The Real Heroes In Literature Essay

2498 words - 10 pages

What images are associated with the words “hero”? A muscular Hercules saving the world from Hades? A knight in shining armor bravely riding into combat? Words like bravery, strength, pride, and self-sacrifice are commonly connected with a classic hero. But are those the only characteristics that make someone heroic? A dictionary definition of a hero is “a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities”; however, this is a very elastic definition and there are many other types and definitions of heroes depending on circumstances. Is there one that is correct? Do all heroes share any common characteristics? According to Orin E. Klapp, a hero is “a person, real or imaginary, who evokes the appropriate attitudes and behavior” (135). Heroes can be determined by, and change due to and by societal norms, but at the same time retain certain traits or perform common actions. Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, the legendary British thief Robin Hood, and Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series all demonstrate that understanding who a hero is involves understanding the situation, his or her actions, as well as the society to which the hero is presented..
Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, is a clear example of an unconventional hero that has nevertheless been accepted as a hero in society. The Hobbit is a story set in the fictional land of Middle Earth, where there are not only human beings, but also mythical creatures such as dwarves, elves, wizards, and dragons. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit, who by instinct, is a creature where comfort and safety are the number one priority, but also has a curious and adventurous side. This side is brought out when the wizard Gandalf forcefully persuades him to join a band of thirteen dwarves to be their burglar and ward off any possible bad luck caused by the number thirteen. The dwarves’ goal is to take back their homeland and treasure from the dragon, Smaug, and the journey takes the dwarves and Bilbo through many lands encountering many different types of creatures and problems.
Although he is the protagonist of the story, rather than a classic hero, Bilbo is what is defined as a Cinderella or dark horse hero. Orrin Klapp says that “in this role, a hero who apparently hasn't a chance, who perhaps has been ridiculed, rises to success over more favored opponents” (136). Bilbo definitely does not fit the classic hero mold, either physically or mentally. He is “inclined to be fat at the stomach” (Tolkien 14) and throughout the story, complains and wishes he “was at home in [his] nice hole by the fire” with homely comforts (Tolkien 40). This is unlike other heroes who normally have the natural gift of strength, such as Odysseus who “has a more athletic build and knows how to use spear and sword as well as bow and arrow” (Lundqvist 14). Bilbo does not have these natural gifts, and is often saved by other members of the group throughout the journey,...

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