Thursday, September 27, 2012
Ancient vs. Modern Day Heroes
Heroes during current times often reflect many of the same plot points as ancient hero stories. Despite these similarities between ancient and current heroes, there are several differences. As the times change, the stories change with them, often reflecting what is important at that time. One example of this is the similarities between the Avengers and the Odyssey. Both of these stories, as well as many other stories, have plots that follow the timeline of a hero. However, there are several key differences between each story.
The heroes in both the Avengers and the Odyssey follow the journey of a hero. In fact, this is true with almost all story plots. Both stories begin with the call to adventure. In the Avengers, this is when Loki steals the Tesseract and Fury calls the Avengers out of hiding to help stop him. In the Odyssey, this can be interpreted as the point in which Odysseus is called out to sea to fight in the Trojan War. However, this event occurs eighteen years before the book starts, so a more relevant call to adventure would be the point in which Calypso is forced to release Odysseus from her island and allow him to take the perilous journey home. In the Avengers, one example of refusal to call is made by Bruce Banner, fearing that he will harm people if he transforms into the Hulk. An example of refusal of the call in the Odyssey was Odysseus’s reluctance to leave Calypso’s island for fear that she was up to no good. The Avengers meet their mentor, Thor, who, as the brother of the God of Trickery, helps reveal his weaknesses to help them defeat Loki. Odysseus’s mentor is less of a conscious mentor, and more of a guide. Athena helps keep Odysseus alive by planting survival skills in his mind. The big ordeal in the Avengers was the large battle between the Avengers and Loki. The big ordeal in the Odyssey is Odysseus’s difficult and perilous journey back home from Calypso’s island in which he is bombarded with obstacles by Poseidon. Finally, all of the heroes return victorious to their ordinary worlds with their elixirs.
Besides the fact that the heroes in the Avengers and the Odyssey, not to mention the hundreds of other plots, follow the same journey of a hero, there are many direct allusions to ancient mythological heroes in current books and movies such as the Avengers. For example, Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, is the antagonist in the Avengers. He plays many of the same wicked roles that he does in Norse myths. In the Norse myth, The Death of Balder, Loki plays the part of the evil God who is trying to create mischief and chaos in Asgard and Midgard by causing the death of the great Balder. Similarly, in the Avengers, Loki is attempting to steal the Tesseract and give it to the Other, in exchange for an army of Chitauri that he can use to wreck havoc on the earth. Additionally, the movie the Avengers incorporates Thor, the Norse God of Thunder who is a much more benevolent God than Loki. In both the death of Balder, and the Avengers, he aids the protagonists in defeating Loki and returning things back to normal. We can see these direct allusions to mythology in many other hero stories as well; such as the Greek Gods in Percy Jackson, or the more subtle use of the Norse Gods in Lord of the Rings.
However, there are a few differences between ancient hero stories, such as the Odyssey, and current hero stories, such as the Avengers. There are many aspects of the world that were central to people’s lives during ancient times that are simply irrelevant nowadays. For example, when Odysseus was missing for several years, there was fear that there would be an uprising and someone would forcibly take over the kingdom. In most countries today, this is not an issue. We now have elected rulers; so if someone such as the President were to disappear, we would have another elected official, such as the Vice President, replace him. There are also aspects of the world today that were not issues during ancient times. For example, during the attack towards the end of the movie the Avengers, the government attempts to set off a nuclear bomb to wipe out Loki’s army and prevent it from spreading around the world. Iron Man then has to remove the nuclear weapon and send it back through the portal to save the city. During ancient times, heroes did not have to worry about weapons, such as nuclear bombs, that could kill entire populations.
Ancient hero stories are often reflected into hero stories of today. There are many basic hero archetypes that are carried throughout the years. Some of these include the hero’s journey, or even the direct use of ancient heroes such as the use of the Norse God of Lightning, Thor, as one of the protagonists in the Avengers. There are also aspects of these stories that are different. The details of the plots often change as the important aspects of the world change, which is what keeps them relevant and interesting.