Toothless Letter HWe touched on the topic yesterday in our skim through the sub genres of fantasy. One of the staples of fantasy: heroines/heroes and the heroic deeds that they perform.

So what makes a heroine/hero?

Well they are certainly not an average person. They possess traits that we deem to be great, or positive. This can change depending on the exact society, but things like nobility, courage, self sacrifice, those are traits we might expect to see in a hero.

They can also have above average abilities. Classically this takes the form of great strength, good weapon or fighting skills, and typically heroes are great warriors. However, brains also have a place in the stories, and a lot of times wits win the war.

Heroines do great deeds. When the going gets tough, the get stuck in, courage is one of their main traits. They will fight the dragon, they will destroy the lich, they will save the day.

And indeed, it is the deeds that they will become heroes for. These acts are things that not everyone can do, or indeed not everyone would even be brave enough to attempt. When performed, these deeds are retold by others, and the name of the one who did them is elevated, and as more people hear, their fame, and their status as a hero, grows.

heraclesLet’s look at a classic. Heracles. More commonly known as Hercules in our western world, Heracles is the original Greek names. Heracles and his twelve labours. Born of Zeus and a mortal women Alcmene, Heracles was subject to the hatred of Hera, for he was proof of he husbands infidelity.

Hera drove him mad, causing him to kill his children whilst in it’s grip, until it was cured with Hellebore. Realising what he had done, he fled to the Oracle of Delphi, who (under the guidance of Hera) bade him serve King Eurystheus for ten year and perform any task the king set him. And this is where he undertook the twelve labours.

Slaying, capturing, stealing and even one cleaning job, Heracles overcame all the famous tasks, and continued to do so for many other less well know tasks as well, becoming known for his extordinary strength, courage, wit, ingenuity and sexual prowess with males and females.

Because heroes get all the love.

But of course, in modern times, the word hero can also jut simply mean the main character of a story. Or it can mean a hero, but either by modern or classical standards. So what are the difference between the three?


  • Favoured by gods or rulers.
  • Undertakes a long, often perilous journey/quest.
  • Greater skill than an ordinary man, often supernatural abilities.
  • Successful in defeating foes and challenges and gets rewards from these efforts.
  • Embraces his mistakes and learns from them.
  • A strong archetype character or follows a common literary pattern.


  • Lacks supernatural powers.
  • Flawed personality, but more well rounded character.
  • Rise above circumstances of their time to achieve great things.
  • Any quest is usually not physical in nature.
  • Might not accomplish the goal or get rewarded, but this doesn’t stop them trying.

And if you don’t hit either of these, then they are the main character type of hero.

Oh, one final point about heroes/heroines? They’ve got to have an a-class villain to oppose them.