Often listed as the first labor is that of slaying the Nemean lion. The lion terrorized the countryside, often abducting women to lure would-be heroes to rescue them. Of course, it cheated. Its fur was impervious (Superman levels of impervious) to weapons. Hercules tried arrows, which bounced to no effect. On the reverse, its claws could cut through any armor, so it had a distinct advantage against anyone who came for it. To overcome it, Hercules had to go for brute force, using his strength to strangle the creature.While impressive, the victory is not what’s important to this particular story. In fact, it’s the return. He carried the pelt into the city, and then Eurystheus forbade him from going into the city. Eurystheus was conscious that Hercules, upon completing each labor, would gain acclaim and praise from the citizens regarding his victory. The whole point of the labors was for Hercules to be demeaned, fail, and even be killed.
However, in the process, Eurystheus unwittingly made Hercules even more powerful as Herc began wearing the lion skin as his own armor. In what has become a trope of Greek myth, leaders who seek to avoid a fate inevitably take actions that bring it about. And instead of balking at the king’s decrees, Herc takes it all in stride, accepting the condition stoically.
Clearly, we are not dealing with the pride of Odysseus or Achilles with this man. And there has to be something to all of this with Herc, but we need to go further to discover what it is.