Cheryl St.John Asks: What is a hero?

cheryl_stjohn_logo.jpgDefinition: noun

1) a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability  2) an illustrious warrior  3) a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities  4) one that shows great courage  5) the principal male character in a literary or dramatic work  6) the central figure in an event, period, or movement  7) an object of extreme admiration and devotion: idol

In a nationwide survey a few years back, Jesus Christ was the person most often listed as a hero, followed by Martin Luther King, Colin Powell, John F. Kennedy and Mother Theresa. Over half surveyed mentioned a public figure, others their fathers, mothers or other relatives and friends.

john-wayneThe major reasons for naming someone a hero were: Not giving up until a goal is accomplished; Doing what’s right regardless of personal consequences; Doing more than is expected; Staying level-headed in a crisis; Overcoming adversity; Changing society for the better; Willingness to risk personal safety to help others; Commanding the support and respect of others; Not expecting personal recognition.

The views of our nation have changed since September 11th.  More and more, firefighters, policemen and military men are referred to as heroes. We will all agree there were heroes aboard Flight 93 that day, men and women who foiled an additional terrorist plan.

The qualities of a hero include willingness to sacrifice, determination, loyalty, courage, dedication, intrepidity, valor, selflessness, conviction, focus, gallantry, perseverance, fortitude, bravery and integrity.

A hero isn’t always a man who sets out on a grand quest. Sometimes he’s the ordinary fellow who works an extra job to pay for his son’s college or his daughter’s wedding. Sometimes he’s a man who never raised his fists or fired a gun, but who sets a silent example of faith and a standard of honesty by the way he lives his life.

When we think of the heroes portrayed in our genre, we immediately think of John Wayne and Henry Ford, Wyatt Earp and Marshal Dillon. But there are unlikely heroes, too, such as Froto and Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Clint Eastwood’s William Munny in Unforgiven. Remember Sally Field’s character in Norma Rae?  How about Erin Brockovich?  Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird tops every list of favorite movie heroes.

sullenbergerIn talking about the heroes of our books, what qualities do some of our favorite authors think a hero needs?

Catherine Anderson says: “…one absolutely necessary quality a hero must always have is not good looks, suavity or physical strength, but incredible wonderful irresistible heart—an intangible s something that enables him not only to love deeply, but to live for love, sacrifice everything for love, and even die for love if necessary.”

Dorothy Garlock insists,” My heroes have high moral ethics and are always faithful.”

Pamela Morsi says the most important thing is “the hero’s willingness to make a commitment. All other obstacle can be overcome, but only a man who can marry and live happily ever after can be a hero in romantic fiction.”

Alexis Harrington said, “A hero doesn’t need to be perfect—I’d rather have a man with human frailties ad self-doubts. But despite his imperfections, he must have a nobility pf spirit that gives him the ability to recognize his own flaws, to see the good in others, and ultimately, to do the right thing, regardless of the cost to himself.”

atticus-finchLorraine Heath mentions, “A hero should always be willing to sacrifice what he values most in order to ensure the heroine finds happiness.”

Joan Johnston likes her heroes to be “physically strong and emotionally vulnerable.”

Cheryl Reavis states, “My hero must always take care of his children. I can’t abide a man who shirks his responsibility for his child—I don’t care what the reason; and a man willing to take responsibility for a child that is not his is really a hero to me.”

The stuff heroes are made of is powerfully attractive to the woman who eventually wins his heart. Who is the perfect hero in my book? Well, the one who has all the qualities mentioned above—and looks like Hugh Jackman to boot.

Some of my favorite heroes are Rye Dalton in LaVyrle Spencer’s Twice Loved, Reed Tyler in Pam Morsi’s Courting Miss Hattie, Luke Turner in Lisa Gregory’s The Rainbow Season, Laghlan Mackenzie in the late Arnette Lamb’s Highland Rogue, Dylan Harper in Alexis Harrington’s Harper’s Bride, Charlie Cochranin Kate Hathaway’s Bad For Each Other, and Theresa Weir’s Nash Audabon in Long Night Moon – and the list just goes on an on.

Did I mention any of your favorite heroes or authors? Who are the heroes who stand out in your mind—either in real life or your favorite books?

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20 thoughts on “Cheryl St.John Asks: What is a hero?”

  1. Morning Cheryl. Thank goodness God gave us more heroes than not. I think a hero is someone who does the best he possibly can while protecting his loved ones under the circumstances he finds himself in. I know that’s broad and vague, but how can a man do better than his best? And how can anyone know how they will react in a certain circumstance until he’s dropped smack dab in the middle of it. No man knows what the future holds. And yet, men are expected to be prepared, be brave, not show emotions, and still use wisdom when facing down the barrel of a gun. We expect our heroes to be perfect. Yet I’m drawn to the ones who aren’t.

    I loved the Rev John Leaf from Vicki Bylin’s Abbie’s Outlaw. Strong, flawed and passionate yet a fierce protector in what he believed.

  2. You included my favorite fictional hero in your photos, Cheryl. For me Atticus Finch had it all–courage, intelligence, integrity and tenderness.

    My favorite real-life hero is (or was, since he recently died)Sir Edmund Hillary. A man of remarkable courage and humility, he gave his Sherpa guide equal credit for being first to climb Mount Everest and then devoted his the rest of his life to helping the people of Nepal.

  3. I love alpha males. I think Linda Howard does about the best alpha males around, with her MacKenzie’s. Julie Garwood’s Scottish Highland Lairds.

    The hero in Gingham Nountain is my current favorite, just because he’s such a sweetie, but very over whelmed. He handles it all badly of course, especially the pretty school marm.

  4. Oh my gosh! You’ve certainly opened up a can of worms this morning. My list of favorite heroes is quite extensive.

    One of the heroes who sprang to mind was Luke Shardlow in Linda Lael Miller’s ONE WISH. He was so wounded and damaged but had such an ability to love. He sacrificed everything for Charity Barnham.

    Linda Lael Miller writes awesome heroes. I loved her McKettrick brothers and Sam O’Ballivan in THE MAN FROM STONE CREEK.

    I have quite a few favorites by LaVeryl Spencer. And then don’t get me started on Jodi Thomas’s. That lady certainly knows how to write heroes that stick in your mind. One of my favorites of hers was Carter McKoy. What a guy!

    Pam Morsi wrote some outstanding heroes as well. I adored Reed Tyler in Courting Miss Hattie. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird was an all time favorite.

    In the movies, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck automatically spring to mind when I think of heroes. And in real life, everyone who serves their country (whether in the military or in public service) is a hero in my book. Did I mention I have a very long list?? LOL

  5. Well, I like Rhett Butler. I have a fondness for the reluctant hero. I loved it when he went off to fight what he knew was a lost cause, that he saved Scarlett’s husband and hid them in the house of ill repute. I liked the tenderness he had for Melanie and the love for his child. Under that sardonic mask, he had a huge heart.

  6. Oh, Rhett was such a ba-a-a-ad boy…or was he LOL? I totally love Sam O’Ballivan and there’s a Scottish laird from an ancient book I can’t part with, Bride of the MacHigh who can render me sleepless. And I had great time with Charlene’s Caleb Matlock in Springville Wife in the Weddings anthology. I could just see and hear him. Yum.

    Great post, Cheryl.

  7. Linda, LindaLL does indeed write some wonderful heroes!

    Hi Pat! I don’t think I’ve ever gave Rhett much of a chance because I disliked Scarlet so much – maybe another day…

    Tanya, I’m there with you on Caleb Matlock!

  8. Hi Cher – and thanks for the kind words about Caleb to both you and Tanya. He’s my favorite kind of hero to write.

    Sometimes, when this positive thinker, starts feeling like our political leaders have let us down, someone like Scully comes along and renews my faith in human kind. That man really pulled off a miracle and saved so many lives.

    Now for heroes in romances, I agree with you Cheryl about Rye in Twice Loved. I must have read that book 3 times. What a great love story. Oh, I miss LaVryle Spencer. I love LLL Miller’s heroes too.

    I like all types of heroes really. Whether alpha or beta. They all appeal to me as long as they have honor. 🙂

    Great post!

  9. Hi, Miss Cheryl,

    I agree with the survey you mention on the listing
    of Jesus and Mother Theresa. I would replace the
    other three listed with our un-named sisters and brothers of the military and fire & police departments. I would ask that everyone pray for
    those young military persons who will soon be on their way to Afghanistan. My nephew, David, will be one of them – he already had his orders before the presidential pronouncement was made!

    Pat Cochran

  10. What a great post, Cheryl! My favorite kind of hero is the reluctant hero, the one that’s grumbling about having to save the day as he’s saving the day *lol* Luke Shardlow is the first that springs to mind–I so loved that prologue when he was only ten years old and had to fish the fluffy Charity out of the river when she slipped while looking for a magic frog *LOL* His consternation had me cracking up–and his personality did not much change over the years 😉

  11. I miss LaVyrle too! Those were the books I cut my reading AND writing teeth on. I recently found one that I’d used as a study book – with areas of dialouge and narrative highlughted different colors, as well as outlined goals, etc. I need to throw it away, but it’s still laying on my dresser.

    Most definitely, Miss Pat! Our servicemen and women are heroes of the highest order, even those at home, because they’re ready and willing to go even if they’re not called.

    Hey Stacey! Reluctant heroes are irresistable.

  12. Great post, I love a good flaw hero and I think all heros should have flaws because in real life no one is perfect. The hero that stand out in my mind was Harry Pye from Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Leopard Prince and I am not sure why, maybe it was the name that sticks in my mind.

  13. And what about the everyday hero? The one who will leave a cup of coffee waiting on the bedside table when we wake up in the morning? Or scrapes our windows on a frosty morning? Or has an innate talent to fix absolutely anything with barely more than a little spit and some glue–and is quick to do it without having to be asked.

    I’m married to a hero like that. 🙂

  14. Great post! You all have named wonderful authors and heros! I have to agree with Pam — I’m married to a Mr. Fix It (everything but electronics) and he cooks too! I’ll add two heros from recent reads: Nathaniel (who seeemed like a pretty regular – not flashy- really nice guy) from Irresistible by Mary Balogh and Gavin (a rescuer of mother and child) from The Bartered Bride by Mary Jo Putney. Had to think of another western and came up with one of my keepers: Slade from Hannah’s Promise by Cheryl Anne Porter.

  15. My father and all those who fought for our freedoms are my heroes. My father carries a piece of schrapnal in his back he recieved when wounded in WWII. Now government doctors say that piece of metal in his back is not combat related. He has medical records from hopitals he was in during the war that say otherwise! He was told by doctors in London that he would never walk again but as he left the hospital an orderly told him to dump the back brace they had put him in and let doctors at home tell him how severe his wounds were and he walked from the hospital several months later.

  16. My hero is definitely my husband. That may sound cheesy, but he truly is an example. He is semi-retired from our country’s service, having worn his uniform for over 40 years. They refuse to take his name off the state guard list! He is also the type of person who is always willing to help others. If you need something done, he will be the first to step up. But he’s also patient, gentle and kind. He has a wonderful faith in God that he turns to for any situation that arises.

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