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What Makes a Hero

Rome wasn't built in a day, as the saying goes. Nor was King Arthur, I would add. Aragorn, Merlin, Orpheus, Horus, Charlemagne, and Gilgamesh weren't overnight creations either. Which begs the question: what is it, exactly, that works to build the stature of such heroes of myth and fantasy? I understand the writer's perspective, of defining one's ideal qualities and then creating a character within which to clothe them. But let's take it a step further and consider what kinds of formative experiences might lead to the development of these qualities.

Great stories usually accomplish this in one way or another; we see not only the heroes' triumph, but also all the trials and tribulations that contributed to their growth along the way. They are confronted with their limitations and darker aspects, and these they must either overcome or else accept with gracious humility before they can achieve their particular victory.To simplify the matter, I would suggest that heroes are those who go out on a limb. Where they struggle, there ultimately is no help, because they've broken through to a realm of experience that no one else has ever entered before. The answer, if there is to be one, must come from within them.

No one else can provide it.This is one of the prime consolations I find in fantasy and mythic literature, and I believe that therein lies much of its popular appeal. We can find comfort and inspiration in these stories during those dark moments when we have nowhere to turn. We're out on a limb ourselves, beset with a conflict that only we can resolve ? and inaction will only worsen. The advice of friends and family - though perhaps well meant and appreciated - is not relevant to our struggle because our loved ones haven't been where we are.But the mythic heroes have.

They risked losing everything that they cherished in life, yet they found a way to prevail. Not only that, but they achieved victory, in the end, by drawing solely upon their own inner resources. They had help along the way, but ultimately the fate of their world rested upon their action. They become the teachers and guides of their respective cultures because they took a plunge into the dark unknown and succeeded in mapping out its regions for the next generation of seekers to come.And to these newcomers they bequeath the message of their journey, which reads: "You, too, have the power to create your own reality and form your own destiny.


.Seth Mullins is the author of "Song of an Untamed Land". Visit his complete blog at http://www.writingup.com/blog/seth_mullins.

By: Seth Mullins

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