The Representation of Hero Versus Icon in Isak Dinesen's Winter Tales and Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will

Throughout time there has been a flux of opinions as to what qualities make up a hero, with each cultural period having its own model of the ‘perfect‘ hero. With this, came the birth of the classical hero versus the modern hero and the struggle to precisely define the hero with the reforms of modern thought. The works of Isak Dinesen in “Winter’s Tales” reflect a modern hero that opposes Hitler, the classical hero. that Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will portrays making us question the representation of a hero versus the representation of an icon.

Creating a hero out of Hitler is tricky nature due to his ‘evil’ character, but Leni Riefenstahl managed to overcome his veiled cruelty by casting him as a figure of power and charisma, having qualities that are larger than life and authority that rivals even the gods. Many aspects of a classical antiquity hero are displayed in Triumph of Will that create Hitler into the powerful figure that sparks the flourishing Nazi rule.

Hitler’s heroic qualities stem from the idea that he is almost God-like putting him into a position of natural rule.

We see that he embodies the same social and physical characteristics in the film that many of Homer represented with his classical heroes: bravery, charisma, and intellect. Though history has skewed the meaning behind Triumph of Will, we still see the beauty of creating an icon. Instead of seeing Hitler as a hero of the Nazi party. I believe he is one of the first physical representations of an icon outside of a biblical and royal»politica| sense.

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Though political candidates represent their parties, I believe no one embodied their movement and became an actual representation of the values and nature of the party as he did. There is some controversy that arises when calling Hitler a hero, namely because his notable qualifies were mainly a charade and his outstanding achievements were destructive and inhumane. Even before history ran its course, the point at which Triumph of Will was filmed, Hitler hadn’t done anything that we can consider heroic, in classical or modern culture, the film was just created to make the audience see Hitler as an authoritarian figure.

Feeding the public an icon to make them fear or adore him is not concurrent with the origins of a hero. Not only is it difficult to view Riefenstahl’s film as a heroic film, but it is also problematic to compare her work to the works of Dinesen. As Dinesen crafts her heroes in her modern fables, she creates a moral, internal struggle that is deep rooted in the plot, forcing her character to face the ugly truths and challenging questions of modern society. Without these manufactured morals, there isn’t a story: without a story, there isn’t a point to a hero, Riefenstahl’s film isn’t a story, though some of the events are probably dramatized, it is truth. This makes the story somewhat complicated because it takes longer for us to see the outcome of the chain of events and we must pick a point at which we consider Hitler a hero or an icon.

Dinesen creates her heroes with the values and characteristics of the modern culture but focuses her characters around the idea that a modern hero is one who is of an ordinary nature who faces an internal struggle that we can all relate to. With these characteristics in mind we find Adam in “Sorrow Ace” to be a champion of modern thought, batting his uncles kind words about the gods of classical antiquity. In ‘The Heroine”. we see Heloise become a hero of modern feminism as she somehow manages to use words and not her looks to help her and her friends escape from evils of classical thought. Last, but not least. Charlie, from “A Consolatory Tale”, is a hero of the modern struggle. showing us his deepest inner thoughts and battling with his sense of self and true purpose in the universe. Without the works of Dinesen, we would lack a true definition of the characteristics of a modern hero and a deeper level of understanding of the complexity and universal feelings of the modern sociocultural shift.

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The Representation of Hero Versus Icon in Isak Dinesen's Winter Tales and Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. (2023, Feb 22). Retrieved from

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