Tales of Hephaestus


HephaestusHephaestus was the Greek god of fire, metal work, blacksmiths and craftsman. His highly talented hands fashioned just about all of the fixtures and gadgets used by the immortals, as well as their palaces, thrones and inventory of enchanted weapons.

Though the cult of Hephaestus was predominantly stationed on the island of Lemnos, the god was highly worshiped among the industrial centers of mainland Greece, principally in the city of Athens.

Though Hephaestus had the tendency to be ill-tempered, he was basically a peace loving fellow who had many worshipers on earth. His excellent skills as a blacksmith made him a very important patron god to many cities all across the ancient world.

In my opinion Hephaestus was usually depicted as an unlucky sort who never could quite catch a break. From his dysfunctional relationship with his mother to his marred physical condition and loveless marriage, the god was never without obstacles in his life.

Below I have included a collection of stories featuring the god Hephaestus. I hope you find them enjoyable.


The Birth of Hephaestus

Thetis and EurynomeThere are quiet a few conflicting stories concerning the birth of the god Hephaestus. According to Homer he was the son of Zeus and Hera, but the poet Hesiod presents the tale in a much different light.

He tells us in his writing of The Theogany, that in order to get even with Zeus for solely bringing about the birth of Athena, Hera produced the child Hephaestus all on her own.

Though Hesiod's version seems to be the one that is most commonly accepted among readers, its content greatly alters our understanding of the birth of Athena. The ancient texts unequivocally state that it was Hephaestus who released the goddess from the head of Zeus by cracking the god's skull open with an axe.

If this scenario were true, it would not only make Hephaestus the elder of the two siblings, but would also weaken the theory that the god was conceived as an act of vengeance.

In any respect, all parties are in agreement that once the child was born Hera was anything but pleased with his appearance. She found her newborn to be sickly and weak and for lack of a better term excessively unattractive.

Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, she quickly snatched him up and brashly cast him out of heaven before the other gods could catch a peek. Luckily baby Hephaestus splashed down into the briny sea where he was graciously rescued by two daughters of Oceanus; Thetis and Eurynome.

The goddesses carried him back to their beautiful underwater grotto where he lived happily for the next nine years. The god implemented his first smithy, a place where he spent countless hours creating lovely presents for his new companions. For them he crafted magnificent jewelry as well as more useful objects than the goddesses knew what to do with.

Aphrodite and HephaestusIt came to be that on the first day following Hephaestus' ninth year at the grotto, Hera found herself to be in the company of Thetis. As the two goddesses exchanged pleasantries, Hera could not help but notice the exquisite brooch that Thetis wore upon her bodice.

Curious as to which artist had fashioned the piece, Hera inquisitively asked her colleague to reveal to her the name of its maker. Much to her dissatisfaction Thetis offered only a vague answer before attempting to steer the conversation in a different direction.

Sensing that something was not quite right, Hera pressed on until Thetis finally confessed that the maker of the bobble was none other than Hephaestus himself.

Feeling covetous of the beautiful items, Hera swiftly grabbed her son and whisked him off to Olympus to join the rest of the immortals.

Here he was given an elaborate smithy equipped with no less than twenty bellows, all capable of working continuously both day and night.

Hera also saw to it that Hephaestus was given a wife. In order to keep her out of trouble, Zeus presented him with the hand of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.

Unfortunately, his new bride was anything but delighted with the marriage and did her best to distance herself from her new husband. You can read more about this unhappy union by going to my page dedicated to Aphrodite .


The Artistry of Hephaestus

Hephaestus at the ForgeMuch like the ambiguous details surrounding the parentage of Hephaestus, there seems to be a similar aura of contradiction regarding the exact location of his infamous forge.

Though his smithy can sometimes be found among the many halls of Mount Olympus, there are other accounts which place the workshop on the island of Sicily, far below the base of fiery Mount Aetna.

The forge itself was somewhat of a magical place, filled with curious objects and wondrous inventions. Whenever I read of it my mind immediately becomes filled with whimsical thoughts and Alice in Wonderland type images.

To help with his blacksmith duties, Hephaestus crafted for himself an entourage of gilded handmaidens. The god also employed a set of three-legged tables, all fashioned out of gold and equipped with enchanted wheels to allow for free movement about the work area.

Hephaestus constructed many of the items found throughout the ancient tales. He is said to have created all of the thrones found on Mount Olympus. I remember reading Robert Grave's book Greek Gods and Heroes as a child and being fascinated by the descriptions given for each.

He also takes credit for designing Aphrodite's magic girdle, the armor worn by Achilles during the time of the Trojan War, Hermes winged cap and sandals, the chariot of Helios, the arrows of Eros and the replacement shoulder of Pelops .

In order to punish humankind for Prometheus' transgression against the gods, Zeus instructed Hephaestus to fashion the first woman Pandora out of the earth and present her to man as a gift. He is also believed to have made her notorious box that housed the ills of the world.


How Hephaestus Became Lame

Hephaestus and AphroditeI have found two interpretations which describe how Hephaestus lost full use of his legs. The most basic of the two theories simply states that he was born that way, and illustrates why Hera chose to toss him into the sea.

A second and more complex explanation involves an argument between Hera and Zeus and a thwarted mutiny attempt which took place atop of Mount Olympus. It seems that Poseidon and Athena had grown weary of the current sovereign structure and decided that things would be much better if Zeus were to be stripped of his royal title.

After working out their plan, the scheming pair gathered up the rest of the immortals and patiently waited for the tired god to fall asleep. When the group was sure he was fast asleep, they quietly approached his bedchamber and bound his body tightly with chains and wide leather straps.

Luckily for Zeus, the goddess Thetis caught wind of the situation and petitioned Briareus, one of the Hecatoncheires (hundred-handed ones) to come to Olympus and remove his restraints.

Believing that Hera had orchestrated the strike against him, Zeus seized hold of his disobedient wife and suspended her from the stars by the tips of her fingers. When Hephaestus saw that his mother was in trouble, he instinctively rushed to her aid but was intercepted by Zeus and once again hurled out of heaven.

The unfortunate god fell for an entire day before finally crashing down upon the isle of Lemnos. He hit the earth with such force that both of his legs were shattered beyond repair.

Though Hephaestus eventually secured Zeus' forgiveness, he never fully regained the use of his legs. Instead, he relied on a pair of golden leg-supports that he painstakingly created at his forge.

The isle of Lemnos went on to be Hephaestus' primary place of worship as well as one of his favorite places on earth. According to some accounts, it was here on this beloved island that the god chose to establish his fabled smithy.


The Tale of Scamander

Hephaestus is primarily known for taking on small background roles in a wide array of mythological stories. In this particular tale we will see how his actions helped secure another Greek victory on the battlefields of Troy.

Achilles and ScamanderThe river god Scamander was one of the many offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Called Xanthus by the Olympians, Scamander was the father of three children; a son named Teucer who went on to be the first king of Troy, and two daughters; Callirrhoe and Strymo.

Because he ruled over the largest river bed found on the Plain of Troy, it was only natural that Scamander sided with the Trojans during their ten year battle against the Greeks.

It came to be that after the death of his beloved friend Patroclus, the grief stricken Achilles lashed out and in a fit of anger left Scamander's waters filled with the bodies of freshly slaughtered Trojans.

In order to show his repugnance for this act of brutality, Scamander rose up and completely flooded the Plain of Troy. Sensing the gravity of the situation, Hera quickly dispatched her son Hephaestus to help save Achilles from the oncoming deluge.

Hephaestus boldly unleashed a great flame, causing Scamander's waters to slowly recede and ultimately become dry. Knowing that he was no match for the fire god, Scamander reluctantly gave up his fight thus allowing the Greeks to claim another victory over their Trojan adversaries.


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