12 May 2005


The concept of a “hero” is a common thread in storytelling. We’ve all grown up with myths and legends that glorified the feats and accomplishments of our heroes – some of whom actually turned out to be fictional characters later in our lives. Were we disappointed? Definitely not! Heroes are heroes, and they have their place in all cultures – and a permanent one in our hearts.

Throughout history, literature has played an important role in creating and glorifying our heroes. And, parallel movements have sprung up in all facets of storytelling – from cave paintings to comics to computer games, with folk tales and films falling somewhere in between. Not only to rejoice in the feats of our heroes, but also to help us understand and conceptualise the idea of a hero – a larger-than-life phenomenon.

As Indians – with gods, mythical animals and super-humans adorning our culture – we are perhaps more open to the concept of a hero than other cultures. Read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and you’ll get a colourful picture. We also have the privilege of being acquainted with modern-day heroes like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama, who have taught us how to travel along the path of peace.

But there are others, the war-makers, with their own cult followings, who have also etched their names in our history and our culture. They, too, are honoured by many. But then, ultimately, choosing one’s hero is a personal decision.

Unlike the definition Ridley Scott and William Monahan provide while talking about knights and their hero in the film, Kingdom of Heaven (see yesterday’s post), David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, suggests, “There are no rigid criteria that define a hero. Cultures may honor heroes to help in fostering a cultural identity conducive to patriotism, but heroes cannot be forced on individuals.”

In “Why A Page On Peace Heroes”, Mr Krieger presents a most illuminating dissertation on the concept of heroes. “The hero is seen as a central figure in the drama of history, a leader whose strength and spirit shape destiny,” says Mr Krieger. “The hero is defined and described by the culture so as to glorify and give meaning to the culture.”

Thank you Mr Krieger. “Heroes, after all, are in the eyes of the beholder.”

1 comment:

pH said...

factual point-of-view on heroes!

anecdotal info - you can find temples honouring Duryodhana, Ravana and Bali in our country!