Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Jim Whiting, Profiles in Greek and Roman Mythology: Hercules, Mitchell Lane Publishers, Hockessin Delaware 2008, 48 pp.
Retelling of myths*
Young adults (12-17)
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Author of the Entry:
Ayelet Peer, Bar-Ilan University, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Lisa Maurice, Bar-Ilan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Nkemleke, ENS University of Yaoundé 1, email@example.com
, b. 1943
Jim Whiting is an American journalist and writer based in Washington State. For 17 years he was the editor of Northwest Runner magazine. He has written or edited over 200 children's books on a wide variety of non-fiction topics including history, zoology, and music. He has written biographies of a number of figures from the ancient world in this Life and Times - Ancient Civilizations series, as well as many other biographies for young people in the Profiles in American History and Life and Times – Masters of Music series, also published with Mitchell Lane.
archive.org (accessed: October 12, 2019).
Bio prepared by Sonya Nevin, University of Roehampton, firstname.lastname@example.org
This book narrates the various stories connected with Hercules: his birth, labours and other adventures, including his slavery at Omphale’s palace and the Trojan War. The book also include further information (titled F.Y.I. sections) about Zeus’ affairs, Hades, Sophocles, the Argonaut and a brief Greek history. The text is accompanied by various photos of museum artifacts and paintings as well as a map. At the end there are notes, further reading (including academic research) and an index.
This book is meant to provide more than a basic information about the classical hero. The author appears to have done his research and his narrative is based on the Who’s Who research of Michael Grant and John Hazel* whom he notes. He also cites from Sophocles’ The Trachiniae regarding Hercules’ death. The author begins Hercules’ lineage from Perseus and explains the power struggle over the rule of Mycenae, with Eurystheus being born an hour earlier than Hercules due to Hera’s machinations. He includes many details which are not always incorporated in stories about Hercules’ exploits. The book therefore appears educational and informative.
The author opens the story in medias res, during the first labour of killing the Nemean lion and then goes back to the beginning of the myth. Hence he catches the interest of the readers right from the start.
The book is intended for juvenile readers and not little children, therefore the author does not shun from narrating Hercules’ senseless killing of his family, of his lyre teacher Linus, and of Iphitus from Euboea. The book is created as a series of individual stories about Hercules’ exploits and therefore there is no character development for Hercules himself.
After narrating Hercules’ myths, the author devotes a chapter to “the impact of Hercules” in which he considers the reception of the hero. He explains the heroism of Hercules according to Karl Galinsky and W.B. Stanford and explores the various mentions of Hercules’ story, from the Iliad to tragedies and to modern interpretations, such as Gulliver’s Travels., T.S. Eliot and others.
Therefore the book does not only provide the main tales of Hercules and valuable information about the relevant Greek myths, but also situates Hercules in modern culture, from ancient Greek to our modern times, from Greek tragedies to common idioms (such as ”Herculean task”) He thus illuminates the continued interest in the Greek hero and his relevance even today. The Hercules in his book is not just an ancient relic whose legend is told only for the entertainment of children (which is equally important), but has also been a source of influence for centuries, whose story certainly did not end with the myth.
In his conclusion, the author says that “Hercules shows what happens when a person or a country becomes especially strong. This strength can be used for evil purposes. The Greeks hoped that if people realized this, they would use their individual and social strength for good purposes.” p. 42. Therefore extreme powers can be dangerous if not properly controlled and employed.
* M. Grant, J. Hazel, Who’s Who in Classical Mythology, New York, Routledge, 2002.
Lisa Maurice, “From Elitism to Democratisation: A Half-Century of Hercules in Children’s Literature”, JHF 2.2 (2019): 81-101.
Galinsky, G. Karl, The Herakles Theme: The Adaptations of the Hero in Literature from Homer to the Twentieth Century, Totowa, New Jersey, Rowman and Littlefield, 1972.
Grant, Michael, and John Hazel, Who’s Who in Classical Mythology, New York, Routledge, 2002.