The definition of a "hero"
People have been attempting to define the word "hero" for as long has man has existed on this planet. To define a hero one must first appreciate that there are many different types of hero's. For example, a hero could be an epic hero such as King Gilgamesh, in The Epic of Gilgamesh, or a hero may a simple individual that serves his/her country or even a school teacher that devotes his/her life to the development of the youth. Hero's come and hero's go. Some hero's even lose "hero status" over time; Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were hero's to followers during their lifetime.
Hero's come in many forms, a hero can be someone we look up to (father, mother, teacher). They can be a unique character passed down for thousands of years such as Odysseus, in The Odyssey. They can be someone we've never interacted with or someone by our side every day. They might be brave, courageous, truthful or dishonest. A hero could be male or female, black or white. A hero may be someone that simply affected a life in a positive way. One thing hero's all have in common is that they provide drive and purpose for those the believe in them, they help some focus on dreams and they might provide a path when no path exists. In this paper will be defining a hero and the qualities an epic hero has with my definition. I will be using epic hero's in, The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey to help shape my explanation.
As noted before, there is no easy way to define what a hero truly is, as hero's are often defined in the eyes of the beholder. Being a king or someone of status alone does not make a hero; nor does intellect, strength, or bravery. In short, a hero (as well as an epic hero) connect multiple heroic qualities . The Epic of Gilgamesh accurately defines this definition of a hero as he has numerous heroic traits. Gilgamesh is portrayed as a true hero through his abilities, intelligence, willingness to die for his quest, admiration, and his human qualities. We see examples of all of these attributes throughout this quest; starting with the introduction of Gilgamesh in The Epic of Gilgamesh; "He knew the ways, was wise in all things" (1.4). From the start one is awed and intrigued with this character as being "wise" and knowing the "ways", these are attributes often associated with many people's view/definition of a hero. Reverting back to the (hero) teacher analogy; as a child most of us had a teacher that we believed knew everything there was to know. We looked up to that person to answer any question we might have. We were young and impressible, not unlike the armies that followed Gilgamesh, but that alone did not make him a hero.
A hero of today, like an "epic" hero, must also have abilities that appear super human. Hero's can do things that others cant or wont attempt. The epic hero Gilgamesh had this trait as well, as noted in The Epic of Gilgamesh, "opening passes in the mountains, Digging wells at the highlands' verge, Traversing the ocean, the vast sea, to the suns rising," (1.39-41). It is this final line that one can compare a hero of today to an "epic" hero from long ago. In today's war time climate members of the military are often portrayed as hero's. These individuals "traverse the ocean" on a quest of their own. They leave family members behind, they face life and death, and like Gilgamesh, are often changed forever by the loss of a close friend.
The comparisons of a hero today and the epic hero Gilgamesh continue. A hero utterly believes in what he/she is doing and is willing to die for that cause. Gilgamesh, like a public servant (policemen, firemen) of today is willing to die for a cause that is greater than himself. We again see an example of this in The Epic of Gilgamesh, "Your heart should be urging you to battle. Forget about death, He who marches first, protects himself," (IV. 182-184). I compare these lines to the first responders of 9-11. These brave men and women, with no...
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