Legendary Heroes

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 14, 2017 2 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Stories of great heroes are a staple in any generation and any culture. Some of you know that I do more than just write for Worldview Warriors; I am also a published author. In my learning curve about writing novels, I met a really good friend at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (I am serving as one of the faculty at this conference this year) who taught two workshops that changed how I look at writing fiction. Those two workshops were titled, “The Ministry of the Villain” and “The Hero’s Journey.” To have a “legendary” hero, you need to know how to use both.

“The Hero’s Journey” was taken from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero of A Thousand Faces, a study on every story that withstands the test of time. In Campbell’s study, he noted that all of these studies have four key characters and 17 common plot points. Campbell had an extremely loyal student working on some sci-fi story and kept going back to him to make sure he had this “Hero’s Journey” right. That student was George Lucas and the story was Star Wars. The four characters of this Journey are: Hero, Anima, Villain, and Wise Mentor. Three of those are quite self-explanatory, but the Anima often is not. The Anima is essentially the “damsel in distress,” the hero’s equal and opposite gender and is an ideal representation of the world that needs to be rescued.

“The Ministry of the Villain” workshop wrecked my world and how to use the villain of a story to address that wicked sin that you either cannot bring up in your circles or won’t dare bring to the light. Take that evil and personify it into a villain that will meet his justice or redemption. A key point made in this workshop is that it is the villain that makes the hero the hero. No story is of any interest if there is no villain to overcome, no challenge to beat.

With that said, there are certain things about the hero of the Hero’s Journey that makes him a hero and I will need two posts to address them. Today I will address what makes a legendary hero, the heroes that will be remembered for all time. Next week, I will address what happens when the hero of a story refuses to go on the journey. So what makes a legendary hero?

First off, in order to be a hero, the protagonist must be an outsider to the world he seeks to rescue. He cannot belong where he is. He does not fit in with everyone else. Let’s use Star Wars to illustrate. Luke Skywalker was left on the forgotten planet of Tatooine, the farthest planet from the bright center of the universe. He was raised as a farmer, but never fit it. He longed for the journey, the adventure.

Princess Leia, on the other hand, was deeply rooted in the world system. She was active in the Old Republic and one of the point people of the Rebellion. She was the best of the best that the world that needed to be rescued could offer. She had the best weapons, the best strategies, the connections, she was the image of what the Rebellion and what a free people was to be. Yet, Leia could not rescue the galaxy from the Empire. She was too entrenched in the world to be able to do it. It took Luke, an outsider who was not part of the system, to come rescue her and then destroy the Death Star.

The hero also requires assistance from a “Wise Mentor.” Luke received the message for help from Leia and when Obi-Wan offered for Luke to join him, Luke immediately refused it. He could not go save the world because he had “work to do.” What did it take to break Luke free from the farm? The destruction of the farm. Every hero tends to suffer some form of tragedy to get them started on their journey.

Another phase of the Hero’s Journey is a “baptism of fire.” This is the point in the story when the life of the old hero finally dies and he wakes up to claim his role. In Star Wars, this moment took place in the trash compactor. Luke was no longer a follower in the journey and began to take his role as a leader. When a hero goes on his journey, his old life must be put aside and his role as the hero must be fully embraced.

There is more the Hero’s Journey but I don’t just want to give a lesson on the journey. I also want to apply this to our lives. God wants us to take this journey. All three of the points I bring up directly applies to the Christian life, and if you study the Hero’s Journey as a whole, you will find even more similarities to how we should be living our lives. God does not want us to live lives where we are just part of the system who believes in him. He wants us to live heroic lives - bold, adventurous, and overcoming the villains we face. It’s a commonly cited verse but very rarely actually applied: Romans 8:37: We are MORE than conquerors. Eric Ludy, in his book Wrestling Prayer, challenges our generation to be as David and his Mighty Men, a generation of heroes and warriors for the Kingdom of God. But let’s briefly look at these particular steps in the Hero’s Journey and how it applies to us.

We have to be outsiders. We can’t be in and submitted to the world’s system. The Hero came to save a world from the hands of evil. If we are under the world’s system, how can we save it? Jesus was not of this world. That is why he could be that hero. He asks us to join him and be as David’s Mighty Men were to David. The Mighty Men were known because of David, and we should be known because of Christ, not because of us. But we cannot be in the system if we are to battle the villain holding it captive.

We need help getting started on the journey and very often, God has to grind us to powder to do so. It takes an emotional or physical tragedy that forces us out of our seat of comfort, or more accurately put, our seat of familiarity. We so often resist this because we don’t want to experience the pain of suffering. Yet it is often necessary because it gets rid of that self, that spiritual ‘flab’ that hinders us from getting up and getting something done. If we are not willing to be broken and go through tragedy, why should we expect God to use us to make us a legendary hero?

This journey God calls us on is meant to take us out of our comfort zone for good, not just to go on this journey and then return to our selfish, self-centered lifestyle. When Luke entered that trash compactor, the farm boy died and the Rebel leader and Jedi-to-be was born. When we go on this Hero’s journey with Christ, our old self is to die and the new self is born. We will never go back to that old life… and we will never want to.

Are you willing to go on this journey with Christ? Many do not want to because they know the cost and they don’t want to pay it. They value their lifestyle and their comforts too much. However, I have a stern warning. I alluded to one of the phases of the Hero’s Journey above called “The Refusal of the Call.” Every hero initially refuses the call to adventure, despite wanting to do something more than what they are currently doing. But what happens if the hero does not punch through that barrier and start the journey? What if the hero does not complete the journey? That hero becomes not a legendary hero, but a cowardly hero. And there are dire consequences when this happens. Stay tuned for next week’s post.

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David Odegard said...

Interesting. I would like to know more about your fiction.

Charlie said...

Hi, David,

I have one book published right now called "Call to Arms". I'm supposed to have two others, but things have been very complicated with my publisher (that I don't need to share details here). Call to Arms is a story about spiritual warfare with two distinct story lines. I have one story in the modern day detailing a clash between a church youth group and a satanic gang caught in the occult. The other story covers a medieval/fantasy war between two nations. Many of my key plot points are based heavily on true stories that I have personally been through or I heard of the encounter from those involved first-hand. I also have over 15 years of fencing experience (and am now certified as a coach, working on starting my first club), so I know how to do sword fights well. Here is the link.