Friday, March 25, 2011


Heroes. Most stories have 'em. Charming heroes, flawed heroes, heroes who are cruel, or brave, or young, or old.

I see a hero as a dark silhouette on a foggy hill, grasping the hilt of a sword and drawing it from stone. A frightened boy who no longer has to live under the stairs. A mole who saves his friends. A woman who defies convention and rides to war. A rascally smuggler who returns after everyone has given up on him.

What makes them heroic? We sympathize with them, want to be them. Often they are heroes because they defy expectations. They look at a situation, weigh the soft whisperings of temptation, and say: no. I will not go gentle into that good night.

I am hungry, I am scared, I am alone. I am in the dark, in the attic, in the cave. Nobody knows me; everybody needs me. I will probably not survive. This will hurt. I could still escape. But I will not go gentle into that good night.

Is it only defiance, then? No, I think there's more to it than that. Often the heroes who are most compelling are the ones who didn't start out that way. Because, really: what good story starts out with Once upon a time there was a total bad-ass who destroyed all evil.

Defiance; sacrifice; growth. And we have to know the hero. Feel their uncertainty because we've felt it ourselves in the school hallway or lunchroom or cold and distant wilderness. Feel their fear, the anguished choice ... and their resolve.

Even if that resolve is beyond us -- or especially if it is beyond us. Heroes do what we cannot or will not do. Maybe that's why they are so compelling.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

We all need heroes but isn't it odd how different they are for each of us?