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Hercules was born on Mount Olympus, and possessed impressive strength. Every god and goddess attended his birth and gave him several gifts, with his father Zeus creating the winged horse Pegasus. Even Zeus' brother Hades (who has grown tired of ruling the Underworld and secretly wished to overthrow Zeus and become leader of the gods) attended, offering a skull-like pacifier which he tried to stick in Hercules' mouth. Hercules strength was proved when he squeezed Hades' finger tightly and injured him.
Returning to the Underworld, Hades consulted with the Fates, who informed him that when the planets align themselves eighteen years later, that Hades will unleash the Titans, defeat Zeus, and take over Mount Olympus. Hades was overjoyed, but this was short-lived when the Fates then mentioned that if Hercules fought him, Hades would be defeated.
Deciding he could not let this happen, Hades ordered his two henchmen, Pain and Panic, to take Hercules from Mount Olympus and make him drink a potion that would make him mortal, depriving him of his godly power so they could kill him. Obeying orders, the two imps snuck into Mount Olympus and kidnapped baby Hercules and brought him to the human world. Feeding him the potion, Hercules was deprived of his godly powers. Before he could drink all of it, two peasants, Amphytyron and Alcmene, interrupted them and they hid, and the last drop of the potion fell onto the ground. Discovering the baby, the peasants decided to adopt him, but were interrupted when Pain and Panic morphed into snakes to kill Hercules. It was revealed that because Hercules didn't drink all the potion and retained his super strength, and delivered a beat-down on the imps. The two were defeated, but lied to Hades, saying they killed him.
Growing up in the human world was hard. Because of his super strength, Hercules would constantly cause accidents trying to help out, and was shunned by the town. After he was teased by the children at town for asking to play with them, Hercules accidentally destroyed the town and the entire town rejected him and told him to leave. After the incident, his adopted parents finally reveal the circumstances to Hercules, and he sets off to find his father Zeus. He met a statue of Zeus in the Temple of Zeus, who told him that he couldn't turn him back into a god unless he became a true hero, and he gave him a grown-up Pegasus. Hercules was trained by a Satyr named Philoctetes to become a hero, and after several years, he became a strong adult and goes off to help in Thebes. Along the way, he sees a young woman named Megara being harassed by a centaur named Nessus. After defeating Nessus, Hercules falls in love with Megara. Unknown to him, Megara is a servant of Hades (whom Megara sold her soul to in order to save her boyfriend, who then left her for another woman which resulted in Megara having to serve Hades), who has found out Hercules is alive and desperately wants to get rid of him.
Hercules is rejected by the citizens of Thebes, but sees his chance when Megara comes, saying two boys are trapped in a cave. He lifts the boulder covering the cave to rescue them, but the citizens are not impressed. The two boys are revealed to be Pain and Panic, and when Hercules removed the boulder he released the giant reptilian monster known as the Hydra. This caused a vicious battle which appeared to end when Hercules cut off the Hydra's head. But the beast wasn't done yet and grew three more heads. Every time Hercules cut off a head, three more would grow back. Hercules was finally pinned to a cliff by the Hydra, who tried to eat him. As a last resort, Hercules slammed his fist into the cliff, causing a rock-slide that crushed the Hydra, but Hercules survived. He was accepted as a hero amongst the citizens. Hades sent waves of monsters to defeat him, but Hercules defeated them all. Hades became more and more frustrated.
Hercules was having problems as well. Thinking he was a hero now, he came to Zeus to become a god again, but Zeus said he wasn't a true hero, much to Hercules' frustration. At the same time, his love for Megara grew, who had affections to him as well. Hades discovered this and held Megara captive, giving Hercules a deal: If Hercules has his power taken away, no harm goes to Megara. Hercules accepted, and Hades sucked away his powers and then reveals that Megara serves him. With his spirit broken and felt remorseful that Phil was right about Meg working for hades as he should have believed him all this time, Hercules does nothing when Hades frees the Titans and sends a Cyclops to kill him. The giant spends his time beating him until Phil comes back, having a change of heart, and encourages Hercules, who is able to defeat the Cyclops by knocking him off a cliff. He doesn't notice a pillar fall above him, and Megara pushes him out of the way and is crushed instead. Because Hades said Megara wouldn't get hurt, the deal is broken and Hercules gets his strength back. Going to Mount Olympus, he defeats the Titans, but is too late to save Megara. Filled with grief, he makes another deal with Hades to give himself up to save Meg. Hercules travels to the Underworld and jumps into the River Styx where souls go, and he turns old as he swims to Meg's soul. As he tried to give himself up to save Meg, he became a true hero and he turns back into a god and saves Megara, punching Hades into River Styx and returns Meg's soul to her body. Hercules goes back to Mount Olympus, but he still loves Meg and decides to stay with her as a mortal.
While his strength is well above average, Hercules isn't all that intelligent. But what the hero lacks in outstanding brains, he makes up for in compassion and the desire to do good, which is especially appreciated in a world with constant turmoil around every corner, be it by the hands of a demon or beast, or The Lord of the Dead himself, Hades.
As mentioned above, Hercules is compassionate and merciful, and his most dominate trait is undoubtedly his innocence and massively kind heart, in spite of being treated like a "freak" by his peers and those around him (with the exception of his foster parents) throughout his childhood, and adolescent years. Even after becoming a worldwide phenomenon, Hercules retained his innocence and cheerful nature, not once letting the fame dangerously inflate his ego. This makes Hercules one of the purest of heart Disney characters.
Notably, whilst usually on the bright side, Hercules has an effective heroism to his personality, notably seen during the climax of the film, where the actions of Hades take a turn for the worse, killing and threatening the entire world of Olympus, as well as Megara. This can be seen again when his trainer and close companion, Phil, questioned Megara's affections towards the hero after witnessing her plotting against the latter with Hades (though it was a misunderstanding at that point in the movie).
The primary lesson Hercules learns throughout the film is what it takes to be a true hero. Something his father Zeus explained he had to learn for himself. After meeting and falling in love with the beautiful femme fatale, Megara, Hercules would learn a true hero is measured by the strength of his heart, as opposed to the strength of his muscles.
Despite being the son of the king and queen of the gods, Hercules himself is not considered a prince nor is he featured in the Disney Princes line up, though this is mainly due to his movie's lack of success.
In one episode of the series, a messenger asks for Hercules but mistakes the name as Heracles. Hercules is the Roman equivalent of the Greek name Heracles.
In the original myth, Hercules had a twin brother named Iphicles by Amphitryon. This is called heteropaternal superfecundation when two different males father fraternal twins by one woman. This was left out when Disney made Hercules, Zeus and Hera's son instead of Zeus and Alcmene.
Despite Hades being Hercules' uncle, Hercules never found out this because he was never told this.
If mythology is taken into consideration, Hercules and Ariel are related: Hercules' father is Zeus; Poseidon is a brother of Zeus; one of Poseidon's many sons is Triton; and, of course, Ariel is Triton's seventh daughter. This means Hercules is Triton's first cousin, and Ariel is Hercules' cousin once removed. However, if this were true King Triton's lifespan would be called into question as the Little Mermaid takes place in the 1800's and Hercules takes place well over 3000 years in the past. (Though King Triton is a god, and of course, gods are immortal.)