(Literary) Heroes


From an email discussion:



I am using the word “hero” in more or less a literary definition.

Briefly, it is one who has most of the following characteristics;


1) Born under poverty, or unusual circumstances.

2) He or she has special powers at birth, some of which may only become apparent later in life.

3) He or she needs to fight against something considered evil. These include a government or other external powers.

4) He or she has special or extra powers that contribute to his successes. These can include the following;

a) Physical strength
b) The ability to use weapons
c) Cunning or adaptability
d) Wisdom
e) Possess spiritual, magical, or other supernatural powers.

5) Sometimes the hero also has to fight his own internal demons such as self-doubt or fear.

6) He or she has an honor or other code he or she follows. That code may not be obvious at first to the reader.

7) The hero may have followers.

8) The hero may have mentors to help him understand and develop his powers and abilities.

9) There are sometimes prophecies about this hero that prove to be true.

10) He or she can have a flaw which may result in his or her demise.

11) If the hero dies, the result is usually a benefit to the cause he represents or follows.


Under these characteristics, Christ, Odysseus, Achilles, Spartacus, Jean Valjean (Les Misérables), Forrest Gump, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) are all heroes. Sometimes there are many heroes in one setting. The Lord of the Rings is an example of this.

Borderline heroes, or at least those I have not made up mind, include Samson, Moses, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Harry Potter, Atticus Finch.


I am not an expert in literature. The list and the thoughts presented here are mostly my own.

Comments are welcomed!

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