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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Ordinary Men Are Heros! - Alberta Ross & The Sefuty Chronicles

Thank you, Erin, for inviting me onto your discussion on Heroes, during my book tour. 

What is a hero?  Definition from the Oxford Dictionary
  • A man with superhuman strength, courage or ability, favoured by the gods; a demigod.
  • Man/woman distinguished by the performance of extraordinarily brave or noble deeds; such as an illustrious warrior
  • Man/woman admired, venerated for achievements and noble qualities in any field
  • Chief male character in a poem, story or play.
As spinners of yarns we need heroes to lead our plots but which ones do we choose?  How are we influenced by our pasts to form their characters?
When I was young I relished the ‘myths and legend’-type heroes from the Greek and Norse lands such as Jason and Beowulf.  All through my childhood I learnt to admire knights and buccaneers, the Lancelot’s and Francis Drake’s of history.  Then there were the red-coated brigade of derring-do of the Victorian era. It doesn't do to examine these heroes too closely though. Those Greeks and Norsemen were not particular whom they raped and murdered.  What is a knight of old except a killing machine, enjoying murder, rape and conquest? The buccaneers were only pirates by another name – Johnny Depp’s character is Hollywood, truly!!  Real pirates were the scum and outcasts of society; they murdered, raped and stole.  The Victorians may have brought a legal system and civil service to large swathes of the globe but turn over that rock and it's the same old picture: murder, rape and conquest with a great deal of exploitation.  Heroes are not such ‘nice’ folk if you don't fit their picture of OK.
When I was young my real life heroes were the Edwardian explorers such as Shackleton and Scott of Antarctica.  I drew up my code of conduct for life from them.  Truth, honesty, loyalty and the value of friendships; a stiff upper lip just get on with it without complaint principle.  Whether or not they lived up to these ideals isn’t really the point, as it never has been.  Heroes are people you look up to.  They are of their time.  All those above reflect the events at their time.
But do we need heroes?  It seems we do. They have been with us I suspect since storytelling began.  Look under the gloss, under the mire, and a pattern becomes apparent.  We believe the myth of them.  The killers are defending or enriching their own, the looters are doing the same.  In an uncertain existence the ordinary downtrodden people of each place want to feel someone cares about their problems.  We all have this need.
Rulers/politicians don't seem to hit the right note in this respect!  We want to know Robin Hood stole from the rich to give it all TO US.  We want to know dragon-slayers would ride to lay down his life FOR US if the need arose.  The knights’ code of honour was designed to make women feel safer in a world where they were worth less than a side of venison.  The buccaneers brought their looted gold back TO OUR country.  As the Victorians did with their exploited looting and hey, if all these heroes killed and maimed on the way, they were doing it TO THEM, ‘them’ have always been a threat.  Modern day heroes are those who show social mobility is within our reach.  Talent, luck and charm can take us up there with the super rich and if you're super rich you need not fear anyone – right?  Wrong.  One day you will want a hero of your own.
So who to choose amongst this motley band of ne’er do wells?  After all we want our readers to like our heroes so we must create unrealistic ones.  The motif of a hero if you like, not the reality.  So the story becomes a fiction, rewritten to begin life again.  Now the motifs of the above include charm, native wit and intelligence, courage in bucketfuls.
The knights’ code of honour is still respected today, we 'know' they were 'parfit, gentil' men sworn to protect the weak. But they really do not need to be dashing, they could be ordinary men.  The explorer can go armed with cameras instead of guns.  The sailors can win races instead of despoiling.
So in The Sefuty Chronicles I choose the 'ordinary men' to be the local heroes.  Those who stepped up to the mark when the going got tough.  I also have an intrepid band who are the legends and demigods of the future (they are actually quite ordinary also!).
PS: We should throw in good looks and a six pack as well; young ladies have a subtext for their heroes: strong/good looking = virile = fertile = able to protect. Like the peacock's tail proves nothing.
Young men have a similar subtext for heroines: beautiful/fit = fertile = his genes more likely to succeed.
Am I a cynic?
Where to find Alberta Ross & The Sefuty Chronicles


  1. Hi Alberta, Thanks for guest blogging.

    I found this a really interesting and inspiring piece to read. I don't think your cynical at all. I love all the comparisons you've made between the contrasting heroes. I love this!

    Thanks again

    Erin x


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