(Vulcan in his Forge, by Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)
According to the Homeric version of the birth of Hephaestus, the newborn god was in no way given a warm and loving reception by his mother, Hera. In Homer’s account, Hephaestus was born with weak and crippled legs. Hera, the queen of the Olympic gods, despised her son because of his imperfections and immediately plotted to dispose of him. With her mind set on her son’s destruction, Hera dragged Hephaestus to the edge of Mount Olympus and threw him from the summit.
After a long descent, Hephaestus splashed into the sea and sank into its dark, watery depths. Fortunately for the newborn god, two sea-goddesses found Hephaestus abandoned in the ocean. Their names were Thetis (a sea nymph, and future mother of Achilles) and Eurynome (a titan who lived in the ocean).
Thetis and Eurynome rescued Hephaestus and brought him back to a cave where they sheltered and provided for the young god for nine years. During the time he was cared for by the sea-goddesses, Hephaestus used his unmatched skill in metalworking to make all sorts of trinkets and jewelry for the two kind goddesses.
After the nine years came to an end, Hephaestus left the cave and returned to Olympus. He eventually made golden supports to help himself walk, and even constructed golden women to help him in his forge. Once Hephaestus returned to Olympus, he took his place as the blacksmith of the Greek gods.
- The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu and edited by Peter Jones. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.