Heroism: Wikis

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Sir Galahad, a hero of Arthurian legend, detail of a painting by George Frederic Watts

A hero (heroine in female) (Ancient Greekἥρως, hḗrōs), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion.[1] Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

Stories of heroism may serve as moral examples. In classical antiquity, hero cults – veneration of deified heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Achilles – played an important role in Ancient Greek religion. Politicians, ancient and modern, have employed hero worship for their own apotheosis (i.e., cult of personality).

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Etymology

The literal meaning of the word is "protector" or "defender" [2] and etymologically it is thought to be cognate with the name of the goddess Hera, the guardian of marriage; the postulated original forms of these words being *ἥρϝως, hērwōs, and *ἭρFα, Hērwā, respectively. It is also thought to be a cognate of the Latin verb servo (original meaning: to preserve whole) and of the Avestan verb haurvaiti (to keep vigil over), although the original Proto-Indoeuropean root is unclear.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the Indo-European root is ser meaning "to protect". According to Eric Partridge in Origins, the Greek word Hērōs "is akin to" the Latin seruāre, meaning to safeguard. Partridge concludes, "The basic sense of both Hera and hero would therefore be 'protector'."

Classical hero cults

Hero cults could be of the utmost political importance. When Cleisthenes divided the ancient Athenians into new demes for voting, he consulted the Oracle of Delphi about what heroes he should name each division after. According to Herodotus, the Spartans attributed their conquest of Arcadia to their theft of the bones of Orestes from the Arcadian town of Tegea.

Heroes in myth often had close but conflicted relationships with the gods. Thus Heracles's name means "the glory of Hera", even though he was tormented all his life by Hera, the Queen of the Gods. Perhaps the most striking example is the Athenian king Erechtheus, whom Poseidon killed for choosing Athena over him as the city's patron god. When the Athenians worshiped Erechtheus on the Acropolis, they invoked him as Poseidon Erechtheus.

In the Hellenistic Greek East, dynastic leaders such as the Ptolemies or Seleucids were also proclaimed heroes. This was an influence on the later, Roman apotheosis of their emperors.[citation needed]

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Analysis

The classic hero often came with what Lord Raglan (a descendant of the FitzRoy Somerset, Lord Raglan) termed a "potted biography" made up of some two dozen common traditions that ignored the line between historical fact and mythology.[citation needed] For example, the circumstances of the hero's conception are unusual; an attempt is made by a powerful male at his birth to kill him; he is spirited away; reared by foster-parents in a far country. Routinely the hero meets a mysterious death, often at the top of a hill; his body is not buried; he leaves no successors; he has one or more holy sepulchres.

The first Hero:

Hero (mythical priestess), in Greek mythology, priestess of Aphrodite, goddess of love, at Sestos, a town on the Hellespont (now Dardanelles). Hero was loved by Leander, a youth who lived at Abydos, a town on the Asian side of the channel. They could not marry because Hero was bound by a vow of chastity, and so every night Leander swam from Asia to Europe, guided by a lamp in Hero's tower. One stormy night a high wind extinguished the beacon, and Leander was drowned. His body was washed ashore beneath Hero's tower; in her grief, she threw herself into the sea.

The validity of the hero in historical studies

The philosopher Hegel gave a central role to the "hero", personalized by Napoleon, as the incarnation of a particular culture's Volksgeist, and thus of the general Zeitgeist. Thomas Carlyle's 1841 On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History also accorded a key function to heroes and great men in history. Carlyle centered history on the biography of a few central individuals such as Oliver Cromwell or Frederick the Great. His heroes were political and military figures, the founders or topplers of states. His history of great men, of geniuses good and evil, sought to organize change in the advent of greatness.

Explicit defenses of Carlyle's position were rare in the second part of the 20th century. Most philosophers of history contend that the motive forces in history can best be described only with a wider lens than the one he used for his portraits. For example, Karl Marx argued that history was determined by the massive social forces at play in "class struggles", not by the individuals by whom these forces are played out. After Marx, Herbert Spencer wrote at the end of the 19th century: "You must admit that the genesis of the great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown....Before he can remake his society, his society must make him."[3]

As Michel Foucault pointed out in his analysis of societal communication and debate, history was mainly the "science of the sovereign", until its inversion by the "historical and political popular discourse".

The Annales School, led by Lucien Febvre, Marc Bloch and Fernand Braudel, would contest the exaggeration of the role of individual subjects in history. Indeed, Braudel distinguished various time scales, one accorded to the life of an individual, another accorded to the life of a few human generations, and the last one to civilizations, in which geography, economics and demography play a role considerably more decisive than that of individual subjects. Foucault's conception of an "archeology" (not to be confused with the anthropological discipline of archaeology) or Louis Althusser's work were attempts at linking together these various heterogeneous layers composing history.

Heroic myth

The four heroes from the Chinese classic Journey to the West

The concept of a story archetype of the standard "hero's quest" or monomyth pervasive across all cultures is somewhat controversial. Expounded mainly by Joseph Campbell, it illustrates several uniting themes of hero stories that despite vastly different peoples and beliefs hold similar ideas of what a hero represents.[citation needed]

Folk and fairy tales

Vladimir Propp, in his analysis of the Russian fairy tale, concluded that a fairy tale had only eight dramatis personæ, of which one was the hero,[4]:p. 80 and his analysis has been widely applied to non-Russian folklore. The actions that fall into a such hero's sphere include:

  1. Departure on a quest
  2. Reacting to the test of a donor
  3. Marrying a princess (or similar figure)

He distinguished between seekers and victim-heroes. A villain could initiate the issue by kidnapping the hero or driving him out; these were victim-heroes. On the other hand, a villain could rob the hero, or kidnap someone close to him, or, without the villain's intervention, the hero could realize that he lacked something and set out to find it; these heroes are seekers. Victims may appear in tales with seeker heroes, but the tale does not follow them both.[4]:36

The modern fictional hero

Hero or heroine is sometimes used to simply describe the protagonist of a story, or the love interest, a usage which can conflict with the superhuman expectations of heroism. William Makepeace Thackeray gave Vanity Fair the subtitle A Novel without a Hero.[5] The larger-than-life hero is a more common feature of fantasy (particularly sword and sorcery and epic fantasy) than more realist works.[6]

In modern movies, the hero is often simply an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, who, despite the odds being stacked against him or her, typically prevails in the end. In some movies (especially action movies), a hero may exhibit characteristics such as superhuman strength and endurance that sometimes makes him nearly invincible. Often a hero in these situations has a foil, the villain, typically a charismatic evildoer who represents, leads, or himself embodies the struggle the hero is up against. Post-modern fictional works have fomented the increased popularity of the antihero, who does not follow common conceptions of heroism.[7]

Hero-as-self

It has been suggested in an article by Roma Chatterji[citation needed] that the hero or more generally protagonist is first and foremost a symbolic representation of the person who is experiencing the story while reading, listening or watching; thus the relevance of the hero to the individual relies a great deal on how much similarity there is between the two. The most compelling reason for the hero-as-self interpretation of stories and myths is the human inability to view the world from any perspective but a personal one. The almost universal notion of the hero or protagonist and its resulting hero identification allows us to experience stories in the only way we know how: as ourselves.

One potential drawback of the necessity[citation needed] of hero identification means that a hero is often more a combination of symbols than a representation of an actual person.[citation needed] In order to appeal to a wide range of individuals, the author often relegates the hero to a "type" of person which everyone already is or wishes themselves to be: a "good" person; a "brave" person; a "self-sacrificing" person. The most problematic result of this sort of design is the creation of a character so universal that we can all identify with somewhat, but none can identify with completely.[citation needed] In regard to the observer's personal interaction with the story, it can give the feeling of being "mostly involved," but never entirely.

See also

References

  1. ^ See Heros, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, 'A Greek-English Lexicon', at Perseus and Plato, 'Cratylus'
  2. ^ Hero: Online Etymology Dictionary, entry "Hero"
  3. ^ Spencer, Herbert. The Study of Sociology, Appleton, 1896, p. 34.
  4. ^ a b Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, ISBN 0-292-78376-0
  5. ^ Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, p 34, ISBN 0-691-01298-9
  6. ^ L. Sprague de Camp, Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy, p 5 ISBN 0-87054-076-9
  7. ^ Hero: Encyclopedia - Hero

Further reading

  • Craig, David, Back Home, Life Magazine-Special Issue, Volume 8, Number 6, 85-94.
  • Guntis Smidchens, "National Heroic Narratives in the Baltics as a Source for Nonviolent Political Action," Slavic Review 66,3 (2007), 484-508.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Heroes article)

From Wikiquote

For the TV show, see Heroes (TV series)

A hero (male) or heroine (female) is a person of great bravery who performs extraordinary and praiseworthy deeds.

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Sourced

Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.
  • Andrea: "Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero."
    Galileo: "No, Andrea: Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."
    • Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo (1938), Scene 12, p. 115
    • Variant translations: Pity the country that needs heroes.
      Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes
  • He knows a hero when he sees one. Too few characters out there, flying around like that, saving old girls like me. And Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero. Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they'll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.
  • Do you know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed. You can look it up later.
  • The goal of the hero is to return (normal) life to the living.
    • Journey into the Void (2003), Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • A hero's greatest act is to lay down his sword.
    • From the film Hero.
  • A coward can be a hero, but a hero cannot be a coward.
  • You put your life on the line, no one really appreciates you enough for it. Being a hero isn't what it's cracked up to be anymore.
  • In the real world, heroes don't look like me. In the real world, they got bad teeth, a bald spot and a beer gut. I'm just an actor with a gun, who's lost his motivation.
  • You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
    • Harvey Dent/ Two Face, The Dark Knight

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • True heroism is alike positive and progressive. It sees in right the duty which should dominate, and in truth the principle which should prevail. And hence it never falters in the faith that always and everywhere sin must be repressed, and righteousness exalted.
    • John McClellan Holmes, p. 312..
  • Never was there a time, in the history of the world, when moral heroes were more needed. The world waits for such, the providence of God has commanded science to labor and prepare the way for such. For them she is laying her iron tracks, and stretching her wires, and bridging the oceans. But where are they? Who shall breathe into our civil and political relations the breath of a higher life? Who shall touch the eyes of a paganized science, and of a pantheistic philosophy, that they may see God? Who shall consecrate to the glory of God, the triumphs of science? Who shall bear the life-boat to the stranded and perishing nations?
    • Mark Hopkins, p. 312.
  • The courage of Daniel is true heroism. It is not physical daring, such as beneath some proud impulse will rush upon an enemy's steel; it is not reckless valor, sporting with a life which ill-fortune has blighted or which despair has made intolerable; it is not the passiveness of the stoic, through whose indifferent heart no tides of feeling flow; it is the calm courage which reflects upon its alternatives, and deliberately chooses to do right; it is the determination of Christian principle, whose foot resteth on the rock, and whose eye pierceth into heaven.
  • With quaint manners and quaint names these men had the hero's heart and the confessor's faith. Their faith was, indeed, their strength. Strong in the supremacy of conscience, in that real earnestness which springs from conviction, and which prompts to enterprise; far-sighted in political sagacity, because seeing Him that is invisible; shrewd enough to know that the truest policy for the life that now is, is a reverent recognition of the life that is to come, they were brave in endurance and patient under trial; and never losing sight of the principle for which they struggled, and of the purpose of their voyage afar, they " won the wilderness for God."
  • Don't aim at any impossible heroisms. Strive rather to be quiet in your own sphere. Don't live in the cloudland of some transcendental heaven; do your best to bring the glory of a real heaven down, and ray it out upon your fellows in this work-day world. Seek to make trade bright with a spotless integrity, and business lustrous with the beauty of holiness.
  • The grandest of heroic deeds are those which are performed within four walls and in domestic privacy.
    • Jean Paul Richter, p. 313.
  • The calm, tranquil energy of the Redeemer's soul; the deep strength of principle which nothing could shake; the serene courage which looked down upon menaces, clamor, contumely, sacrifice, death, — this is the temper which pours contempt upon the intrepidity of heroes, but which the Holy Spirit infuses into the humble Christian.

Unsourced

  • Better to be a lion for one day than a hundred years as a maggot
  • No hero is more braver then a ordinary man, he's just braver five minutes longer
  • We can be Heroes, just for one day. What d'you say?
  • We can all be heroes in our virtues, in our homes, in our lives.
  • Each man is a hero and an oracle to somebody; and to that person whatever he says has an enhanced value.
  • Nobody, they say, is a hero to his valet. Of course; for a man must be a hero to understand a hero. The valet, I dare say, has great respect for some person of his own stamp.
  • Great men need to be lifted upon the shoulders of the whole world, in order to conceive their great ideas or perform their great deeds. That is, there must be an atmosphere of greatness round about them. A hero cannot be a hero unless in an heroic world.
  • By my love and hope I beseech you: Do not throw away the hero in your soul! Hold holy your highest hope!
  • Do you know who a hero is? Nine times out of ten, a hero is someone who is tired enough, cold enough, and hungry enough not to give a damn. I don't give a damn.
  • Heroes never die. They live on forever in the hearts and minds of those who would follow in their footsteps.
    • Emily Potter
  • True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost.
    • Arthur Ashe
  • Today, looking at the mirror, I've found what I was searching for year. I've found my hero.
    • Sir. Ethan Loods-Laton
  • Heroes abilities are not limited by the impossible but by what is needed of them.
    • Shane O'Neill

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