So I guess summer is “officially” over, eh?
It came to an end with a bang up here in North Idaho. Our little logging town had its annual Paul Bunyan Days celebration, complete with carnival, live music, beer garden, demolition derby, logging competitions, fireworks, and parade. I’m sure I’ve left some things out. I ended up feeling quite sick on Friday and Saturday (long story for another day, but it wasn’t COVID), but I did get to partake of some of the goings on on Sunday and Monday. That was enough for me. Y’all know I’m not into people.
A while back, I wrote about heroines who influenced mine, so I thought it was time to do the same for the heroes. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are a LOT of fantasy heroes and heroes in general who have wound their tentacles deep enough into my brain that they’ve influenced the men in my stories.
So here you go–five heroes who have influenced my heroes.
This might seem a weird one to put at the top of the list. After all, anyone with a modicum of biblical knowledge has probably caught the allusions to Christ throughout my two books. They aren’t a big secret. So why King David and not Jesus Christ?
Simple: David was human and fallible.
As a Christian, because I believe that Jesus was the perfect Son of God, it’s really tough to actually base a hero on him. My heroes are, by necessity, imperfect. And really, that’s what makes them more interesting–no one wants a perfect hero who has no room to grow as a person.
To me, the ideal hero of the Bible (besides Jesus) is King David. He was the warrior poet. He composed most of the Psalms, and the Bible records that he used to play his harp for King Saul when Saul felt despondent. But he was also a great warrior and strategist who evaded his enemies successfully, led his people to victory, and built a kingdom.
Of course, he was incredibly flawed. He committed adultery in the most heinous of ways and had a man murdered to cover up his sin. He seems to have been a terrible father, given that his children tried to kill each other and overthrow him. But he was still a towering figure of Biblical history, and the stories of David have deeply impacted what I think of when I think of a hero.
Garion/Belgarion, The Belgariad and The Mallorean
First of all, I love this image of Garion. It’s easy to read the entire Eddings library and always picture Garion as a farmboy, but this image shows the promise fulfilled–a man who is willing to go to war for what he loves, whether it’s his country, the fate of the world, or his own son. Image credit to Raenclest on Imgur.
It isn’t that the other men of David Eddings’ works haven’t influenced my heroes. It’s more that Garion is clearly the real hero of the series, and his character growth from orphan boy to king is such a great example of how to take a blank slate and turn him into a hero worth following. In some sense, I feel like I grew up with Garion, because I started reading The Belgariad in middle school and read each book as it came out.
If The Chronicles of Narnia series was my gateway drug into fantasy, then The Belgariad was the drug that addicted me to the genre. I know that Eddings has his critics, and I know that his books follow some pretty standard tropes. I don’t care. I love those books, and nothing will make me renounce them.
Most of the Jane Austen Heroes (but mostly Fitzwilliam Darcy)
To me, a hero can’t really be a hero unless he’s also a gentleman. He can be a rogue, but to also be a hero, he needs to be redeemable. He needs to be respectful of women (at least mostly), kind to children and animals, and largely financially responsible. He doesn’t have to be wealthy–that just makes things easier–but he does have to be honorable with his money. The place for the lovable rogue is among the sidekicks. It’s fine for the sidekick to be less-than-gentlemanly, but for me, the hero needs to either be a gentleman already or be on his way to becoming one.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is all of those things. His honor is important to him, and he is in all ways a very proper gentleman of the Edwardian era, but he seems to turn to jelly for his sister, Georgiana. I have wondered if Elizabeth Bennet’s opinion of him would have been different from the beginning if she’d seen him with Georgiana first. Darcy not only preserves his own sister’s honor, but he also goes out of his way and spends a great deal of money to preserve Lydia’s honor–after Elizabeth had rejected him. Though Mrs. Bennet only wanted him for a son-in-law because of his fortune, he’d be the kind of man any woman would want for a son-in-law, with or without the wealth.
Of course, Fitzwilliam Darcy is the essential Jane Austen hero, but we have to give shoutouts to all the runners up:
- Col. Brandon, who ensured that a girl who was not his would be cared for and did everything he could to preserve Marianne Dashwood’s life and dignity. And can we please have a moment of silence for the great Alan Rickman, whose portrayal of Col. Brandon is possibly his best role ever? At least it’s my favorite (yes, even more than Severus Snape).
- George Knightley, who was as surprised by his love for Emma Woodhouse as everyone else was, and who pushed her to become the very best version of herself possible. And also–he left his vast manor to come live with Emma and her father to keep her father in his own home in his dotage. How can we not love George Knightley?
- Capt. Wentworth, whose letter to Anne Elliot is something that would likely melt the heart of the most hesitant or reluctant suitor. “I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.” My goodness. It’s warm in here.
Austen knew how to write a hero who could pierce the heart and soul of a woman even two hundred years after her stories were published. She knew how to make them flawed without making them irredeemable. She gave them depth that only needed a little prodding to reveal. They may not have been swashbuckling badasses, but they were heroes nonetheless.
Henry of Monmouth, Henry V by William Shakespeare
I think to understand why Henry dug his heels in and influenced my heroes, one has to go back to the earlier plays that show Henry V as Prince Hal, the wayward son of Henry IV in Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2. Prince Hal is a ne’er-do-well who only attracts followers because of his name and his money. There are hints in his soliloquies that he may be only indulging his baser desires with Falstaff and the other rustics in order to learn more about them, but that’s sort of unimportant to my point, which is that he starts out as a wastrel and turns into a king.
I confess that I had Henry firmly in mind as I was writing Braedan’s character. I wanted to write someone who could never please his own father and lived the life of a spoiled prince before redeeming himself.
And in case you don’t think Henry redeemed himself, rewatch Kenneth Branagh’s delivery of the St. Crispin’s Day Speech:
I don’t think I even realized how much George Washington had influenced my heroes until I was editing Unquickened. With Connor’s return to Taura, other dukes start to expect more and more of him. Not only do they want him to lead their armies, but some of them start suggesting the country might do better with a Mac Niall on the throne.
The idea of a reluctant leader is always kind of interesting to me. The kind of people who rise to prominence as leaders–those who stand out as men and women others would choose to lead them–are usually all-too-eager to take the reins of power. Even if they have to be cajoled into it in the first place, such persuasion may be a token resistance, or they may have trouble letting go of power when they are no longer eligible or necessary.
Not George Washington. He formally resigned his position as commander in chief at the end of the Revolutionary War when it likely would have been easy for him to keep it. Despite his prowess as a military leader, he was a reluctant president, and he chose not to run for a third term, even though there was no constitutional term limit at the time. Washington did not chase power; rather, he understood that he was a public servant who could be called upon for a time and then return home.
I think there’s something in the American spirit that appreciates someone who is willing to take on a leadership role for a short time and then return to private life. As Phinneas writes in his histories in The Taurin Chronicles, “There is a certain public security in knowing that a leader resists the lure of power.”
As I said, there are a lot more heroes rolling around in my conscious and subconscious mind just waiting to contribute a few attributes to the next hero I create. But I think these five-ish probably give you all a good idea of where my heroes come from, for good or for ill.
Next week, a new character profile for you all–and it’s someone who hasn’t really had much attention until now, so we’re overdue to learn more about this one.