A cultural hero demonstrates cultural values. A cultural hero faces and overcomes struggles. A cultural hero is famous. A cultural hero may be living or dead, though more often dead. Often after their death, mythologies are developed embellishing their positive features. Herakles and Joan of Arc are examples of classic cultural heroes. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is a modern cultural hero. All three a well known and are remembered for their character and accomplishments. Herakles
Herakles is one of the best known and cultural heroes. He is also one of the most controversial heroes due to many differing accounts of his life and deeds.
Herakles is a hero in the Greek mythology. He was born the illegitimate son of Zeus, king of gods, and Alcmene, a mortal woman. Herakles was threatened as a baby by two poisonous serpents sent by Hera, Zues’ wife and Queen of the gods. At eight months old, Herakles simultaneously strangled both serpents. Hera plays a large part in the mythology of Herakles. Herakles translates to glory of Hera in Greek (Gill, 2007, para. 1). Herakles is named after Hera even though at numerous times she attempted to kill or ruin his life. Even before he was born, Hera delayed Alcmene’s labor so that Herakles would not be born a king (Herakles, 2000). Hera is the reason for Herakles immortality. The myth goes that Hera was tricked into suckling Herakles. Her godly breast milk changed Herakles from half human to full immortal. His immortality played a part in completing his labors. When Herakles was married, Hera drove him insane and he killed his own wife and children (Herakles, 2000). This is one of Herakles greatest failings. Killing one’s own children is considered the worst possible crime imaginable. It was in penance for this crime that Herakles consigns himself to 12 years of servitude to Eurystheus. Eurystheus was Herakles’ cowardly cousin who became king in place of Herakles (Herakles, 2000). Eurystheus devised 12, or 13, depending on the version, impossible tasks for Herakles. Herakles completed them all including venturing into the underworld and returning alive (Herakles, 2000).
Herakles mythology presents several interesting points. The greatest of which is self punishment. Herakles punishes himself for killing his own family. He shows determination and perseverance in many of his tasks, simply outlasting his opponent with his superhuman strength. He shows creativity in cleaning the stables using a diverted river instead of a shovel. He shows diplomacy and negotiation in bringing back the stag from Artemis. He shows compassion in requesting that his friend Theseus be freed from Hades (Herakles, 2000). St. Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc reported having visions of saints and angels. She courageously led the French army in battle, something that women of that era did not do. Burned at the stake for her actions, she has been canonized by the Catholic Church.
“Due to the extensive volume of eyewitness accounts which are available to us, many historians have pointed out that the life of Joan of Arc (Jehanne d'Arc or Darc in the original medieval French) is one of the most thoroughly documented in pre-modern history” (Williamson, 2007, para. 1). Joan was born into a tumultuous period in French history. Her childhood witnessed civil war and invasion and domination by the English. At the age of 12 or 13, she began having visions of angels and saints. At this point her life, they told her to be good and go to church. In 1428, she listened to the visions and went to see King Charles VII. She was dressed in men’s clothing as a security measure during the trip; such was common practice during the period. She convinced the king of her sincerity, but he sent her away to have theologians validate her claims. Eventually she was granted command of an army. She sent letters to the English demanding they vacate France because Jesus supported King Charles. She began...
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