A hero is an exceptional person or an actual real human being who, in the face of adversity, combats adversity by strength, courage or ingenuity. As other previously only gender-specific pronouns, hero is often used to describe any gender, although hero only seems to be used to describe female heroes. There are countless numbers of heroes, from Greek gods to Superman and wolverine characters. Some are written about in epic epics such as Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey, while others are relegated to television or comic books where they are given little more than a passing mention. Others are written off as complete myths.
The most common myth surrounding heroic fiction is that of the unbeatable hero. This may seem ironic, since any given story may feature one or more unlikely heroes defeating more powerful or mysterious enemies. For instance, Alexander the great may have defeated the Persian king, but he was saved by his sidekicks who later defeat the Persian army on his return home. The difference, however, is that the Greek version of the hero, unlike the Homeric hero, was a Greek prince while the Illiadic Greek version was actually a Trojan prince.
In contemporary literature, the most prominent hero types tend to be those from a Western perspective. In movies, television shows and video games, the typical hero tends to be one who excels at a particular art (such as war, sports or climbing) and/or at another skill (fighting, magic or driving). These heroes represent the pinnacle of human potentiality and therefore are often born with unending potential for heroism. However, not all humans possess the qualities of greatness so it becomes necessary for another to step in to fill the role once occupied by the hero. This can become a fantasy to some, because the hero may be completely non-existent whereas the alter ego serves as the avatar of heroism.
From the perspective of classic mythology, most heroic acts have one underlying principle: strength of character. Achilles’ (the Greek hero) heel was his strongest weapon, but in the end he used his mind to overcome even greater odds. While Achilles’ heel might not always have been his strongest weapon, it is nevertheless part of the philosophy of Greek agonies that his mind and body were essential parts of himself. Similarly, Superman’s super strength lies primarily in his ability to focus his mind. And while super strength is certainly an important quality of classical heroes, it isn’t the only one. Indeed, perhaps the most important quality of classical heroes was their immortality – the belief that one could live forever.
Of course, while the Greeks had several key principles that they believed kept them safe throughout their long history, the most famous of these was the ideal of immortality. According to the Greek myth, Aeschylus, the Trojan hero once said that although he lived to a ripe old age, he would not seek immortality. Other classical heroes such as the warrior Hector and the hero Seneca believe that the key to living a long life was by avoiding dangerous actions and living for the moment.
Although it may be difficult to pinpoint one single trait or quality that defines a hero, perhaps the most commonly known one is bravery. Many classical heroes such as Achilles, Aeneas, and Sophocles are often praised for their courage in battle. However, these same heroes also often experienced great hardship and were the ones who took on greater risk than anyone else, thereby winning more than they lost. Through the example of these famous Greek heroes, many people throughout the world were inspired to follow a different path through life, thereby becoming famous and living life to the fullest.