Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves. –Carol Pearson

Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed. It’s all part of the fairy tale.                      —Peter S. Beagle “The Last Unicorn”

We all love rooting for the heroes of our favorite stories. Frodo Baggins, Lucy Pevensie, Harry Potter, Merlin and King Arthur, The Doctor, Robin Hood, and many others. What’s a story without someone to cheer for? Someone to grow with and shed tears with?

But what makes the great heroes, those ones that people just fall in love with. Not with the story, but with the character, the person. You fall in love with this character that he or she becomes real and your friends and family have to remind you that this character “is just a fictional character.” What makes us love these heroes so much?

What is a hero?

“It’s someone who has lots and lots of courage!”

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. –A. Finch “To Kill a Mockingbird”

All right, so that’s courage. Or at least one definition of it. However, it does ring true. A hero doesn’t use violence first. He or she try and end conflict by diplomatic or compassionate means. Sometimes they fail and the villain doesn’t cooperate, or sometimes they succeed.

“They have a good character.”

People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.                           –Eleanor Roosevelt

But what about that hero who started off as a thieving street rat? Or someone who is just thrown into the fray and expected to become a destined leader? Obviously the honesty part wouldn’t be true, but in both situations the character must rise to the occasion, because traversing the road to the person you’re supposed to be takes far more courage than backing down and doing nothing.

“Heroes are good at fighting!”

Have you seen BBC Merlin? Merlin is horrible with a sword . . . okay he’s really good at Magic.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting. –E.E. Cummings

Um . . .

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you. –Friedrich Nietzsche

Okay, so maybe a lot of heroes are good at some sort of physical or verbal combat. King Arthur was handy with a sword, Merlin with Magic, and Bilbo Baggins with riddles. However, that doesn’t mean that a hero is good all the time with fighting. Some of the ones I respect the greatest had to learn. Harry Potter fought Voldemort every single year at Hogwarts yet he didn’t use spells every single year. His first year he found out that his mother’s sacrifice left a mark on him that allowed him to fight a half-spirit-half-human teacher. Second year it was his belief in Dumbledore that and his need to rescue his friend’s sister that gave him the strength and courage to fight the basilisk. And I suppose Fawkes and Gryffindor’s sword helped too. But Harry had to learn, and that’s where the growth into good character comes in.

And yet . . . not all heroes are fighters.

My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results . . . but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lose, I admire those who fight the good fight. –George R.R. Martin

Heroes are selfless people who perform extraordinary acts. The mark of heroes is not necessarily the result of their action, but what they are willing to do for others and for their chosen cause. Even if they fail, their determination lives on for others to follow. The glory lies not in the achievement, but in the sacrifice. –Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

That’s why you also have heroes like Samwise Gamgee. Or Hermione Granger. They weren’t fighters, yet what they did for their friends and the causes they believed in were brave and heroic. Both kept their friends from giving up and falling apart, both went the extra mile when they could have just given up–and had every right to. Sometimes, the real heroes (especially in real life) are those who fail and are horribly flawed, but they win and are stronger in the end because they were true to their convictions, friends, and promises.