In today’s popular literature, the “anti-hero” has become the new hero. Why? Many claim this is in reflection of either A) reality (i.e. that no one is a “real hero”) or B) a symptom of the uncertain times we live in.
But haven’t we always lived in uncertain times? I can’t think of a single era or culture that was not lamenting the greatness of the past while gnashing their teeth at what they see as the destruction of the future (I mean, did nobody expect the Spanish Inquisition? *snerk*). So why has the tide changed against the “hero” in favor of the anti-hero? I don’t know but I’m desperate to discover why. Especially since my personal taste trends towards the typical hero.
I’m currently listening to a class, “Hero and Quest” taught by Dr. Larry George (subtitled “Heroes and Maidens”). This is a fascinating class thus far and it’s giving me great food for thought.
Today’s discussion was the “Mythic Hero.”
From Wikipedia: The “Mythic Hero Archetype” is a set of 22 common traits shared by many heroes in various cultures, myths and religions throughout history and around the world. The concept was first developed by FitzRoy Somerset, 4th Baron Raglan (Lord Raglan) in his 1936 book, The Hero, A Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama. Raglan argued that the higher the score, the more likely the figure is mythical.
1. Mother is a royal virgin
2. Father is a king
3. Father related to mother
4. Unusual conception
5. Hero reputed to be son of god
6. Attempt to kill hero as an infant, often by father or maternal grandfather
7. Hero spirited away as a child
8. Reared by foster parents in a far country
9. No details of childhood
10. Returns or goes to future kingdom
11. Is victor over king, giant, dragon or beast
12. Marries a princess (often daughter of predecessor)
13. Becomes king
14. For a time he reigns uneventfully
15. He prescribes laws
16. Later loses favor with gods or his subjects
17. Driven from throne and city
18. Meets with mysterious death
19. Often at the top of a hill
20. His children, if any, do not succeed him [i.e., does not found a dynasty]
21. His body is not buried
22. Nonetheless has one or more holy sepulchers or tombs
Several heroes were scored based on these archetypes:
Robin Hood (13)
The greatest of these heroes – thus far – would be King Arthur. Dr. George stated that King Arthur would receive 22 or more of these points (some items he scores twice).
Looking at this great list of [traits? Actions? Activity?] – holding numerous plot options – I can’t help but wonder why we get less epic heroes like Arthur but more rapist-killers like the MC from Prince of Thorns. Especially as I watch our TV and movies slide into “All Superhero, All the time” status (but with reboots that give our shiny heroes more tarnished armor).