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This week, the concept for discussion is one that comes up once in a while when a reader asks me about my series, and that is the question of what makes a hero. It's a good question, because, after all, every good story has a hero, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbits to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver, to Robert A. Heinlein's Friday, to the Brave Little Toaster and the Beaudelaire Orphans.
So let's look at how we define the term, with a few examples, and why we see them as heroes, from the strictly obvious point of view of the kid who should have paid more attention in English Class. If anyone of you have any Creative Writing background in College or what have you, feel free to jump into the discussion (plenty of room for comments at the end).
The first and most obvious Hero Type is the Warrior.
Here we have a classic example. St. George, our knight in shining armor, rides in to rescue the virgin from the horrible, fire-breathing dragon. Today, our warriors are still seen as heroes, and rightly so.
I've said once that Heroes are not born as extraordinary people; rather they are ordinary people thrown into extraordinary circumstances, just doing what needs to be done. And I could still say that, to an extent, that holds true.
I was fifteen years old, a member of my local Sheriff's cadet post. The court pulled some strings to get me in, even though I was technically too young. It seems the judge thought I just needed something to keep me busy, something more constructive than the "hobbies" that had me standing in front of him. So take it from me, I was no hero at fifteen. But my story continues:
Part of my involvement was a 40-hour First Aid course that was the most thorough training I'd ever seen, and that included my instructor training in Battlefield Aid in the Air Force (I was my squadron's instructor for three years, but that's a different story).
I was at a family party with my father and brother, standing in the back yard of one of Dad's friends, when a crash and scream came from the house. Out the back door came the young son of the host, running and screaming, holding one arm out in front of him. That arm was a shredded wreck of flesh streaming blood across his lawn (he'd put it through a plate glass window, with predictable results). That first aid training kicked in automatically, and I grabbed him. I was terrified when I saw the damage to his arm, but the part of me that knew what to do overrode the fear. I dragged him back into the house, grabbed a wet dish rag, and clamped it onto the worst of the gashes. Then I raised his arm and with my other hand, I found the artery feeding his arm, pressing it against his bone to shut off the blood flow to the arm.
I saw Mike again several years later, and he showed me the scars. They were worse than I ever imagined. But he thanked me for saving his life. At the time, I swear, that was not on my mind. I was just doing what needed to be done.
That kind of instinct defines the warrior type. They are essentially people of action. And I call it an instinct, even though training is a critical part of the response as well. My younger son is a hero, and I can see it in the way he runs to the crisis.
He was eight years old when the local Homecoming Festival closed at the end of the weekend (they still have the festival, by the way. It wasn't closing, like for good), the owner of the local alligator sanctuary was packing his inventory away for the trip back to the shop. Among the "little friends" Dave had brought with him was a five-foot American Alligator, who was a huge hit with the kids. No, he didn't take anyone's arm off, in fact he was quite docile the whole weekend. Until closing time, when Dave and his assistant tried to stuff that 'gator into a military-style duffle bag for transport.
That 'gator swung his tail around on Dave's assistant's bare back with a smack! that I swear was heard around the world. The welt rose immediately, like he'd just taken a flogging from a foot-wide bullwhip. My boy, that eight-year-old wonder, ran ten steps to that table before I could stop him, and Dave barely had time to get one hand loose and wave him off with a panicked "NO!!!"
Shannon just can't help it. Someone screams, and he runs to the trouble. I hope he never joins the military, because he's going to find his way to the hottest part of whatever trouble is going on, and that would make a nervous dad. Yes, he's first aid trained. I can feel good with that. But he has a hero's instinct, even from the first days he could walk.
The Warrior heroes in my series are Jon Daniels and Jenna Paine. I count Jenna, because even though she's technically not a "good guy," she still counts a s hero of the Warrior Type, in that she's a person of radical action, from instinct and training.
I think I'm going to continue this discussion in future posts, because to be honest, we're getting into other territory that will take more space than just a quick blog read.
But the Warrior Hero Type is the One Who Comes To The Rescue. Whee-ha.
Talk to you next week when we take on the next type. I may even have a term for him/her.
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