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▶  More from Blog A Dread Grace A Well of Heroes
Seven Faces of the Hero
The Fundamental Attributes that Define the Hero


Not every hero is the same. Every hero does hunt or quest and most heroes do strive for their society. To a large extent the modern action hero is a mere shadow of his progenitor of old. He quests and hunts as heroes have since Time’s dawn, and he fights, but rarely for his society. Rather, most modern and post modern heroes fight ‘against’ something. The modern heroe is sunk into a mythological mire so soul crushing that he most often embodies Achilles’ suppressed desire to slay Agamemnon.

James Bond offers a callous shadow of a hero in most of his incarnations, with the Daniel Craig version becoming an avenging shade.

Jason Bourne is very nearly a machine fashioned from human material.

The Terminator is a machine.

The various superheroes are assigned the roles of heroes in traditional agrarian societies, fighting for society and the hierarchy, but as outsiders who must remain alien, and in this role more closely approximate ancient gods than heroes—most notably Superman. Indeed, most superheroes have godlike powers, so that the only ones that qualify as heroes are those such as Batman and The Punisher who are merely exceptional men with exceptional tool kits—these mundane types may be included as heroes, the mutant and alien types should be regarded as deities—no less fictional than Athena or Pan.

The Attributes of the Hero

The hero is the idealized—though not perfect—man, who waxes remarkable but remains flawed. He is the tribal ego writ small in the ink of his ancestors hope—blood. In this light I see no better method of sketching the temporal aspects of the hero in terms of Jack Donovan’s four many characteristics.

The Four Temporal Attributes

1. Strength, including health, vitality, endurance, speed—the things that made Achilles first among men

2. Courage, which is the defining spark of the hero, the impetus that enables him to use his superior strength for something beyond hauling other men’s property and tilling other men’s land. Courage is the most universally admired manly trait. The one common trait that all of Robert E. Howard’s heroes had in common was courage, courage to take direct action, often as an anti social act, but also necessary to right social ills.

3. Mastery, the skills of the hunter, warrior, the parlay-maker, the leader, amplify the strength that the hero’s courage set into motion. Mastery is the area where the modern hero such as Boone, Bond, Bourne and Batman excels, as he represents the rising technological sophistication of the modern society.

4. Honor, is the heroic trait that is most treasured among heroes of preliterate societies, most beloved of the poets and most difficult for the modern hero of a complex age, for which the presence of honor is often relegated to a weakening disadvantage that serves as a plot devise to imperil the hero. In heroic epics of ancient and medieval times that divert from the hunting theme that originally dominated all heroic tales, honor becomes the dominant theme and is inextricably bound up with the hero’s courage. Honor, as the purely social attribute, also links the three “Beastly” attributes [which are all admittedly possessed by animals] with the three ascendant attributes defined below.

The Three Ascendant Attributes

1. Tribal intercession is the social mission of the hero, to represent the blood line before the higher powers and preserve the hope of his ancestors from the lower powers. The origin of the kingship cult of Egypt was tribal intercession, with the hero king representing the people in the divine sphere. On a more practical level, the Story of Exodus, in which Moses leads his people out of bondage, is very typical of tribal heroics, with such a journey accounting for the origin of the Crow tribe in their oral history, and remaining within the hunt based quest theme. In its highest form this is a purely spiritual undertaking, such as Roland’s self–sacrifice. In its lowest form it might resemble Conan’s determination to die a death worthy of his dark, brooding race. Ultimately, in heroic myth, the tribe is a chronologically transcendent ideal.

2. Passion is the supernatural aspect of the hero, who is driven and has more energy than his fellows and therefore possesses the transcendental version of courage; his animal ferocity transformed into the yearning to reach beyond the confines of the current social bounds, such as, Jacob’s striving with the Angel, Alexander’s drive to conquer to the Ends of the Earth and somehow achieve godhood and Columbus’ similar mystical drive into the unknown. This heroic aspect is reflected in Howard’s fiction by such heroes as Mak Morn and Conan, who are so passionate in their striving that they are willing to face gods, horrors and demons.

3. Grace, possessed by the highest order of hero—often religious martyrs—was the defining characteristic of Odysseus, Euthymus, Jesus—all three of these said to have survived death, as well as such more recent figures as Tecumseh and Sitting Bull and the Howard hero Solomon Kane, a religious figure. The hero who has achieved grace has exceeded the normal bounds of humanity through encountering something beyond without suffering insanity. H. P. Lovecraft’s many protagonists fell short of heroic as their minds were blasted by contact with something beyond human ken. In this, Lovecraft exemplified the modern approach to horror at its finest, while Howard wrote of such things in a mythic context. Grace is deeply linked with dreams, premonitions and prophecy. The hero of grace is often depicted in art reaching out beyond earth and humanity, or considering the mysteries of God or the universe as he gazes away. This is the theistic approach to heroism, exemplified by medieval saints and the shamans of a thousand younger peoples. The atheistic approach to heroism is exemplified by the alienated superhero, Batman being the best example. A traditional hero, like Roland, or Arthur, would die at the adventure’s end, regarding the Great Mystery as the Truth approaches, or a hero such as Kane would plunge ever deeper into hellish Africa searching for a deeper evil to fight, leaving civilized man’s petty concerns behind in his fanatic quest. In opposition such outward yearning sentiment, Batman, having strived for humanity, stands above the City of Man, awed by Man, lost among his edifices, edified by his hierarchal conceits, bestowing his grace upon Domesticated Man, in a state of worship for a miserable breed of person which he transcended, for no other purpose than to maintain their complacent enslavement. In the realm of grace we encounter the ancient hero’s affirmation that the human condition may be transcended, and conversely, the postmodern hero’s confirmation of the human condition as the intransigent, pinnacle of cosmic evolution.

The hero says much of his age, its values and its Fate.

A Well of Heroes

https://www.amazon.com/Well-Heroes-Literary-Impressions-Robert/dp/1534808256/ref=sr_1_6/180-6301626-9959864?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467037854&sr=1-6&keywords=james+lafond

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Jeremy BenthamJuly 1, 2016 11:52 AM UTC

"“Let the manner of your life be adorned by chastity, sobriety, and moderation; for it is exceedingly disgraceful that lust should subdue him whom man finds invincible, and that wine should overpower him whom the sword assails in vain.” - Saint Augustine's Epistle to the Roman General Boniface, 418 A.D.

“Oh Lord, give me chastity, but do not give it yet.”- Saint Augustine

P.S. Oh, I neglected to mention that among the character flaws the makes James Bond an "anti-hero" is his womanizing and fornication. At least back in the 1950's when Fleming wrote most of the Bond novels such activities were considered by the mainstream of society to be wrong, sinful and immoral. Certainly not how a proper hero and a potential role model for the young and impressionable should conduct himself. But society has changed considerably since then in what it considers to be moral and "heroic" personal behavior. It was changing even back when the Bond novels were written. Certainly the descriptions of Bond's sexual adventures were as titillating to readers as were his violent adventures. Nowadays many of the deviant sexual practices that were once considered to be immoral are now perfectly acceptable, so heterosexual premarital liaisons of the sort that James Bond engages in fail to evoke a reaction today. Such extramarital sexual relationships have become completely normalized in the eyes of the general public. A person's sexual morality or lack thereof scarcely matters anymore. Unless said person is a Republican politician, of course, for then the Press will publicize that individual’s sexual immoralities in an effort to alienate them from their Conservative Christian voting base. But otherwise the act itself is unimportant. As Lenin said, in politics it is not “what” but “who” that counts. In the 21st century we have homosexual superheroes in the comic books. Of course this is promoted by SJWs in an effort to "normalize" homosexuality by portraying homosexual characters in positive roles. One of the transformational goals of the Left is to normalize fringe behavior, while at the same time marginalizing heretofore normal behavior (like being a Conservative or a Christian). So we may yet live to see pedophile super heroes in the comic books.
Jeremy BenthamJuly 1, 2016 2:56 AM UTC

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."-George Orwell

"He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." -Winston Churchill

Actually James Bond, as portrayed by his creator Ian Fleming, is very much the anti-hero. Someone who possesses the attributes we typically admire in a hero (strength, courage, mastery, devotion to duty), but who fights for a cause most would find reprehensible. James Bond is an assassin, an executioner, part of an elite group of killers sent to dispatch individuals Her Majesty's government has condemned to death without trial. The James Bond novels were a voyeuristic and fanaticized glimpse into the dirty world of international espionage and counter-terrorism and consequently very popular with readers seeking escapist adventure stories. James Bond is even a squeamish killer; he reveals in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "The Man with the Golden Gun" his reluctance to "kill in cold blood". This apparently reflects Ian Fleming's personal feelings from when was an officer in British intelligence during World War II. James Bond is a heavy drinker, if not an outright alcoholic, stressed out from facing the dangers and demands of his service. In the beginning of "Thunderball" Bond's superior "M" has to send Bond into rehab to dry out. During the same time frame Donald Hamilton also wrote a series of novels in which the protagonist is a government assassin, named "Matt Helm". Unlike Fleming's Bond there is no reluctance in Matt Helm, he is totally ruthless. Helm terminates his targets "with extreme prejudice". After all, the government that employs him determined that it was important for those people to be dead. Period. So Helm is untroubled by what he has to do or how he has to do it. In "The Wrecking Crew" Helm shoots the villain dead AFTER he has thrown up his hands in surrender. When he is rebuked for this dishonorable act by a female character Helm points out that he was sent to kill the man, a dangerous enemy agent, so he did. Helm has no ego, he is perfectly willing to play the over-the-hill fool in order to get close to the target. So in the aggregate Helm is even more the anti-hero than Bond. Of course "anti-hero" has became kind of an anachronistic term in our modern era, as most of our contemporary action heroes are as prone to break the rules and fight in as unrestrained and "dirty" a manner as the villains. By the way, the Matt Helm movies from the 1960's starring Dean Martin are nothing like the original Donald Hamilton Matt Helm novels. While those movies did well at the box office they were a big disappointment to serious fans of Hamilton's novels.