Heroic Models of Mythological Against Modern Heroes

The following sample essay talks about mythological heroic models versus modern heroes. Read the introduction, body and conclusion of the essay, scroll down.

When comparing the storylines and patterns of mythological heroes against those of modern times, I discovered a few subtle changes that have occurred over the centuries.

A typical mythological hero story or quest begins with the birth of said hero who is often oddly different from his peers in some way either socially awkward or with a special gift that separates him from regular people, or both.

As we follow the timeline of his life, something that is necessary to his survival or a life lesson that must be learned is to be sought or conquered and only he can be the one to rise to the challenge. As the story unfolds, he encounters many obstacles that are bravely overcome, usually resulting in a successful outcome that makes him an immortal hero in the eyes of his people, his name to be forever remembered and glorified.

Early heroes were usually male with few exceptions. Female heroes wouldn`t go on journeys or quests but rather were delegated to being seen as sacred feminine, strong yet delicate. Male heroes were alpha male types, and inevitably would have a weakness, such as Achilles and his heel.

The hero would journey to a destination for days, months or years, learning life lessons and conquering obstacles along the way, almost always travelling alone. With the Greek heroes in particular, he would have the voice of his father or another god booming from the sky to keep him focused and on track, offering wisdom and encouragement during his quest, particularly during his darkest days.

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Like all myths concerning heroes, this typical timeline gives us a story version of the trials that humans face.

In contrast, the modern-day hero completes a task for the betterment of his fellow men or all mankind, or to save the universe from some terrible fate. Men as well as women are heroes today  Wonder Woman and Supergirl are just as powerful as their male counterparts. Historical heroes did good deeds or conquered battles for their own fame. They wanted their names to be remembered for all time. In comparison, modern heroes do good for mankind and rarely seek fame for the things they do. In fact, they prefer to remain anonymous by wearing a mask while on duty or changing their image completely before tackling the task at hand.

Another major difference to note is that heroes from days past would fight real battles, involving hand to hand combat with lethal weapons such as knives or swords. This lent to the understanding that the hero was mortal and could be hurt as any other human. When the hero made it through a battle with his life, it made him even more revered as a true warrior. In the story of Siegfried, the hero, conquests were made, impossible tasks achieved and still, he died due to a curse, showing his mortality.

Modern heroes rarely, if ever, follow this pattern. Instead, their use of built-in magical or supernatural weapons, such as the laser eyes of Superman, the web throwing fingers of Spiderman, or the magical wizard wand of Harry Potter to outdo their nemesis. We are led to believe that modern heroes are almost infallible, unable to be hurt or killed by their enemies. This is a strange juxtaposition, because modern superheroes appear human and have human failings but are not immortal. Superman, the caped crusader, is a perfect example. His weakness is Kryptonite, a piece of rock from his home planet and it is the only true thing that can harm him. He is otherwise impervious to bullets, fire, natural disasters or fist fights. This is a common link between historical and modern-day heroes; Achilles famous weak heel is a human flaw in the mythological realm. It is different and yet the same. I would assume modern heroes have a flaw to make them seem more human and relatable.

Another item to note is that the heroes of today are rarely alone, as they usually have a sidekick or a team of other heroes to help them on their quest. A good example of this is The Avengers, a team of modern-day superheroes who work together toward a common goal of defeating enemies. The X-Men, a team of young human mutants, also follow this pattern. This is a stark contrast to heroes of the past, who would set out alone and were on their own with nothing but their wits and weapons.

Yet another distinction between past and present heroes is that the quests of mythological heroes were god-based. Greeks had many gods that presided over humankind, judging them over eons of time and their heroes were both man and god, seen as the bridge between the two worlds, mortal and immortal. No matter the origin or religion, mythological heroes were god-based, which ultimately gave hope for the conquering of evil. French existentialist Albert Camus, an atheist, believed that without God and a myth-based culture, there was nothing to give human life meaning, but futile striving itself can give life meaning, defying the certainty of death and the futility of striving itself. Morality is another significant difference between the two hero archetypes. Heroes of the past were often motivated by pride or greed in comparison to the higher moral conduct of today`s heroes. Hercules, who is seen as the epitome of the ancient Greek heroes, often participated in violence motivated by selfish desires. Modern heroes struggle with being models of morality, a notion ancient Greeks did not share.(3)*

Today`s heroes are rarely, if ever, god-based. Quests are purely human in nature the superhero must conquer his nemesis for the salvation of mankind, not to appease a god or gods. The loss of religion and/or deities has happened slowly over time, most likely to cater to modern day fans who do not believe in any god or supreme being. In keeping up with the times, there is no loss of revenue for movie houses and authors by alienating a huge segment of the population who may be offended by god-based stories. It could also be a natural happening of the watering down of myth and legend-based stories over time.

Modern heroes are also more and more today, just regular people. They are the ones who would pull a child from a sinking car, run into a burning building to save a beloved pet or raise massive amounts of money for a cause to help his fellow man. There are no special skills or superhuman talents. Historical figures were born into greatness with expectations of heroism put upon them from birth; modern heroes are typically thrust into a heroic role as a matter of human circumstance. As we progressed historically as well as technologically, socially, and culturally, we have broadened our definitions of the hero. Today, one does not need to embody all the hero characteristics and become a timeless, legendary symbol of heroism to be entitled a “hero” or “heroine.” Instead, any individual who has demonstrated a heroic quality that can be highlighted and socially agreed as extraordinary, (whether it is leading a country, saving a life, or winning a sports title), is considered a hero, even if only for a short period of time.

In short, to recap:

Historical heroes are often born under mysterious circumstances, are unaware of their roots and/or history, possess unusual strength and are very clever. They embark on a quest for personal victory, overcome all challenges and resist temptations. They almost never interact with humans, are god-led on their journey, die in a sacrificial way and become legendary after death.

Modern day heroes are typically human but with exceptional strength or exceed the norm in some way and are driven and determined to succeed. They utilize character traits such as bravery, valour and virtue to defeat the odds, accomplish a goal, save a life or influence a positive outcome, all usually for the betterment of others or a for a noble cause. The hero overcomes adversity from all angles to emerge victorious, but often prefers to remain anonymous and is therefore rarely recognized for his deeds.

I believe that the modern, caped superhero acts as a bridge between the heroes of the past and the regular human heroes of today while providing us with entertainment and giving us something to believe in. Heroes, like myths and legends, will likely continue to evolve over time but will never truly be erased because well everyone loves a hero!

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Heroic Models of Mythological Against Modern Heroes. (2019, Nov 16). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/historical-vs-modern-heroes-best-essay/

Heroic Models of Mythological Against Modern Heroes
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