From earliest memories we are saturated with stories and each story has a hero. The old stories and legends are filled with them, from Beowulf to St. George and the Dragon. But what was it that made these heroes so great?
It is up to the hero to accomplish the story goal. This is what makes him the hero. It is why we are reading his story, isn’t it? To read of his courage in the midst of danger.
One of the definitions of hero in Webster’s dictionary says, one who shows great courage.
And of courage it says: Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
One idea we have of heroes is that they are brave, and they never cowered in the face of fear. This is why we admire them so much. In a high tech, modern world with no need to slay dragons, rescue a princess and don armor, we long to read the brave stories of men long forgotten to the annals of history. We long for stories where men were great. The story of Beowulf is not a legend, a myth. It’s based on fact. Old lore gives us the stories we crave. We need the stories of heroes never giving up because we ourselves feel like failures.
But did heroes really lack fear?
Meg Cabot says, Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear. The Princess Diaries
Heroes don’t lack fear, they have the knowledge that something must be done, and that is more important than the fear in their hearts.
A man had a dragon to slay. Who wants to face a fire-breathing dragon without a fireman’s hose? Beowulf did it. There was something more important than any fear he might have had, and that was the lives of the village.
Frodo was just a hobbit. At just a few feet tall he didn’t stand much chance to defeat Sauron. He most certainly didn’t want the quest to destroy the ring, but something was more important than the fear of going to Mordor, and that was to save the Shire he adored, and the rest of Middle-Earth.
Heroes were ordinary folk who had a task thrust on them, that they and only they could accomplish. In spite of fear, they did their task and that is what made them a hero. They gave of themselves unselfishly, fighting for those they love, those they didn’t know, and those yet to be born.
Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness. Napoleon Hill
William Shakespeare in his book, 12th Night says, Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.
Galadriel tells Frodo, This task was appointed to you, Frodo of the Shire. If you do not find a way, no one will.
Frodo has greatness thrust on him. A task that only he could fulfill. And Frodo wasn’t the only one. Many people in stories and in real history had something that only they could fulfill.
Heroes were simple people like you and I. Some may have been born to the rich splendor of a castle, but they would sacrifice it for others.
And in closing, this is the definition of love found in John 15:13: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
To give of yourself willingly for the sake of others, is what makes a hero a hero.