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The story of Hercules is a well known trope: Demi-god, cast to earth, must make good to his father. Simple, effective.

Xena has always puzzled me, as I assumed she had a similar back story to Hercules, but I associated her with Athena (because of the similar sounding name, and warrior connotations). But looking at her wikipedia page doesn't seem to hold up to that.

It looks like she was a warlord of some sort, who has repented for her past sins. I've not managed to watch the entire series but that fact that had always eluded me. I still have to ask though, who is she? Where is she from?

Is she based on a mythical character, like Hercules, or is she just a made-for-TV character?

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    Your origins of Hercules are a bit off, as I understand it. Hercules wasn't cast to earth, he was born of a mortal woman Zeus had (as was his way) cheated on Hera with. Hera hated him, and sought to kill him. Hercules (who was actually kind of a jerk) strutted around Greece trying to impress his dad, had a tragic flaw (pride) that cost him something important (a friend's life), and then tried to kill himself (painfully). Zeus took pity and raised him from powerful mortal to demigod, bestowing immortality on him. – Jeff Oct 9 '12 at 13:37
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    @Jeff - um. I think you're a bit off as well in the second half. The versions I'm familiar with (both school reading and college class in Classical Mythology) was that he was married (a second time), his wife attracted romantic attention of a certain Centaur, Hercules killed the Centaur to prevent dishonor to her, and in revenge, the dying Centaur gave her a "forgiveness" gift - poison-soaked cloth "meant to ensure his love forever". She put the cloth on Hercules, who promptly died in agony, and THEN was raised to heaved as demigod. See perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/deianira.html – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 9 '12 at 14:08
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    The first episode of Xena explains pretty clearly that she's just a warlord-ess. Mortal parents and family. – Gorchestopher H Oct 9 '12 at 14:40
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    As a general rule, please, please, please, do not take anything from either of these two shows as even remotely historically, or mythologically, accurate. My favorite example is an episode of Xena where she wakes up the titans by repeatedly intoning good morning and good evening in modern greek at them. – terdon Oct 9 '12 at 17:50
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    @terdon that was Gabrielle actually – user70211 Aug 15 '16 at 3:36
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Made for TV, intended to be a one off character, but expanded to more when the studio wanted a spin off from Hercules.

Xena was originally conceived to die at the end of the third episode, "Unchained Heart", but when the studio decided they wanted to do a spin-off from Hercules, the producer Robert Tapert said that Xena was the best choice, since she was largely well received by television critics and fans and had a full story to be explored. The studio wanted to do something about Jason and the Argonauts, but Tapert said that show would have too much of the same feel as Hercules.

(From Wikipedia)

Quote:

WW: How did the creation of XENA come about?

RJ: HERCULES was a successful MCA TV show. They introduced a villain in the first season named XENA. JOHN SCHULIAN wrote that character. People liked her and they said let's do a spin off series. Rob Tapert created the series idea and wrote the story for the first episode. I was hired to write the pilot, make Xena a good girl, and create the character of Gabrielle.

WW: Did UNIVERSAL specifically have you in mind to write the pilot?

RJ: They knew my work and I had previously met with Rob on some other projects and there was same simpatico there. Plus they were familiar with some of my feature scripts that never got produced.

(From here)

Edit: The main backstory for Xena (the series) is given in these episodes:

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    Wait, huh, Xena is a spinoff from Hercules? Eh, one rather embarassed geek here (I always thought it was the other way round)... Phew, thanks for the info! – Ilari Kajaste Oct 17 '12 at 9:34
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I think everyone has missed the question: what was she based on?

A possible candidate is a character from Romanian folk lore named Zanna, a female warrior.

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    Can you provide any actual evidence that this is the case? – Valorum Jan 22 '18 at 20:43

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