After killing his children in a psychotic state inflicted by Hera, Hercules was dethroned and was set ten tasks, all deemed impossible, which he had to complete for forgiveness of his sins. Each task required problem-solving and unconventional thinking, which eventually granted Hercules the reward of immortality.
The twelve (including two that were added as he was blamed for cheating in two tasks) labours in order were:
- Kill the Nemean Lion, a monster with hide so thick that no arrow can pierce it. Hercules stunned the lion with a club and then strangled it, after which proceeded to skin its hide with its own claws to use as armour.
- Kill the Lernean Hydra, a monster with nine heads, which could regrow two heads in the place where one was cut. Hercules instructed his charioteer, Iolaus, to cauterise the necks after cutting the heads to prevent it regenerating, then used the poisonous blood to coat his arrows. This was considered cheating as he used the help of Iolaus.
- Capture the Cerynian Hind, Artemis’ beloved deer. Hercules followed the hind for an entire year and then safely carried it away, to avoid harming the frail creature and angering the goddess.
- Capture the Erymanthian Boar, a wild beast that intimidated all of the inhabitants of the mountain. Hercules captured the creature using a net.
- Clean the Augean Stables, a gigantic stable housing thousands of cows that had not been cleaned in 30 years, Hercules was given one day for the task, so he bent two rivers so they flowed through the stables to clean the filth. He was about to receive payment for his service, which was considered cheating by King Eurystheus (who set the tasks).
- Kill the Stymphalian Birds, murderous birds with bronze beaks and claws, and metallic feathers that they could shoot like darts. Hercules killed them with poison arrows tipped with the Hydra’s blood.
- Capture the Cretan Bull, a rampant bull capable of breathing fire. Hercules wrestled to control the beast and successfully captured it.
- Capture the horses of Diomedes, that were trained to feed on human flesh. Hercules killed King Diomedes who raised them and fed his corpse to the horses, thus taming them.
- Take the Girdle of Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons. Hercules was gifted the girdle by Hippolyte, but Hera spread a rumour that he was there to conquer the Amazons, forcing him to kill the Amazons and steal the belt in the end.
- Capture the Cattle of Geryon, a winged monster with three human bodies. Hercules killed Geryon and his guardian dog, and then took his herd of cattle.
- Take the Golden Apples of Hesperides, protected by Ladon, a dragon with a hundred heads. Hercules bargained with Atlas to hold the Earth while he retrieved it. Atlas tried to walk away free from his damned task, but Hercules tricked him by asking to hold the Earth while he shifted his cloak.
- Capture Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the underworld. Hercules had to wrestle Cerberus into submission as he was not allowed to use his weapons, and Cerberus agreed to be taken to see the king, after which it returned unharmed to the underworld.
This goes to show that any task is possible as long as one has the right mindset, can think outside the square and put in all of his or her strength into it.