Friday, August 7, 2009

Hero, Part 4: A Closer Look At Tara Rihtwis, Part 2

This is part of my continuing exploration on the nature of heroism in literature, and of the role of the hero in my epic fantasy, Gods Among Men. Here are links to parts one , two and three. And here is a link to the post that started this overall series about the various roles characters play in literature.

Today I am going spend a little more time on Tara Rihtwis, daughter of Morel Rihtwis. In my last post about her I mentioned that she is derived from a different heroic model than is Morel. By this, I mean that Morel is closer to a classical mythological hero while Tara is closer to a modern style of hero.

I do not mean to imply Tara is an antihero, as that implies a character that does something good (i.e. "saves the day") but embodies non-heroic attributes such as greed, or a lack of mercy, or lust. A character such as James Bond or Dirty Harry would be examples of antiheroes.

Nor is Tara a tragic hero. A tragic hero is one like Hamlet, King Lear, or Achilles; someone who is primarily heroic but suffers from some major flaw. Tragic heroes have a defect in their character that overwhelms their otherwise noble intentions and leads to suffering. Tara suffers from no such deficiency.

The defining characteristic between the classical mythological hero and the modern hero is reluctance.

A classical hero has a destiny that they actively pursue, or are thrust into extraordinary events and quickly rise to the occasion. Characters such as King Arthur, Jame T. Kirk, Indiana Jones, and Luke Skywalker are all examples of heroes shaped by the classical mold.

Modern heroes are different in that their destiny isn't something they particularly want or desire. When thrust into an extraordinary circumstance their first instinct is to let someone else handle it, rising to the occasion only after it become clear they are the sole person capable of dealing with the situation. George Baily, from It's A Wonderful Life, is such a character. He sacrifices his own dreams and aspirations so that others won't suffer. He gives up all the things he wants to do because his moral center will not let him be selfish.

As an example of the difference between the classical and modern hero is how the character of Aragorn from The Lord Of the Rings is portrayed in the books versus the movies. In the books, he is the rightful heir to Gondor and has every intention of reclaiming his throne when the time is right. He wants and plans to be king, but delays in claiming his inheritance so he can prepare himself and work secretly against the dark lord Sauron. In the movies, however, he is uninterested in the kingship and only claims it when doing so becomes the one way for him to save the love of his life and the world at large. He is a reluctant hero.

Tara begins her journey in the mold of the classical hero. She dreams of being a hero like her father and eventually assuming the throne. She pursues this dream, but over time the cost to herself begin to mount. The price of her heroic dreams are more than she wishes to pay and she wants to let others carry that burden. By then, however, she cannot turn aside from her path without causing others to suffer. Her moral center will not allow this, so she accepts a life that is less than she wants so she can do more for mankind. At this point, she transitions from a classical hero to a modern one, and comes to represent the changes happening the world around her.


  1. Would that we could all acquire those attributes. Especially the willingness to stay on a path we don't want to tread upon because our morals won't allow us to foist the responsibility on someone else. Nice one, Brant.

  2. Thank you. I'm never sure if these posts make much sense to anyone but me. I hope they are interesting and thought provoking to others. At the very least they help me clarify my thought processes.