Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Hero

Here I come to save the day!
Mighty Mouse (1940)


A hero is a man or woman (then often called a heroine), traditionally the protagonist of a story, legend or saga, commonly possessed of powers far beyond that of a standard human, which enable him or her to perform some truly extraordinary, beneficial deed (an "heroic deed") for which he or she is famous. These powers are sometimes not only of the body but also of the mind. Heroes are typically opposed by villains.

A person normally becomes a hero by performing an extraordinary and praiseworthy deed. Traditional deeds are slaying of monsters and saving people from certain death. A hero normally fulfills the definitions of what is considered good and noble in the originating culture. However, in literature, particularly in tragedy, the hero may also have serious flaws which lead to his downfall, e.g. Hamlet.

Sometimes a real person might achieve enough status to become a hero in people's minds. This is usually complemented by a rapid growth of myths around the person in question, often attributing him or her with powers beyond those of ordinary mortals.

Some social commentators prescribe the need for heroes in times of social upheaval or national self-doubt, seeing a requirement for virtuous role-models, especially for the young. Such myth-making may have worked better in the past: current trends may confuse heroes and their hero-worship with the cult of mere celebrity.

Well-known heroes approach the gods in status in some cultures. The word hero comes from Ancient Greek, where it describes a culture hero who figures in mythology. The Greek heroes were often the mythological characters who were the eponymous founders of Greek cities, states, and territories. These mythological heroes were not always role models or possessed of heroic virtue; many were demigods, the offspring of mortals and the gods. The age when heroes of this sort were active, and where the stories of Greek mythology were set, is frequently known as the "heroic age;" the heroic age ends shortly after the Trojan War is over and the legendary combatants have returned to home or exile.

List of famous heroes

A book of recent fame, dealing with the telling of heroic stories, is called The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy
F. Scott Fitzgerald

See also: superhero, culture hero


Hero is also a Greek name, applying to several characters in mythology and fiction.

In William Shakespeares play Much Ado About Nothing Hero is a female character.


Hero is a Chinese film. See Hero (film).