Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the type of character. For other meanings, see Hero (disambiguation).
In many myths and folk tales, a hero is a man or woman (the latter often called a heroine), traditionally the protagonist of a story, legend or saga, commonly possessed of abilities or character far greater than that of typical person, which enable him or her to perform some truly extraordinary, beneficial deed (a "heroic deed") for which he or she is famous. These powers are sometimes not only of the body but also of the mind. Heroes are typically opposed by villains.
A person normally becomes a hero by performing an extraordinary and praiseworthy deed. Traditional deeds are slaying of monsters and saving people from certain death. A hero normally fulfills the definitions of what is considered good and noble in the originating culture. However, in literature, particularly in tragedy, the hero may also have serious flaws which lead to a downfall, e.g. Hamlet.
Sometimes a real person might achieve enough status to become a hero in people's minds. This is usually complemented by a rapid growth of myths around the person in question, often attributing to him or her powers beyond those of ordinary mortals.
Some social commentators prescribe the need for heroes in times of social upheaval or national self-doubt, seeing a requirement for virtuous role models, especially for the young. Such myth-making may have worked better in the past: current trends may confuse heroes and their hero-worship with the cult of mere celebrity.
Well-known heroes approach the gods in status in some cultures. The word hero comes from ancient Greek, where it describes a culture hero who figures in mythology. The Greek heroes were often the mythological characters who were the eponymous founders of Greek cities, states, and territories. These mythological heroes were not always role models or possessed of heroic virtue; many were demigods, the offspring of mortals and the gods. The age when heroes of this sort were active, and where the stories of Greek mythology were set, is frequently known as the "heroic age"; the heroic age ends shortly after the Trojan War is over and the legendary combatants have returned to home or exile.
Most European indigenous religions feature heroes in some form. Germanic, Hellene and Roman heroes, along with their attributes and forms of worship have been largely absorbed by the Orthodox and Catholic denominations of Christianity, forming the basis of modern day Saint worship.
In modern movies, the hero is often simply an ordinary person treated unfairly by society who prevails in the end.
A book of recent fame, dealing with the telling of heroic stories, is called The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Also see "In Quest of the Hero " Alan Dundes, Otto Rank and Lord Raglan, Princeton Univ. Press 1990
- On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History " Thomas Carlyle
- Heroes and Gods Moses Hadas and Morton Smith, Harper and Row, 1965
People and characters traditionally recognized as heroes
- Achilles, classical Greece
- King Arthur, medieval England
- Beowulf, Iron Age Scandinavia
- Brer Rabbit, West African trickster figure
- David Broadfoot, radio officer on the Princess Victoria
- Captain Harlock, fictional Space Pirate created by Leiji Matsumoto
- Davy Crockett, Tennessee politician who fought and died for Texas independence at the Alamo
- Don Quixote, knight of the imagination and pursuer of goodness, virtue, honor, and truth
- El Cid, Spanish knight
- The Einherjar, heroes chosen by the war god Odin to fight the giants at the end of the world
- Giordano Bruno, renaissance mystic burned as a heretic
- Link, protagonist in The Legend of Zelda series
- Lord Guan, Chinese general and demigod
- Piet Hein, Dutch pirate in 16th century
- Harry Potter, fictional character by J. K. Rowling
- Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar.
- Heracles (Hercules), Greco-Roman mythology
- Hua Mulan, Chinese folk hero
- Ilya Muromets, East Slavic folk hero
- Ivan Susanin, a Russian peasant who saved the tsar
- James Bond, British secret agent
- James T. Kirk, Star Trek hero
- Joan of Arc, France
- John Henry, an American steel-driver
- Kintaro, hero from Japanese folklore
- Laura Secord, Canada
- Momotaro, hero from Japanese folklore
- The twelve paladins of Charlemagne
- Nelson Mandela, during the apartheid, held in a South African prison for 26 years. He led the battle to end the apartheid.
- Paul Bunyan, a mythical American lumberjack of great size
- Robin Hood, medieval British egalitarian (semi-mythical)
- Roland, French Christian knight killed by the Basques in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
- Son Goku fictional hero of Journey to the West
- Spartacus, leader of a slave revolt in the Roman Empire
- Stanislav Petrov, Soviet military officer who averted a worldwide nuclear war in 1983
- Stenka Razin, Russian folk hero
- Superman, prototypical comic book superhero
- Terry Fox, Cancer activist hero
- William Tell, the national hero of Switzerland
- William Wallace
- Wong Fei Hong, Chinese hero who was a martial arts master as well as an esteemed doctor. Famous headquarters was named "Bo Chi Lam".
- Campbell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thosand Faces
- Kerenyi, Karl, The Heroes of the Greeks 1959.
- Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, 1985: IV. The dead, heroes and chthonic gods
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