The topic for today will be my favourite myth featuring Hephaistos. It is quite simply the myth of his birth, fall from Olympos, and his subsequent works to reclaim his place amongst the Olympians.
Hephaistos’ birth has two main variations. In one version, Hera was furious that Zeus had given birth to Bright-eyed Athena on his own, without her. In vengeance, Hera begat a child of her own, without Zeus’s input. So she gave birth to Hephaistos, but upon seeing his ugliness and crippled legs, she hurled him from Mt. Olympos. He landed on Lemnos and was rescued by Thetis and Eurynome, who helped raise him on the island.
When he reached adulthood and longed to reclaim his place on Olympos, he used his ingenuity and craftsmanship, which he had learned in his youth, to create a magnificent golden throne. As a token of reconciliation, he offered it to Hera and asked her to sit on it, to make sure everything was fitted perfectly for her. He managed to trick Hera into sitting on the throne and then the throne revealed itself to be a trap, capturing Hera and not allowing her to leave without Hephaistos undoing the trap.
When the Gods found out, they went one by one to try and convince Hephaistos to release Hera. Apollon tried to reason with him, Ares, coming to his mother’s defence, threatened him, yet to none did Hephaistos yield. Finally, it was Dionysos who saved Hera. He managed to get Hephaistos drunk and convinced him to release Hera. Upon doing this Dionysos lead Hephaistos onto Olympos and he was awarded his rightful place amongst the Olympians again.
In another version, Hephaistos was the son of Hera by Zeus, and it was Zeus who threw him off Olympos. And in yet another version, Hera was his mother and threw him of Olympos as told above, he regained his place as told above; but at some quarrel between Zeus and Hera regarding her sending a storm to Herakles on his voyage home from Troy, Hephaistos interveined supporting Hera. Hera was chained upside-down in the air as punishment by Zeus and Hephaistos had tried to release her. He offended Zeus so much that Zeus threw him off Mount Olympos a second time. This is when he landed on Lemnos and his legs got crooked in the landing, according to this version.
So it is a bit muddled, but the certainties here are that Hera is Hephaistos’ mother – whether alone or by Zeus -, Hephaistos got thrown off Olympos, he took vengeance upon his mother and regained his place on Olympos upon releasing her, and was led up onto the mountain by Dionysos.
As a little side note, while some versions state Hera mothered Hephaistos on her own in vengeance against Zeus for birthing Athena on his own, myths of Athena’s birth often feature Zeus asking Hephaistos to split his head with his axe. The resulting wound is where Athena springs forth from. This is an illustration of the wonderful and delightful complexities and contradictions of mythology. Isn’t polytheism fun? 😀