A hero

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					A hero (from Greek ἥ ρως 'hērōs'[1]), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a
demigod,[2] the offspring of a mortal and a deity,[3] their cult being one of the most distinctive
features of ancient Greek religion.

Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters (fictional or historical) that,
in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will
for self sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good, originally of martial courage or
excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

Stories of heroism may serve as moral examples. In classical antiquity, hero cults – veneration of
deified heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Achilles – played an important role in Ancient
Greek religion. Politicians, ancient and modern, have employed hero worship for their own
apotheosis (i.e., cult of personality).


        1 Etymology
        2 Classical hero cults
            o 2.1 Analysis
        3 The validity of the hero in historical studies
        4 Heroic myth
        5 Folk and fairy tales
        6 The modern fictional hero
        7 Hero-as-self
        8 See also
        9 References
        10 Further reading
        11 External links

[edit] Etymology
The literal meaning of the word is "protector", "defender" or "guardian"[citation needed] and
etymologically it is thought to be cognate with the name of the goddess Hera, the guardian of
marriage; the postulated original forms of these words being *ἥ ρFως, hērwōs, and *ἭρFα,
Hērwā, respectively. It is also thought to be a cognate of the Latin verb servo (original meaning:
to preserve whole) and of the Avestan verb haurvaiti (to keep vigil over), although the original
Proto-Indoeuropean root is unclear. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the
English Language, the Indo-European root is ser meaning "to protect". According to Eric
Partridge in Origins, the Greek word Hērōs "is akin to" the Latin seruāre, meaning to safeguard.
Partridge concludes, "The basic sense of both Hera and hero would therefore be 'protector'."
[edit] Classical hero cults
Main article: Greek hero cult

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Hero cults could be of the utmost political importance.[original research?] When Cleisthenes divided
the ancient Athenians into new demes for voting, he consulted the Oracle of Delphi about what
heroes he should name each division after. According to Herodotus, the Spartans attributed their
conquest of Arcadia to their theft of the bones of Orestes from the Arcadian town of Tegea.

Heroes in myth often had close but conflicted relationships with the gods. Thus Heracles's name
means "the glory of Hera", even though he was tormented all his life by Hera, the Queen of the
Gods. Perhaps the most striking example is the Athenian king Erechtheus, whom Poseidon killed
for choosing Athena over him as the city's patron god. When the Athenians worshiped
Erechtheus on the Acropolis, they invoked him as Poseidon Erechtheus.

In the Hellenistic Greek East, dynastic leaders such as the Ptolemies or Seleucids were also
proclaimed heroes. This was an influence on the later, Roman apotheosis of their emperors.[citation

[edit] Analysis

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The classic hero often came with what Lord Raglan (a descendant of the FitzRoy Somerset, Lord
Raglan) termed a "potted biography" made up of some two dozen common traditions that
ignored the line between historical fact and mythology.[citation needed] For example, the
circumstances of the hero's conception are unusual; an attempt is made by a powerful male at his
birth to kill him; he is spirited away; reared by foster-parents in a far country. Routinely the hero
meets a mysterious death, often at the top of a hill; his body is not buried; he leaves no
successors; he has one or more holy sepulchres.

The first Hero:

Hero (mythical priestess), in Greek mythology, priestess of Aphrodite, goddess of love, at
Sestos, a town on the Hellespont (now Dardanelles). Hero was loved by Leander, a youth who
lived at Abydos, a town on the Asian side of the channel. They could not marry because Hero
was bound by a vow of chastity, and so every night Leander swam from Asia to Europe, guided
by a lamp in Hero's tower. One stormy night a high wind extinguished the beacon, and Leander
was drowned. His body was washed ashore beneath Hero's tower; in her grief, she threw herself
into the sea.
[edit] The validity of the hero in historical studies
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Further information: Philosophy of history and Great man theory

The philosopher Hegel gave a central role to the "hero", personalized by Napoleon, as the
incarnation of a particular culture's Volksgeist, and thus of the general Zeitgeist. Thomas
Carlyle's 1841 On Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History also accorded a key
function to heroes and great men in history. Carlyle centered history on the biography of a few
central individuals such as Oliver Cromwell or Frederick the Great. His heroes were political and
military figures, the founders or topplers of states. His history of great men, of geniuses good and
evil, sought to organize change in the advent of greatness.

Explicit defenses of Carlyle's position were rare in the second part of the 20th century. Most
philosophers of history contend that the motive forces in history can best be described only with
a wider lens than the one he used for his portraits. For example, Karl Marx argued that history
was determined by the massive social forces at play in "class struggles", not by the individuals
by whom these forces are played out. After Marx, Herbert Spencer wrote at the end of the 19th
century: "You must admit that the genesis of the great man depends on the long series of
complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into
which that race has slowly grown....Before he can remake his society, his society must make

Thus, as Michel Foucault pointed out in his analysis of societal communication and debate,
history was mainly the "science of the sovereign", until its inversion by the "historical and
political popular discourse".

The Annales School, led by Lucien Febvre, Marc Bloch and Fernand Braudel, would contest the
exaggeration of the role of individual subjects in history. Indeed, Braudel distinguished various
time scales, one accorded to the life of an individual, another accorded to the life of a few human
generations, and the last one to civilizations, in which geography, economics and demography
play a role considerably more decisive than that of individual subjects. Foucault's conception of
an "archeology" (not to be confused with the anthropological discipline of archaeology) or Louis
Althusser's work were attempts at linking together these various heterogeneous layers composing
history.[clarification needed]

[edit] Heroic myth
The four heroes from the Chinese classic Journey to the West

The concept of a story archetype of the standard "hero's quest" or monomyth pervasive across all
cultures is somewhat controversial. Expounded mainly by Joseph Campbell, it illustrates several
uniting themes of hero stories that despite vastly different peoples and beliefs hold similar ideas
of what a hero represents.[citation needed]

Some argue that while there may be many stories that fit the monomyth, the belief in such a truly
ubiquitous form may be due in part simply to neglecting those that do not.[who?]

[edit] Folk and fairy tales
Vladimir Propp, in his analysis of the Russian fairy tale, concluded that a fairy tale had only
eight dramatis personæ, of which one was the hero,[5]:p. 80 and his analysis has been widely
applied to non-Russian folklore. The actions that fall into a such hero's sphere include:

   1. Departure on a quest
   2. Reacting to the test of a donor
   3. Marrying a princess (or similar figure)

He distinguished between seekers and victim-heroes. A villain could initiate the issue by
kidnapping the hero or driving him out; these were victim-heroes. On the other hand, a villain
could rob the hero, or kidnap someone close to him, or, without the villain's intervention, the
hero could realize that he lacked something and set out to find it; these heroes are seekers.
Victims may appear in tales with seeker heroes, but the tale does not follow them both.[5]:36

[edit] The modern fictional hero
Hero or heroine is sometimes used to simply describe the protagonist of a story, or the love
interest, a usage which can conflict with the superhuman expectations of heroism. William
Makepeace Thackeray gave Vanity Fair the subtitle A Novel without a Hero.[6] The larger-than-
life hero is a more common feature of fantasy (particularly sword and sorcery and epic fantasy)
than more realist works.[7]

In modern movies, the hero is often simply an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances,
who, despite the odds being stacked against him or her, typically prevails in the end. In some
movies (especially action movies), a hero may exhibit characteristics such as superhuman
strength and endurance that sometimes makes him nearly invincible. Often a hero in these
situations has a foil, the villain, typically a charismatic evildoer who represents, leads, or himself
embodies the struggle the hero is up against. Post-modern fictional works have fomented the
increased popularity of the antihero, who does not follow common conceptions of heroism. [8]

[edit] Hero-as-self
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It has been suggested in an article by Roma Chatterji that the hero or more generally protagonist
is first and foremost a symbolic representation of the person who is experiencing the story while
reading, listening or watching; thus the relevance of the hero to the individual relies a great deal
on how much similarity there is between the two. The idea of "identifying" with the hero takes
on a very real meaning, in that the hero/protagonist becomes our only key to becoming part of
the story rather than remaining merely an observer. If the hero is one with which the observer
can't identify very well, the story can seem inaccessible, distant or even insincere. Conversely,
insomuch as the reader or viewer relates to and is therefore capable of becoming the hero, they
can feel pangs of remorse at the hero's defeats, and relish in his or her triumphs.

The most compelling reason for the hero-as-self interpretation of stories and myths is the human
inability to view the world from any perspective but a personal one. The almost universal notion
of the hero or protagonist and its resulting hero identification allows us to experience stories in
the only way we know how: as ourselves.

One potential drawback of the necessity of hero identification means that a hero is often more a
combination of symbols than a representation of an actual person. In order to appeal to a wide
range of individuals, the author often relegates the hero to a "type" of person which everyone
already is or wishes themselves to be: a "good" person; a "brave" person; a "self-sacrificing"
person. The most problematic result of this sort of design is the creation of a character so
universal that we can all identify with somewhat, but none can identify with completely. In
regard to the observer's personal interaction with the story, it can give the feeling of being
"mostly involved," but never entirely.


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