Legendary Heroes: Giant & Strongman
Information and Theories 9/30/11
By: Yona Williams
A large size and superhuman strength are some of the qualities that make heroes legendary. In this article, you will learn about the American folk legend of Paul Bunyan and the ancient strongman named Hercules.
In American folklore, the lumberjack named Paul Bunyan was seen as a famous figure. His enormous size is said to have contributed to the creation of the Grand Canyon by dragging his pick behind him. His giant footsteps were said to have formed the lakes of Minnesota. It is said that Paul created Mount Hood by piling rocks on top of one another so that he could extinguish his campfire. Stories of his legend were told by the lumberjacks that live in the northern part of the United States.
The birth of Paul Bunyan came about in a rather odd way. It is said that it took five storks to carry the infant to his parents, where it is said that one stork is able to carry several babies at one time before dropping off at the homes of new parents. When the baby was old enough to clap and laugh, it was said that Paul could break every window in his house Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just with the vibration from his own voice. At seven months old, he is said to have taken a saw and cut the legs off of his parent's bed while they slept in the middle of the night.
Paul is also known for keeping Babe the Blue Ox as his companion. The creature was said to have great strength Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just like her owner. She is the focus of a myth, where Paul forms the Great Lakes so that his ox could have somewhere to drink. It is said that infamous frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett gave Babe to Paul as a gift.
Hercules (or Heracles)
The ancient Greeks and Romans spoke of Heracles (or Hercules), who possessed superhuman strength. Myths stated by the time he became an adult, he had already slayed a lion with his bare hands. However, Hercules faced jealousy that came in the form of a spiteful stepmother (Hera, wife to Zeus) who wanted nothing more than to drive the hero mad. While suffering from insanity. Hercules took the lives of his wife and some of his children. In an attempt to regain his honor, he was sent off to perform 12 impossible tasks as a way to test his strength, as well as serve as a punishment. If he accomplished the tasks set before him, he would be granted immortality. These tasks would be known as the "Labors of Hercules."
The Greek hero was sent to kill the Nemean lion, which had skin that was resistant to weapons. Hercules strangled the beast instead. Next, he was expected to kill the Hydra of Lerna, which was a monster with many heads. The third task was to catch the Arcadian stag, which was actually quite important to the goddess Artemis. He then went on to destroy the giant Erymanthian boar, followed by the task of cleaning the Augean stables. Next, he was sent to destroy the cannibal birds of the Lake Stymphalis. Hercules was then expected to capture the Cretan bull, which had the ability to breathe fire.
Catching the horses that belonged to the Thracian king Diomedes was Hercules' next task. Sadly, the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, lost her life when Hercules went to seize her girdle for his ninth task. Next, capturing the oxen of the monster Geryon was Hercules' tenth task. For his eleventh labor, he had to obtain the golden apples of the Hesperides Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a task that he involved Atlas in. The final labor was to ring Cerberus (the hound with multiple heads) from the pits of hell Ã¢â‚¬â€œ better known as Hades.