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Here's an illustration from the Polish fairy tale about Princess Miranda and Prince Hero. Thank you, Project Gutenberg!

Here’s an illustration from the Polish fairy tale about Princess Miranda and Prince Hero. (Thank you, Project Gutenberg!) But actually, it looks more like a brawl than an act of heroism. To me. Just sayin’.

Simplia’s protracted nose squinching indicated that she was deep in serious thought.

“Nope,” Sagacia said with uncharacteristic brevity.

Simplia had another question: “Is the hero of a story ever not the main character?”

“Hmmm. Let’s ponder that one, shall we,” suggested her friend, “while we see what our magical friends have to say about requirements for hero-dom.”

“Good idea,” Simplia agreed. “And thank you.”

“For what?”

“For not doing a s-backslash before hero, for not making it homophonic with a Schedule 1 narcotic. For choosing Pithy over P.C.”

“Oh. You’re welcome. I didn’t know it mattered.” Sagacia rummaged through the bottom of her backpack and found some crumpled notes she had just retrieved off the Fairy Tale Lobby bulletin board. “Here are some jottings from magical friends. Look! Fiona Birchall.”

For me, a real hero is one who first overcomes his own fears before he overcomes physical danger….if he isn’t scared of the two headed ogre he isn’t as brave as the one who wants to run away but doesn’t. And therefore one of my favourite heroes is the little prince in the story of The Giant named Fear (Possibly because I’m a complete wuss myself…..)

Simplia wrinkled her brow — another indicator of deep, serious thought.

“So if I turn off the nightlight and go to bed in the dark tonight that’ll make me a hero?”

“It would, in your case, be a brave thing. But you do know there is nothing in the house at night that isn’t here all day, and that if there were something threatening, a 4 watt bulb wouldn’t keep it at bay. Don’t you?”

“Empirically,” Simplia admitted. “But not along the back of my neck.”

“Well then, yes. I guess you would get Hero Cred for dispensing with the nightlight. But you need more than just acting brave. According to Barra the Bard, you also need to be a mensch and a straight-shooter and someone who… Well, here. You read what she wrote.”

1. The hero must often also be persistent, not giving up easily.
2. The hero also often needs to be patient.
3. S/he needs to be courteous. How often does the youngest son speak politely to a helper at the crossroads and be rewarded with good advice?
4. Kindness and generosity are good qualities too–sharing food, untying a captive animal, etc.,
5. Doing what they *say* they will do. For example, in “Rose-White and Rose-Red,” both girls agree to do tasks for Mother Holle, but only one does, and is rewarded accordingly.

Simplia gazed up at the ceiling at nothing in particular … yet another sign that her brain was engaged.

“That kind of sounds like a responsible grownup who not only knows but lives by the Golden Rule.”

Sagacia nodded in full agreement. “Yep. And here — Sue Keuntz offers a list of hero-isms and offers examples of true life imitating folklore.”

I believe likely and unlikely heroes hold one or more of these virtues: perseverance in the face of adversity, personal courage, resourcefulness when needed, optimism, confidence in themselves and others, empathy, and the knowledge that failure is an important step towards succeeding. Some of my favorite heroes and heroines are: Col. Gail Halvorsen (Berlin Candy Bomber), dog heroes such as the sled dogs, Balto and Togo, Fa Mulan, the Rainbow Crow, Abbie Burgess who kept the light house lights buring during some horrendous storms, Jack in many of his tales, Issun-Bishi, smallest samurai ever, and of course, Vasalisa the Brave.

Simplia blinked as she regarded an indeterminate spot on the floor.

“Yeah. Now that you mention it. Vasilisa totally qualifies as a hero. Hey, Sagacia… Our boss is a Hero.”

“Yeah. Pretty cool, huh?”

Murzik stirred from his afternoon nap just long enough to regard the Simpletons with a jaundiced eye, accompanied by a little eyeroll (as if to say, “Well, duh.”), and curled back up into an impenetrable furball.

Sagacia uncrumpled her last sheet of paper.

“Ah,” she said, “Csenge Zalka.”

I have three answers! I just had coffee! With sugar!!!

1. I think the basic thing for a hero to be a hero is to be able to think in larger thing than their own person. Heroes are often the people willing to sacrifice their personal safety, goals or gains for the greater good.

2. Empathy. I like heroes that succeed because they have a kind heart and they take the time to talk to others and understand people. To even notice the problem. Especially when it leads to solving a problem with something other than repeatedly bashing it with is a sword. (Don’t mistake me, I am all for some well-placed sword-bashing, but that’s not all there is)

3. This is not strictly an answer, but I am a sucker for reformed villains turning into heroes. This doesn’t happen in folktales and fairy tales very often, which is too bad, because it is one of my favorite tropes… Everyone deserves a second chance. I think that’s an important message nowadays.

“And that,” Sagacia summed up, “pretty much answers the question for me.”

“Yeah. But really somebody needs to introduce that young woman to chamomile tea.” She sipped her own for a moment and said, “Well, now we’ve got a bunch of great attributes a hero needs in order to be a hero. Who else in Fairytaledom or in folklore embodies those characteristics? I mean, besides Vasilisa?”

“Let’s put out a call to our Magical Friends and see if what kind of Hero Roster they can compile.

…and so, gentle reader, it is up to you to enlighten the Simpletons. Who is your favorite fairy tale hero? Why?

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