When Hephaestus returns to Olympus after being thrown out by Hera, some authors/artists portray him as riding a donkey:

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(Source: Theoi.com)

Is there any reason why he rides a donkey? Why not a horse or a turtle?


According to Wikipedia (though I cannot confirm), it is a mule.

A donkey would actually make more sense, as Dionysus was the one who helped Hephaestus return to Olympia after his fall (source), and the donkey is associated with Dionysus and his ways, according to The Book of Symbols (316).

  • What about the rest of the Gods?? Why not just a cow for Hera?
    – bleh
    Jan 14 '16 at 20:24
  • Hera was the one who cast out Hephaestus to begin with (at least according to one version of the story), so it's doubtful her symbolism would be useful. In particular, "Hephaistos refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysos", who got him drunk and led him back to Olympus.
    – chaimedes
    Jan 18 '16 at 18:12

It seems, according to Theoi.com, that Hephaestus' animal was a donkey, but nothing on why. My own thought is that it, like Hephaestus, was a worker rather than a warrior.

He may have ridden it on his return to Olympus to show that he came in peace, as riding a donkey could symbolize peaceful intent.

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