Hind back to Eurystheus, that he profusely apologized and explained that it was penance for killing his family, and promised to return the Hind after completing the labor. According to the myth, Artemis forgave Hercules.
In the show, the Ceryneian Hind is known as the Golden Hind, and rather than being a sacred deer, was part of an entire race of Hinds, who were hunted to near-extinction by mortals and could assume human form as long as they were not touched by a mortal. The Hinds' natural appearance was different as well, with the upper bodies of gold-skinned women and the lower bodies of deer, similar in configuration to a centaur. Furthermore, in the show, Zeus eventually fears the power of their blood and uses lightning bolts to kill all but one, Serena, whom Hercules meets, falls in love with, and eventually marries. She eventually becomes mortal, and is then killed by Hercules while the latter is driven temporarily insane by Strife while dreaming. This echoes the killing of Megara by Hercules in the original myth. Unless one views marriage as a form of "capture", the stories of Golden Hind and the Ceryneian Hind have almost nothing in common.
Fourth Labor: Capture the Erymanthian BoarEdit
This myth, like the Nemean Lion, is only briefly mentioned in the show. In the myth, Hercules traveled to Mount Erymanthos to capture a monstrous boar that lived in the wilds there. There is no definitive retelling of the exact details of the myth, but it is generally accepted that Hercules encountered the centaur Pholus, shared meat and wine, and accidentally got a group of centaurs drunk, leading Hercules to force them to retreat to the cave of Chiron (who was a centaur in the original myth rather than a satyr). Hercules received advice from the centaur Chiron on how to capture the boar, which was successful. In the show, the boar is only once briefly mentioned by Ares, who mentions in passing that he's aware of Hercules hunting the boar.
Fifth Labor: Clean the Augean stables in a single dayEdit
This is another labor that Hercules apparently accomplished in the show, but again, it only receives a very brief mention. In the myth, Hercules is tasked with cleaning out the Augean Stables, which housed a thousand immortal cattle that produced an impressive amount of dung. Eurystheus assumed that the task would be both humiliating for the hero and impossible due to the sheer amount of filth and the fact that they had not been cleaned in thirty years. However, Hercules rerouted two rivers, causing the water to flush the stables out. In the show, this labor is mentioned, but never actually seen on screen, as it is said to be something Hercules did in his youth.
Sixth Labor: Slay the Stymphalian BirdsEdit
This labor differs considerably from its mythical origin. In the myth, there are several birds, and they are the pets of Ares. They are described as having bronze beaks, the ability to launch their metallic feathers at enemies, and toxic dung. Hercules, unable to reach their nest because the ground would not support him, used a rattle forged by Hephaestus to scare the birds into flight, which he then shot down using arrows tipped in venomous Hydra blood.
In the show, there is only one Stymphalian Bird, and it is the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. It was known to attack people traveling through the Stymphalian Swamp, and it was killed by Hercules when he drowned it in a quicksand pit.
Seventh Labor: Capture the Cretan BullEdit
This is one of the few labors that seems to have had no influence on the show, either by reference or inspiration.
Eighth Labor: Steal the Mares of DiomedesEdit
Like the Cretan Bull, this labor does not appear to have any bearing on the show.
This labor was used as the basis for the first movie, Hercules and the Amazon Women, though it bears little resemblance to the original myth. In the myth, Hercules was tasked to retrieve the girdle for Eurystheus' daughter. However, Hippolyta was so impressed with Hercules that she gave him the girdle without resistance. Hera then took the form of one of the Amazons and spread a rumor among them that Hercules and his crew were actually abducting their queen, causing the Amazons to attack the ship. In the fray that followed, Hercules slew Hippolyta and took the girdle from her. In the show, many elements of the original myth are recycled. Hippolyta falls in love with Hercules, who had confronted her due to her Amazons abducting children from a nearby village. Hercules also ends up fighting Hippolyta, but in the show, it is while she is possessed by Hera. Finally, it is Hippolyta that kills herself, throwing herself off of a cliff to save Hercules from having to kill her.
Tenth Labor: Obtain the cattle of the monster GeryonEdit
This labor, like the seventh and eighth, seem to have no relation to the television show, as the only Geryon is a one-shot character seen in an episode of season three.
Eleventh Labor: Steal the apples of the HesperidesEdit
This is another labor that seems to have no bearing or relation to the show.
This labor inspired the movie Hercules in the Underworld, though the circumstances surrounding Cerberus greatly differ from the myth.
In the myth, Eurystheus tasks Hercules with bringing Cerberus to him. Hercules seeks out Eleusis to learn how to enter and exit the Underworld, and had the help of Athena and Hermes in safely entering the Underworld. He eventually found Hades, and was able to convince the god to let him "borrow" Cerberus under the stipulation that Hercules manage to subdue the beast bare-handed, which he did successfully.
In the show, the circumstances are almost completely reversed. It is actually Hades who tasks Hercules with retrieving Cerberus, with the promise that he will restore Deianeira to life if Hercules succeeds.