This page was inspired by Robert Goldberg’s article Frodo as Beowulf: Tolkien Reshapes the Anglo-Saxon Heroic Ideal which appeared in Mallorn #44, August 2006.
From Merriam Websters’ Online Dictionary: 1: a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability. b: an illustrious warrior. c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities. d: one that shows great courage. 2: a: the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work. b: the central figure in an event, period, or movement. 3: plural usually heros [sic]. 4: an object of extreme admiration and devotion.
The modern definition of a hero has evolved significantly, especially as Americans tend to think of them. Americans, especially younger ones, seem to have a cultural need to define themselves as heroes at the personal level, often regardless of actual accomplishments. Ironically, several Americans who seem to have accomplished heroic feats don’t publicly acknowledge their heroism, rather, they credit others with heroism that brought them their recognition (Retired Gen Norman Schwarzkopf comes to mind).
In this post-modern era, there aren’t many people who do many things well, there are mostly people who do one thing extremely well. I therefore tend to think of heroes topically.
In any case, I’m an American, and I too sometimes obsess about heroes. I thought it might be worth writing about people I think of as heroes, and why. The reader may notice I tend to refrain from listing as ‘Heroes’ professional or amateur athletes and entertainers. Unless anyone in these professions overcame some significant obstacles to get to a position where they could earn their notoriety. I don’t regard fame itself as a condition for heroism.
Heroes of the Faith — Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, Augustine, Mother Theresa, the Guimon family
Poliltical — The US Founding Fathers; Reagan, Gorbachev, Thatcher, Ayan Hirsi Ali
Firefighters — My Dad, FDNY
Peace Officers (all levels) — NYPD
Boy Scouts — Lord Baden-Powell, ‘Uncle Bill’
Literature — JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Salman Rushdie
Sports — Lance Armstrong
Life — Lorraine Allard