Every story has a main character, usually the “good guy”, the protagonist. In many stories the protagonist is just a regular person, negotiating the challenges of life. But sometimes a story has an actual hero.
Back in the 80’s Bonnie Tyler put out a song called “I Need a Hero”. Some of the lyrics are:
Where have all good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Late at night I toss and turn and dream of what I need
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight
I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero til the morning light
He’s gotta be sure
And it’s gotta be soon
And he’s gotta be larger than life
Pretty good lyrics, actually. Ah, you’re thinking of going to Youtube to look up the video, aren’t you? Don’t do it, please don’t do it, it’s hideous.
However the lyrics describe what a hero is: a larger than life being who fights against the odds and rescues those in danger, often becoming a sought after fantasy: A white knight on a fiery steed.
I had a reluctant hero in Draegnstoen, and the idea worked well. When I started Highland King I thought, hey, what if I had a non-reluctant hero? After trying unsuccessfully to wrap my head around that I went looking to see what defines the word.
“Hero” is derived from the goddess Hera, which led me to Heracles, or Hercules. Ah, now we are getting somewhere. The Greek origins of the name point to words like ‘defender’, ‘protector’, ‘preserver’.
The dictionary mentions words like bravery and courage when talking about a hero. What is bravery? What is courage? These words define action in the face of personal danger. So then, a fireman saving someone from a burning building…a hero. Superman saving someone from a burning building…not a hero (unless kryptonite was involved).
So, no danger, no hero. Danger, but no reluctance? Well, maybe that makes for a hero, but it doesn’t make an interesting story. So, it makes sense then that heroes are reluctant. They are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They almost always just want to be left alone to live their everyday lives. But, somehow, in some way, they have opportunity thrust upon them. They are given some great thing to do.
So be it. Doncann, from Highland King became the most reluctant hero I could imagine. He’s just a regular guy, a kid who just wants to live his life. Like many heroes, he is pulled into the current of his destiny. He doesn’t see it happening at first and then when he does, he resists. The task seems impossibile, insurmountable. We see self doubt, fear, and the brink of defeat, over and over again. We see faltering courage and the near collapse of bravery, teetering on the edge of dismal failure. But then, somehow, resolve reappears and steeled determination triumphs. We see victory, sometimes at great cost, but victory nonetheless. And what do we do when we see a hero win? We cheer a little inside. We get choked up. Once again we witness the resilience of the human spirit. And we think to ourselves, if he can do it, maybe I can. The story of a hero inspires us, in some small way…to be a hero.