The Three Fates are characters in Disney's 1997 movie Hercules. These three sisters share one eye, which they use to see the future. They also determine the deaths of mortals, cutting a mortal’s Thread of Life to send them to the Well of Souls in the Underworld. They know everything that has happened and will happen, and are an authority above the gods in this respect, though the one thing they cannot do is kill a god.
The Fates resemble demonic hags and are dressed in simple black cloaks. They seem rather proud that they ‘know everything’, and never hesitate to emphasize this claim. This is only challenged at one point in Hercules, perhaps for the purposes of dramatic effect.
Lachesis is the tallest of the three, with blue skin and a long nose. Her role is to measure out a mortal’s Thread of Life, and she knows all of the past. She appears to have a spider living in her nose; at one point, it makes a bid for freedom, but she sends it back up her nostril with a sniff. She seems to be the grumpiest and most disapproving of the three.
Clotho is green-skinned, with a large chin and worm-like hair. Her role is to spin the Thread of Life, and she knows all of the present. She is the most friendly of the three with Hades, and her readiness to provide him with information is frowned upon by Lachesis and Atropos.
Atropos is short and stout, with purple skin, serpent-like hair, and a single eye socket. Her role is to cut the Thread of Life, and she can see the future.
They appear to relish ending mortal’s lives, each looking on with glee as Atropos cuts each thread (though they will only cut at each designated time and will not kill a mortal prematurely). They are not allied with Hades, and are not denizens of the Underworld; however, they seem to prefer Hades to the gods on Mount Olympus, at one point referring to Hercules as a ‘bouncing baby brat’ though this is probably because they live in Underworld, making Hades there landlord of sorts.
The three sisters bicker among themselves. They often snatch their single eye from one another quite aggressively, and do not always agree on matters.
Following the celebration of the god Hercules’ birth, Hades calls the Fates to the Underworld, where he asks them whether Hercules will interfere with his plan to take over Mount Olympus. They reveal some of the future to him (reluctantly, on the part of Lachesis and Atropos). Clotho reveals that, in eighteen years, the planets will align; Lachesis reveals that Hades will then release the Titans from their prison. Clotho says that Hades will overthrow Zeus with their power, but Atropos reveals that he will only succeed if Hercules does not interfere.
Their role in Hercules is perhaps similar to that of the Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth; not only do they resemble hags, but they also reveal the events of the future in verse (much to Hades’ annoyance), and do not reveal all of the truth (they do not say whether or not Hercules will fight, making it unclear whether Hades will succeed or fail).
Cutting the Thread
They are later shown cutting Megara’s Thread of Life, a while after she, in saving Hercules, is crushed by a pillar. After Hercules defeats the Titans at Olympus, Hades angrily returns to the Underworld; Hercules, after witnessing Megara’s death, goes to Hades to plead for Megara’s soul. Hades lets him dive into the Well of Souls to recover Meg’s soul, knowing that a mortal will die quickly in the vortex.
While Hercules swims after Meg’ soul, the Fates prepare to cut his Thread of Life. However, Atropos is unable to cut the thread, indicating Hercules' transformation from mortal human to immortal god. The fact that the Fates don't realise this at first suggests either that they don't in fact know everything, or that they're sometimes forgetful. It may also indicate that it is possible to change one's fate.
The Fates appeared in a few episodes of the the animated series. Their largest role in the series was the episode "Hercules and the Tapestry of Fate", Hercules and Icarus want to go to an Orpheus concert, but they find it sold out, and so seek out the aid of the Fates, when Zeus cannot help. Hercules distracts them while Icarus reweaves fate to allow them to go to the concert. This gives Hades the idea to reweave his own fate, making him king of the gods, Phil a janitor, Icarus the inventor of capable wings, Hercules himself a god and Hades' son, and Zeus guardian of the Tapestry and ruler of the Underworld. Hercules uses his strength as a god to destroy the Tapestry and reweave it back to normal; the Fates give them tickets as a reward, only for them to find the concert has been canceled.
In "Hercules and the Big Kiss" Hades tries to use the Fates all seeing eye to see his future regarding Aphrodite causing the Fates to be cross with him. Still desperate to learn his future Hades makes a deal with Cassandra for her soul on weekends once he has successfully stopped Icarus from kissing her.
In "Hercules and the Big Sink" the Fates accidentally weave Atlantis onto the Tapestry of Fate causing it to sink. The Fates make cameo in the episode "Hercules and the River Styx" during Hades song "My Town". In the episode "Hercules and the Underworld Takeover", The Fates appear alongside Cerberus and Hades monstrous underling during Hecate hostile takeover of the Underworld.
In the episode Hercules and the Visit From Zeus, Hades learns from the Fates, that Zeus was in the form of a teenager. In an attempt to be rid himself of Zeus once and for all he sends his troublesome dog Cerberus after Zeus while he's still mortal. They also doubled as the Norse Norns in "Hercules and the Twilight of the Gods". Like the Muses are the only characters in the series that interact, bicker and banter with Bob the Narrator.
The Fates appeared in various episodes of House of Mouse in various roles.
- In Clarabelle's Christmas List, Clarabelle Cow borrows their eye to guard Santa's Naughty or Nice list from the rest of the staff who wants to see where they ended up
- In Clarabelle's Big Secret, Atropos is surprised when Clarabelle declares that she is discontinuing "Main Street Gossip," commenting that not even she, with her ability to know all that will happen in the future, had expected Clarabelle to do so.
In Kingdom Hearts II, there is a tournament called the Goddess of Fate Cup based on the Fates from Hercules.
The Fates make a small cameo appearance on one of the menus in the Hercules PlayStation Game, with a Fate standing underneath each menu category.
Powers and Abilities
- As goddesses, the Fates possess the natural powers & abilities of an Olympian goddess such as: immortality, omnipresence, superhuman strength, metamorphosis and teleportation.
- As the goddesses of destiny, the Fates watch over and weave the tapestry of fate. They are also able to see into the future and therefore know the outcome of all event to come. However the weaving of the tapestry is not something only they can do, anyone who can use the loom the tapestry is created with is able to weave it and alter fate, however this can have catastrophic results and only the Fates can properly weave the tapestry and maintain order and balance.
Behind the Scenes
Like all characters in Hercules, the Fates were designed by Gerald Scarfe who, known for his drawings of the deformed and grotesque, enjoyed designing characters such as the Fates and Hades more than ‘beautiful’ characters such as Hercules and Meg. One of Scarfe’s early drawings for the Fates depicted Clotho wearing a cowl, which was at such an angle, that one of her eye sockets was covered. Beiman took this to mean that Clotho had only one eye socket; ultimately, it is Atropos (perhaps the most 'mysterious' Fate who appears with a single eye socket in the film).
As design progressed, the Fates’ bodies became less and less human, with little suggestion of any form under their clothes. Scarfe initially did not like this idea and drew the Fates in the nude as a key for Beiman to follow, but ultimately Ron Clements and John Musker approved of the ‘non human’ nature of these bizarre, deformed characters, and they appear accordingly in the film. Beiman commented that the Fates have no feet.
Deviations from Source Material
The Fates in the film are a combination of the Fates of Greek Mythology (also known as the Moirae) and the Graeae, three hag-like creatures featured in the story of Perseus. The Graeae share one eye and one tooth, which Perseus steals as one sister is passing the eye to another. He blackmails them into providing information that will help him on his quest to defeat Medusa, to whom the Graeae are related. While the Fates in the film bear a physical similarity to the Graeae, their role as weavers of fate is faithful to the Moirae. However, neither the Graeae or the Moirae appear in the original Hercules myth.
Hercules: The Animated Series
House of Mouse
- The highlighted category causes the Fate underneath to snatch the eye from the Fate next to her.
- Chaos once stated even he was subject to fate. Considering the crossover between the two franchises it is possible these were the fates he was alluding too.
- As shown in Mickey's House of Villains the Fates are capable of have their heads fall off without dying.
- Other than the Muses, The Fates are the only characters in the series that interact with Bob the Narrator.