A hero is an ordinary person or a primary fictional hero who, against all odds, combats misfortune through acts of strength, courage, or ingenuity. Unlike other previously solely male terms, hero has been widely used to describe any gender, although hero usually refers to men. For example, we have Professor Snape ( Sirius Black), Professor Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Professor Snape again ( Severus Snape), and Hermione Granger ( Hermione Granger). Harry Potter also played the important role of a hero, as he saved the world with his unique skill to fly away and not get caught.
What makes a hero? What makes them ordinary people who become extraordinary? In short, they are born with great qualities which make them special. Human qualities like love, hope, creativity, and goodness are also present; however, to truly understand heroism we must go beyond these common traits and find out what makes heroic imagination possible. We must discover our own humanity.
According to most historians, the first recorded story of Greek hero Homer relates how his city was lost to the Trojans. Homer thus created the immortal archetype of the hero. Ancient Greeks associated virtue, courage and imagination with Greek gods such as Zeus, Poseidon, and Apollo. The Greek pantheon was considered the greatest of all gods, containing numerous examples of heroic behavior. Theocritus, Plato and Aristotle thought that the concept of heroic imagination was essential for humans and that it was the key to understanding humanity’s deeper truth.
Modern scholars disagree with this view, pointing out that the ideal of heroism in ancient Greece was connected more to idealism than to actual heroics. As a result, the concept of heroic realism came into being. Realists theorized that Greek idealism masked, and in some ways justified, the crimes and evil acts of the great Greek gods. In order to achieve a realistic view of Greek culture, the later philosophers devised the idea of hero legends, which were heroic acts par excellence.
Modern scholars argue that real-life heroism, such as that depicted in popular culture, is much more complex and far more varied than heroic imagination. On the one hand, heroic imagination is linked with exceptional ability and courage. On the other, real-life experiences, including the sacrifice of one’s life for a higher cause, can have an inspiring effect on one’s outlook and sense of morality. However, the great Greek philosophers rejected the idea of moral perfection, seeing instead the idea of a “hierarchy of values,” whereby values are derived from individual actions and consequences. For them, morality could not be reduced to a level of behavior. Thus, many moderns view heroic imagination not as a means of escape from reality, but rather as a means of producing an enhanced and uniquely human existence.
While some of the most beloved heroes in history are those who have achieved great success in spite of themselves, others are seen as flawed human beings who nonetheless managed to accomplish something remarkable. Achilles, for instance, was both a coward and a child, yet he chose to live a selfless life and did what was necessary to protect others. Similarly, Dostoyevsky’s heroes always have something unique, overcoming their many physical defects and personal shortcomings to become superior human beings. Likewise, while creating heroes who act heroically make them stand apart from the crowd and prove their uniqueness, and so elevating the concept of hero into something more than just an icon or an embodiment of human potential. Real heroes become something more than just human.