Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Musings: The Hero

Part Two in my Characterization Series will be focusing on some of my favorite literary male protagonists. This was rather challenging, to narrow down a long list of possible heroes to my absolute favorites. I finally decided that I would share several protagonists from different literary genres. It is a little difficult, and unfair, to compare a character from a children's book to one created by Dickens or Tolkien, who had so many more pages to flesh out their characters. So I chose several characters, one from a children's book, one from a fantasy series, one from a classic, and one modern novel. I am also going to include a few bonus characters at the very end, for you visual learners like me!

1. Scruggs from the Peabody Series by Jeri Massi.

I loved this character as a kid. When the series starts, Scruggs is actually the neighborhood bully, but by the time the series winds around to an end, he is basically the leader of the group. The others all look to him. As a child, I very much enjoyed this transformation. Watching him mature, both socially and spiritually, was something I found fascinating. I like to believe that everyone is capable of change, that none of us are outside the reach of God's grace, and I think this is an important moral for young readers, in our world where bullying and stereotypes are so prevalent. I found that I grew to respect this character, more than some of the others, because I knew where he had come from, and where he had come from was not a nice place. His struggle made his character endearing and memorable to me.

2. My favorite fantasy hero, somewhat comically, is Howl from Diana Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle. I know. Howl is not really an admirable character. He is shallow, and selfish, and annoying, and a terrible flirt. But, yes, like a great many other fans, I fell in love with Howl. I remember reading an article by Ms. Jones once where she said she found it odd that so many of her fans wanted to marry Howl. I have to agree with her, that considering his character flaws, this is rather unusual. So what is it about Howl that makes him so dynamic a character? I think it is how he interacts with the other characters in the story that makes him an enjoyable character. In all honesty, the other main characters are no better than him. There is Sophie, the young girl cursed into the body of an old woman, who is as cranky and irritable as they come. There is Calcifur, the fire demon, and let's not forget the Witch of the Waste, who thinks she is in love with Howl and creates all kinds of drama trying to get him. All of the characters are flawed, they all play off of each other, and the end is satisfying. I can't honestly say that I feel Howl learns his lesson in the end, although the story does end well and it seems that Howl and Sophie find their happy ending. In several of the following stories, Howl and Sophie show up as minor characters, but Howl is still as outrageous and naughty in those stories as he was in the first one. Somehow, though, I don't seem to mind. I still love him.

3. My favorite classic character is Mr. Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. What is not to like about John Thornton? He is a somewhat tragic character, pulling himself and his family from the ashes and into the prosperous position as a "master," a mill owner. He has an aloof exterior, which is just a smoke screen for his sensitive nature. He falls quickly in love with the heroine, Margaret Hale, but their social differences, and their pride, drive a wedge between them. I love how his story comes full circle and he falls on hard times again, but his financial difficulties do not break him. His character remains just as admirable and likable. In fact, I think his hardships make me like him the more. As a side note, the BBC miniseries is simply spectacular. If you have never seen it or read the book, you must watch the miniseries. There are only a few films that I actually enjoy more than the actual book, but North and South, is one of them. (As a caution, make sure you get the right North and South. There is a civil war miniseries of the same name which is a completely different story, and contains objectionable content).

4. My favorite character from a modern novel is Sean Kendrick from Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. Sean Kendrick is a character of few words. He is shy but very strong. He does not feel the need to tell others what he thinks or feels because he is confident enough in himself to let his actions speak for him. He loves horses. Did I mention he LOVES horses? I really like how Ms. Stiefvater handles his character, especially in contrast to her outspoken, fiery heroine. As a side note, I recommend Ms. Stiefvater's books with caution, as they frequently contain content inappropriate from young readers. The Scorpio Races is the cleanest of her stories, and it still contains some swearing and gruff language. If you don't mind skimming over these parts, the overall language of this novel is beautiful. Her use of imagery is stunningly done. I think every writer ought to read this story if simply to study her use of language and her vivid story world. It is truly a beautiful telling.

And, now to the bonus heroes...for you movie lovers, I am going to share some of my favorite male protagonists from the film industry. I won't say much about them, because I feel they are iconic enough you won't need an introduction or an explanation. My favorite movie protagonists are: Han Solo from Star Wars, Malcolm Reynolds from Serenity, Captain America from the Marvel Universe, and (please don't laugh) Murdock from the original A-Team series.

Who are your favorite literary heroes? Favorite movie heroes? I hope you will all join me next week, when I will be sharing my favorite literary heroines! And, yes, I am sure I will share a few movie heroines as well!


  1. Ah heroes! They are simply my very favorite!!! Great picks, though I only knew Howl and Mr. Thornton.

    My top favorites have to be--Eanrin from Goldstone Wood, Eugenides from Queen's Thief, Kaladin from Stormlight Archives, and Vimes and Vetinari from Discworld! Plus, I have a deep admiration for Etanun and some of Tolkien's Silmarillion elves.

    Movie heroes? I have to agree with you on the Cap. And I'm a big fan of Legolas, Aragorn, Sam....any cool guy in Lord of the Rings...and Shang from Mulan, of course. Robin Hood from the animated Disney movie. ;)

    1. Hannah, you have such good favorites!! There are so many spectacular characters out there to choose from.

  2. What a lovely post! I love heroic characters, and I too would find it very difficult to narrow it down. However, I shall try.

    Movies: we share similar tastes, Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds, Captain Navarre from Ladyhawke, Sir Percival Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel (book and movie), Tony Stark, Batman/Bruce Wayne... to name a few

    Books: Edmund Pevensie, Samwise Gamgee, Bean (from the Ender's Game series), Ben Holiday (from Magic Kingdom of Landover), Haplo (from the Death Gate Cycle), and Chrestomanci (another Diana Wynne Jones favorite). Oh... far too many to name them all here.

    I'm enjoying your characterization series!

    1. Ooh I love all of your choices! Those are all such good characters. My husband recently introduced me to the Landover series and I am midway through the first book. Love it.