We’re done with Samson! We’re done with Hercules! Mostly. Yeah, I can’t just let them go with what they’ve got. See, there’s an inherent problem with both of these characters. They don’t fit in. We’ll start with a direct comparison of the two
Hercules and Samson share many things with their respective myths. They are both: strong, warriors, have women trouble, fond of clubs (a jawbone in Samson’s case) and defeat a lion. This is a significant number of similarities, especially in ancient times.
There are distinct possibilities. 1) One side copied the story from the other. We had something like that with Odysseus and Sinbad, so it’s not really a surprise. Ancient plagiarism happens (wonder if I can get that made into a bumper sticker). 2) These stories are about a common figure, and they each put their own spin on the story.
But there’s a problem with this, even. With Odysseus and Sinbad, the Muslims rewrote the hero so he fit into their culture. Sinbad had to be pious, humble, and an ordinary man instead of an arrogant warrior king worshipping pagan gods. The rewrite makes sense. It fits. Samson and Hercules don’t.
We’ll start with Samson, since he’s freshest in our minds. He’s arrogant, a warrior, doesn’t follow any of the rules, immoral, stupid, and selfish. This does not sound like a Hebrew hero. He doesn’t have any of the usual earmarks with, say, Abraham or Moses. He also doesn’t have a real connection with God. He’s strong, and he flaunts it about.
Hercules, on the other hand, is repentant, humble, follows the rules, is intelligent, and very moral. He actually doesn’t fit in much with the Greeks. Odysseus doesn’t hesitate to show off and proclaim himself a total badass. He also won’t be subject to anyone else’s rules, but Hercules has to work for a total jerk, and just takes it.
So what gives? What’s going on here? The stories don’t appear to belong to either of their respective cultures, which rules out theory 1. Stay tuned and we’ll dive into theory 2 next week to see if we can make sense of this.