Fiction Focus Week 5- Heroes
One of the things that turns up in fiction (particularly sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and YA) again and again are heroes- and heroines, but for some reason the word “heroine” has much more Victorian connotations, so I’m going to stick with the gender neutral “hero” for now, although that also includes female heroes. Heroes are a special breed, by their very nature. Because they are the chosen one. They are the one that is going to defeat evil, they are the ones who are going to bring balance to the world. Pretty special, if you ask me.
Heroes tend to be good all rounders. They are quite smart, quite strong. They’ve got a bit of everything, and their sidekicks and support team fill in the gaps. Some are born heroes. Take Harry Potter as an example- almost literally born a hero. Like many, he doesn’t have a choice, he has to be a hero whether he wants to or not. But rather than shying away from it, Harry embraces this. It becomes almost his entire personality: he will be the one to defeat evil. He will be the one to save the world. If you’ve ever read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, you’ll remember that bit where Hermione says that he has a “saving people thing.” It’s not that he does it for glory, it’s that he does it because that’s who he is: the guy who saves his loved ones. Even when he fails, this only makes his resolve stronger.
But Harry would be nowhere without Ron and Hermione, his strategist and researcher behind him to plan and fill in the gaps in knowledge. Heroes are very important, but they’re rarely ever a one man show.
While Harry is off saving the wizarding world, there are plenty of heroes who claim they’d rather be at home, in bed. I almost always question this, because they’re having such fun, why would they want to be boring again? Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit is probably the most famous example of this. Because Bilbo isn’t really a hero at all- in fact, he’s none of the things that Gandalf and the dwarves expect of him. He’s not daring, he’s not brave, he’s not heroic and he’s certainly not a thief…
Or is he? Because as the book progresses, Bilbo proves himself again and again not only to the dwarves but to us as readers. Every time, he says to himself that he wishes he had stayed at home. But then he does what they wanted him to do. And when he gets home, his wanderlust is never cured. Maybe Thorin is considered a more likely hero of the story, but Bilbo too is a hero, even though he’d probably never think it himself.
Another interesting hero is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She too is very reluctant, and her story is an altogether different one to many others. Katniss is almost an antihero in her actions. She doesn’t hesitate to kill, and she acts as if she’s only ever looking out for herself- although it’s clear that she forms attachments quickly and really wants to protect those around her. But she can be selfish and callous, and very independent. Yet in the trilogy, she suddenly finds herself having to act the hero to the masses, having to make decisions and put on a face that she never wanted. She becomes a hero over the course of the trilogy, but unlike Bilbo, at the end, she goes and hides and never comes back out. Katniss’ story is very dark, and her path as a hero is winding, and she epitomises “reluctancy.”
There are a whole host of heroes out there. I haven’t even covered superheroes and vigilantes- maybe some other time! But for now, some questions for you all: who are your favourite heroes? What is your favourite type of hero? Do you think you could be a hero? And do you have any heroes in your own novels?