Origins of the Horn of Plenty: A Learning Activity for Kids

Like many of you, we are Remote Learning this school year, which means coming up with lots of supplemental learning materials to fill the school day. In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I prepared an afternoon around the iconic Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia.

You might not know this, but the Cornucopia actually comes from Greek Mythology! It is one of the stories of Hercules, which is a character most kids are already familiar with because of the Disney adaptation.

I took the time to rewrite the story in language my first grader could easily comprehend. This is my “version” of the tale.

The Horn of Plenty

Once upon a time, there was a king who had a daughter named Deianira. Her beauty was world famous. The princess was so beautiful in fact, that princes traveled from all over the world to try to woo her and  make her their bride. 

Among these princes were two men, who drove out all the other princes and were the last two remaining suitors.

One was the hero Hercules, the son of the god Zeus. He was tall and strong, wearing animal furs and carrying a large club. His tangled hair fell onto his thick neck, and his fierce eyes gleamed behind his shaggy brow. He was in love with Deinaria.

The other was named Achelous, and he was the god of the River. He was thin and graceful, wearing flowing green robes. He carried a staff made out of reeds, and on his head was a crown of water lilies. His voice was soft, like the sound of a babbling brook. He was not in love with the princess, but wanted to win her as a beautiful prize.

“Oh King!” said Achelous, standing before the throne, “I am also a king and I will make the beautiful Princess Deianira queen of my river kingdom.”

“King!” said the mighty Hercules, stepping forward, “The princess is mine, I love her, and I will not give her to this river-god.”

“You rude stranger!” cried Achelous, turning towards the hero. His voice rose til it sounded like thunder and his green robes changed to the blackness of night. “How dare you claim this maiden. You are half mortal! I am the powerful King of the Waters! I am a god and I claim this maiden!”

But with angry eyes and rising rage Hercules answered. “You fight with words, while I fight with my strength. If you want the princess, then you must first beat me in combat.”

The two prepared for battle, took their places, and attacked. They bravely wrestled and fought for a very long time. Until, finally, Hercules with his strength, pinned Achelous to the ground and held him there. 

Then, the crafty Achelous cast a magic spell transforming himself into a snake to escape the hero’s grasp. He twisted his body and darted out his forked tongue with a frightful hiss.

Hercules laughed and mocked Achelous saying “While I was just a baby in a cradle, I strangled two snakes! I have fought countless, horrible monsters. You think that I’m scared of a pretend serpant?”

He grabbed the snake by the neck. 

Achelous struggled to escape, but it was no use. Again using his magic, the snake transformed into a raging bull, and renewed the fight. But Hercules, the mighty hero, threw his huge arms over the large neck of the bull and dragged him about. Then, seizing hold of his horns, he bent the bull’s head to one side, and held it to the ground. The bull struggled but Hercules didn’t give up, and he broke one of the horns off of Achelous’s head.

The river god returned to his own shape. He roared loudly with rage and pain, ran out of the king’s hall, and plunged back into the swirling waters of the river.

After the river god was defeated, the Goddess of Plenty, and all the wood fairies and water fairies came forward to meet the winner Hercules with song and dance. They took the huge horn of Achelous and filled it with the rich and glowing fruits and flowers of autumn. They lifted it high and gave it as a wedding gift to Hercules and his new bride, Deianira. 

Ever since that day, the Horn of Plenty has been presented at tables all around the world as a symbol of the celebration of Harvest. We continue this tradition at our very own harvest festival here in our country, which we call Thanksgiving. 

The End

After reading and discussing the story, we looked at pieces of art that were inspired by this tale.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hercules

Finally, after all that sitting, it was time to get up and have some fun! You will need a cornucopia, as well as some soft things to fill it. I already had one in my Thanksgiving decorations, and I had some soft pumpkins and other fall themed filler that I normally put in a large bowl as a table centerpiece, so I was able to put this together without having to buy anything. If you don’t already own a horn of plenty, you can easily find one online!

In this game my daughter got to play the part of the fairy who fills the Horn of Plenty to give to Hercules. I held the horn of plenty as she tossed the “fruits of the autumn harvest” into it from different distances. She had a blast, and we even wore fairy wings while we did it!

Hopefully these activities get your creative juices flowing, and lead you and your kids on further adventures of wonder and discovery. For example, my daughter was curious as to why the statue of Hercules is naked, so we may be doing a study on Renaissance art soon!

Wherever your adventure takes you next, remember to have some fun! I wish you and your family a safe and EPIC Thanksgiving!

Published by diceymom

I'm here to share my favorite nerdy crafts, recipes, and decor... and even a few ideas to give your parenting and your gaming life a little touch of magic.

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