After my frolic with all things romance last week, I decided to investigate the details and depth of heroes. Have you ever wondered what it is that makes great heroes great? Me too. I’ve had so much fun researching different opinions about them. If you enjoy fiction, whether books or movies, I’m thinking you’ll have opinions about what makes a good hero. The characteristics might not be what you think.
I even found a list from the author of loveromancepassion.com of the top ten heroes of all time. Most of them I’ve never heard of, so I can’t agree or disagree with her ideas. She includes Ned Nickerson of Nancy Drew fame and Prince Charming, saying about them that one or the other would be a young girl’s first boyfriend.
She also added a number of vampire slayers along with Edward Cullen from Twilight. Good thing she didn’t put them too close together on her list. Coulda been messy.
Some guy from North and South made the list because he was so Darcy-esque. Then she added Darcy because he was, well, Darcy.
Her last hero on the list was Romeo. He didn’t rank any higher than 10 because he was stupid enough to get himself and his heroine killed.
Interesting concept. I couldn’t help wondering just who of these actually had characteristics of a hero. And who would I pick for my top ten?
Characteristics of a Hero
Doing research, I found a number of blogs listing character traits. I came across a great article at buzzle.com by Aparna Jadhav that suggest 10 significant traits common to characters. I loved the way that the blogger had quotes for each one, but I think some of them were redundancies.
Jadhav’s list courage and bravery as two separate traits. Except for the great quotes for each, I can’t imagine keeping them apart. My impression of courage is quieter than bravery, but that’s only a personal opinion.
One of my students defined courage as acting without any fear. Do you think so? I would consider that to be recklessness, foolhardiness. My idea of courage is taking action despite fear. Moving forward through fear.
Now I can think of some heroes with that characteristic:
- Virgil Tibbs in The Heat of the Night by John Ball (book, movie, and TV show)
- Sergeant York
- Any of The Avengers
- Caleb Knight of My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren
A hero is willing to sacrifice his own needs and desires to accomplish great things. Again, more than one of Jadhav’s items falls together. He puts selflessness, valor, and sacrifice as separate items, but I see them as the same thing. Sacrifice and selflessness are obvious synonyms. Valor isn’t quite as easy to see, but Jadhav defines it as found when life is more terrible than death.
Heroes with that attitude of sacrifice:
- Sydney Carton in Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities
- Any soldier who ever went to war
- Matthew Crawley in season 2 of Downton Abby
- Miles Rutledge in Keli Gwyn’s A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California
Antonio del Drago also published a blog about heroes. Only sacrificial and courageous appeared on both lists. He explained skilled as having specific talents, particularly supernatural or magical, but then he’s a fantasy writer.
I’m not sure I’d include a special skill (non-magical for the contemporary or historical romances I normally read) as essential for a hero, though again, it can add to a character’s well-rounded arc. A few that strike me are:
- Sherlock Holmes – naturally
- Patrick Jane in The Mentalist
- Shawn Spencer in Psych
- and of course Harry Potter
Your turn: There are more qualities coming up next week, but just for grins what qualities would you include?