As I said, I’m not going to go through all of Herc’s labors and adventures . . . yet. I might come back to them at a later date, but for now I want to skip all the way to the end. Herc, somewhere along his many labors, finds the time to marry Deianira—third time’s the charm, right? (wrong).
At one point, she’s trying to cross a river. Nessus, the river guardian, offers to help her cross, and then attempts to rape her. I know, I know; it’s a Greek story. At least it’s only an attempt, this time. Herc, seeing this from far away—why isn’t he with her?—shoots Nessus with a poisoned arrow.
However, as he lay dying, Nessus pulls a little serpent from the Garden of Eden on Deianira. He tells her that to stop Herc from cheating on her—he kind of inherited that from dear old dad—she should gather up Nessus’ blood and soak it into a shirt. He wouldn’t lie to get revenge or anything, right? It’s not like he’s dying to get back at—never mind.
She buys into it, and does this. The second Herc puts on the shirt, he catches fire. Whatever godly abilities he has, they don’t include fireproof flesh. And when he tried to take off the shirt, his flesh went with it. Yowch!
Herc is a goner. Yup. No more Hercules. He’s dead, Jim.
But his story isn’t over (just like comic books).
The gods make him into a god. He’s supposed to ascend as one of the Olympians, but there can only be 12 of those. And rather than take the place of another, Herc steps aside to simply be the gatekeeper of Olympus.
So, why Herc? Why indeed. Stay tuned.