How do you define a hero? Some may define a hero as someone with courage and bravery, someone who knows how to fight monsters and win historic battles, remain loyal to himself and or his or her men, or someone who has intelligence to overthrow an evil kingdom and make everything “right”. My definition of an epic hero is someone who can overcome passed mistakes and struggle to become a better person internally, while leading, staying loyal and sacrificing what needs to be sacrificed for the sake of his or her people.
In the epic poem, The Odyssey, Odysseus, son of Laertes, is challenged to his true potential of being an epic hero. He is challenged to make decisions not only for his sake, but for his men’s sake. He was cursed to be lost out at sea by Poseidon, god of the sea, after the long Trojan War and travels for ten years on a dangerous journey to get back home to Ithaca. On Odysseus’ journey, he is challenged by the Cyclops, the giant with one eye, Circe, the goddess of witchery, the beautiful singing Sirens, Scylla, and more.
They all challenge his true ambition of getting back home by temptation. Odysseus is easily tempted. With temptation being so easy, there’s no way this “epic hero” can really be classified as a true epic hero. Odysseus has strong focal points as well as weaknesses. He knows how to lead a big group of men, keep his composure and think of quick plans to help him and his men through obstacles, but Odysseus doesn’t know how to stay focused. He can easily be tempted to stay in one place on his journey for many years.
What Makes Odysseus An Epic Hero
Even though he tries to get his ship load of men back home, he focuses on the obstacles that are happening at that time, he doesn’t think about the future until someone reminds him of their journey to get home. Odysseus reacts without thinking and that’s his major downfall. A true epic hero weighs out his or her options and thinks what would be best for his or her men. Odysseus on the other hand reacts to the obstacles at a quick pace, without thinking and analyzing the situation and doesn’t remain loyal to his men.
Loyalty was very important back in The Odyssey’s time, because during the Trojan War, if you weren’t loyal to your men, you were to be killed. Odysseus knew he was returning home, but without the accompaniment of his men. They were all going to be killed, but Odysseus didn’t tell them, he just let fate take over and kept the death of all of his crewmen to himself. Not true epic hero quality. Being an epic hero does not mean you are the best and will forever hold the title as the best epic hero. Epic heroes make mistakes sometimes, but they learn from previous mistakes and learn lessons from them.
Epic heroes remain loyal to their men no matter what the circumstance is. Only egotistical cowards withhold valuable information from their crewmates and make continuous mistakes. Odysseus’s character does not change from the beginning of the book to the end, which is a major reason why he is an egotistical coward. Epic heroes know they are epic heroes and their actions prove it. Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, but lacks the epic hero qualities like being loyal and learning from passed mistakes. These characteristics of Odysseus make him an epic failure.