Heroism: A Discussion for Discovery

“Above all, be the heroine of your life.” – Nora Ephron

Throughout human history, heroes prevail among the great stories of legend, myth, and fairy tale. Stories about heroism speak to a desired past of noble deeds and virtuous character. However, I believe heroism can also be seen through people’s exposure to everyday life, even though everyday life is different for everyone. That’s why we continue to read and listen to stories of great heroes of the past and the continuing future. These stories resonate with us because we can see the universal truths and meaning behind important hero tales.

In this blog, my aim is to open up the conversation of heroism in stories and in life through the power of narrative. The goal is to interrogate how the hero’s journey prevails in many stories, especially myths, fairy tales, and legends, because stories from different cultures and time periods written or spoken are interrelated on the basis of human experiences.

My own journey with the concept of heroism began when I was a child, listening to stories my father read to me and then the books I would eventually read about the epic heroes of old. This love grew when I read the ancient Greek and Roman myths[1] followed by my venture into the Norse legends and eventually into the realm of world mythology. In college, I decided to major in English with a minor in Classical Studies so I could keep reading heroic stories. But even then, I was not satisfied. I knew there were so many stories out there, even modern stories, that portray heroism in a new light of discovery of who we are as human beings, rather than just a constant trope reappearing time and time again.

I then pursued a Master’s degree in English Literature, hoping to uncover more of the Hero’s Journey in regard to storytelling and in life. My thesis, “Displaced Heroism in 18th and 19th Century American Literature” was created by accident after taking a class on Gothic literature. I was reading Edgar Huntly: Memoirs of a SleepWalker[2] and I realized how the main character, Huntly, was anything but the ideal hero. He was destructive and unreliable, even though he claimed to be an epic hero in his own narrative. In analyzing his failure as a hero, I came up with the idea of displaced heroism due to Huntly’s displacement into the American wilderness whilst sleepwalking. “Displaced heroism” was the attempt to reconfigure the hero’s journey instigated by Joseph Campbell and his iconic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.[3] While the initial step for heroism is “The Call to Adventure,” I proposed that the first step is actually displacement, which extends the initial “call” because the hero/heroine must be “displaced” in order to be heroic, moving the hero from an original state that is comfortable, to an entirely new and unknown existence, which can usually pose danger. The research into the Hero’s Journey really opened my eyes to how displacement leads the hero to growth and discovery into who they are as great beings that have transformed into their best authentic selves because of what they had to overcome on their journey.

However, there is so much more to be discovered within the realm of heroism. With your help, I will review themes and stories from across all genres and also my own life experiences, to talk about the importance of heroism and how it allows us as readers to not only understand heroism within the story, but to also find the hero within our own being. With the hashtag #heromusings, feel free to tweet me @imelda_corazon with your questions and comments as we continue to discover heroism in all aspects of stories and in life. Essentially, the journey of the hero is the journey of what it means to be human. And to be our best selves in this lifetime, we must be the heroes (and heroines!) of our own lives.


[1] I started with the classic Bulfinch’s Mythologyhttps://www.amazon.com/Bulfinchs-Mythology-Legends-Charlemagne-Chivalry/dp/0440308453/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1514929570&sr=8-3&keywords=bulfinch%27s+mythology

[2] If you want to traverse into a trippy tale, read this-https://www.amazon.com/Huntly-Memoirs-Sleep-Walker-Penguin-Classics/dp/0140390626/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514929625&sr=1-1&keywords=edgar+huntly

[3] The quintessential book of heroism. Read it. Read it now- https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Faces-Collected-Joseph-Campbell/dp/1577315936/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514929687&sr=1-1&keywords=the+hero+with+a+thousand+faces