February is HERE, y’all, and that means two things: 1) winter has reached its peak here in Arcadia, and 2) Fantasy Month has arrived! Both good things (the former only because now it’s a downhill roll towards spring😉)
The intrepid grandmaster of Fantasy Month, Jenelle Leanne Schmidt, is currently elbow deep in preparations for the release campaign for her latest book, The Orb and the Airship (cover reveal coming around the corner!) so over here in our little nook of the interwebs I thought I’d do a super low-key celebration with a bookish tag on fantasy heroes! I got the idea for this from a manga tag prompt by Laura A. Grace over on YouTube, and it looked like such a fun idea!
Everyone loves a good hero, whether they’re the Boy Scout, the snarky ragamuffin, or the belligerent grump. Whatever their flaws and no matter the odds, they always strive toward what is right, to save the distressed, or defeat the villain. There are all kinds of heroes, so lets delve into the many faces of fantasy heroism! 🦸
In the Shadows: Quiet hero more in the “shadows” then the spotlight
SO MANY! There are so many ways one can interpret ‘in the shadows’ (my brain keeps leaning toward side characters. You know, the Sams to all the Frodos), but as I think on it and peruse, I’m drawn to Eugenides from The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. He might be the MC and a thorn in a lot of royal hides, but he keeps so much of what drives him a secret from everyone around him (including readers!) that no one sees his hero-ing until the end. He doesn’t make a fuss about what he’s really after, seeming to have a superficial personality that perfectly disguises his plans—which makes him a bit manipulative at times. Gen is definitely not the Boy Scout type of hero, but what he works in secret he does for the good of his people.
I’m No Hero: Hero who doesn’t acknowledge being one
I’d have to pick Tanjiro from Demon Slayer by Koyoharu Gotouge, even though this story is technically historical fantasy (which still counts, right?) Tanjiro is always trying to grow stronger so that he can protect others from the vampire-like creatures they call demons and save his younger sister, who was turned into one. Yet whatever battles he wins, he never forgets those he couldn’t help, and his passion is tempered by humility. I don’t remember if anyone in the story actually called him a hero outright, but I’m certain that if anyone did he’d laugh bashfully and deny any such thing.
Hate to Love: Hero you disliked in the beginning but loved by the end
This one was a struggle! I was wracking my brain trying to think of someone who fit the bill and kept coming up empty—but then I remembered: Darius! Prince Darius from the Droseran Saga by Ronie Kendig (which is space opera, but still fantasy, right?!?!) I wouldn’t call Darius a hero in the beginning of the story—more like an infuriating self-righteous scoundrel—but gosh darn it, he just had to go get his own redemption arc and be all tragically noble by the end. The series itself isn’t over (the final book is coming out in April!), but Darius ended his arc in book 3 with a crushing bout of sticky feelings and I just couldn’t hate him anymore. I actually kind of liked him by that point, maybe even felt for the guy, and that’s both super frustrating and a testament to fantastic writing!
Otherworldy: Hero who is from another world compared to the MC or side characters
Howl! Definitely Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. In the movie he’s just an eccentric wizard (although describing Howl as ‘just’ anything is an affront to his pride) but in the book we learn that he’s from an entirely different world called Wales! I wasn’t expecting such a reverse-portal-fantasy twist when I read the book for the first time, but it completely works. Howl is the kind of guy who takes heroism as a dreadful chore that everyone ought to praise him for, motivated by his own ego more than anything else (but we do get to see that, beneath the selfishness and cowardice, he actually is a pretty decent egg (but don’t tell him I said that!))
I’ll Think About It: Reluctant hero to walk the path asked or required of them
For this one I couldn’t help but think of Janner Igiby from The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. He’s the oldest and always has to look after his younger brother and sister, even though he usually takes that responsibility reluctantly—especially once the Fangs get involved and they have to set out on a dangerous quest! What makes Janner so noble is that he does take that responsibility and looks after his siblings and protects and defends them with a sacrificial love even while battling his own human selfishness, fear, and disappointment.
No Danger For You!: Hero you want to protect at all costs
My favorite Viking hero, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, from Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series. From the very beginning of his story he tells us that this is how you become a hero ‘the hard way’, and over the course of his (many) misadventures this earnest and misunderstood kid grapples with both mortal dangers and heartbreak as he tries to communicate with both kin and dragons to build a better world for both. By the end I just wanted to give him a warm blanket! Or bubble wrap.
Not Always Kind: Hero who is rough “around the edges”
Hands down, I gotta say The Baron from The Dragon Keep Chronicles by C.M. Banschbach! This guy. After being falsely accused of a war crime, disowned, and banished to the harsh life of an outcast in the mountains, this man has plenty of reason to be as hard and bitter as the land he took it upon himself to command—because why not be the iron hand over a ragtag collection of criminals? But even with everything that happened to him, he still runs to the aid of his younger brother, who gets kidnapped, and works toward ending a war that’s brewing amongst the clans that kicked him to the curb. He’s just . . . not always personable about it. Kinda rude sometimes. Snarky. And that’s . . . That’s what makes him so likeable.😅
Now it’s your turn, y’all! What characters would you match with these prompts? Who is your favorite hero, or hero type?