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Greek Heroes vs. Modern Heroes

Comparing the difference between heroes during classical times and who we view as heroes today...
by

Gianina Schwanecke

on 19 April 2013

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Transcript of Greek Heroes vs. Modern Heroes

Obstacle 1 Obstacle 2 Obstacle 3 Start What is a hero? Greek Heroes
vs.
Modern Heroes By Gianina Schwanecke Whilst there are many differences between classical heroes and modern heroes, the key formula is still the same.
Hero + Defining Hero Objects or Qualities + Quest/Task + Allies + Enemies + Challenge =
SUCCESS
These are some of the key features that we use to define a hero, but the most important two are of course their journey and the people they interact with along the way. We learn valuable lessons from their quests, from their allies we see the importance of friendship and teamwork, while their enemies teach us that there are going to be things that make our life difficult. But a hero’s success at the end is the most valuable lesson, it teaches us that we can achieve our dreams and accomplish our goals.
I’ll use two different people to demonstrate the model hero. Classical heroes were men who were braver and stronger than most other men and achieved great deeds.
A modern hero is defined as, "a person (because girls can be heroes too), of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities".
The definition of a hero changes over time, and will continue to change as we ourselves, evolve as a society. However, the characteristics of past, present and even future heroes will always be similar; a person of courage and some ability, who achieves a great deed. Thus there is a clear relationship between heroes of the classical period and modern day. The End! Finn the human could also be considered a hero in classical and modern times. As the last human in the land of Ooo (after a terrible “mushroom war”), his childhood was rather unusual and grew up never knowing his real parents. He was adopted by a family of dogs and raised alongside their two other children. Finn became especially close with his brother Jake, and when they were older they both wanted to go and live a life of adventure. Finn battles Minotaurs, ogres, wizards, zombies and all sorts of other strange monsters, usually alongside his friends Jake, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline. Like Heracles Finn has a trademark white bear skin hat and his choice weapon would have to be his collection of swords. Like many other Greek heroes before him, Finn even travels to the underworld (ruled by Hades in classical mythology) to retrieve the soul of a plant he accidentally killed. Many of the differences between classical and modern heroes can be attributed to the audience of the time and what message the story tellers are trying to convey. mathematical! Something that both classical and modern heroes share is that they both demonstrate the great things man can achieve with a bit of work and the right attitude. This was especially important in Greek culture, to show what man could achieve without the help of the Gods. Most heroes were either demi-gods (the children of a mortal, usually the mother, and a God), or ordinary humans like you and me. A great example of man trying to separate their accomplishments from the Gods is in the movie, Clash of the Titans, when Perseus refuses a gift from Zeus. Perseus is the son of Zeus and Danae, but was raised by a humble fisherman and his wife when his true mother died. He tells his comrades as an explanation, “If I do this, I do it as a man.” Finn is also a reminder that ordinary people can be heroes. The very name “Finn the Human” is ordinary, he’s not a super man, he’s not an iron man; he’s Finn the human. In contrast to many of the other Adventure Time characters Finn is the only one without any special abilities or powers. This is especially clear when Finn and his best friend/ brother/ fellow adventure hero, Jake, are compared. Whilst Jake has the ability to stretch and change his shape (plus he’s a like a talking dog!), Finn only has his brain, fantastic personality and his skills to defeat monsters. This introduces a feature that is substantially different in both classic and modern heroes. There is a major difference in the motivation behind a hero’s “noble” actions. Classical heroes are from a time when life was a lot harder and people had to be selfish to survive. Greek hero myths were supposed to inspire people of the time to go out and achieve fame through glorious and heroic deeds. In this way most classical heroes acted on much more selfish motives, looking to see what they could gain out of a task or quest. There are many different examples of this but I will use Odysseus’ long journey home as an example. The quests Odysseus completed along the way served only to benefit him and ensure he made it home. Outwitting Circes, leaving Calypso and defeating Polyphemus were all things that would help Odysseus and his men reach Ithaca again. Modern heroes however, are people who do good things not for themselves but for others in need of help. Often there is a personal motivation behind their good deeds but I believe that it is done much more selflessly than classical heroes. In the episode “Memories of Boom Boom Mountain” we learn of Finn’s motivation to be a hero. He had been abandoned as a child, and left crying in a dirty diaper on top of a hill. He “cried for a whole day but no one came to help him. That day he vowed to help anyone in need no matter how small their problem.” This idea is also supported by other modern superheroes. Batman, Superman, Robin, Flash, Ironman; in short, most modern superheroes hide behind a mask, or other form of secret identity. For me this just reaffirms how modern superheroes do not do heroic deeds for themselves and in fact shy away from fame and glory. The qualities which define a hero have also changed quite a bit. A hero is someone of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. With classical heroes, a lot more emphasise was put on their strengths and the actual outcome of their quests (how many kick-butt awesome monsters they managed to defeat and princesses they rescued). This is probably because of the stage they were at with technology. Fighting during classical times was hand to hand or sword to sword fighting; there was a lot at stake and it was all based on how good a warrior/fighter you were that determined if you lived or not. Odysseus was the first real classical hero who was recognised and praised for the use of his brains, often being referred to in the book as “wise Odysseus”. I think that this definitely attributes to the change of hero qualities which we look for today, showing the influence of classical heroes over modern heroes.
Finn demonstrates the qualities of a modern day hero in the episode “The Enchiridion” (please note: the Enchiridion of Epictetus was an actual book from classical times giving “Stoic ethical advice”; its appearance in the show again shows the degree of influence on modern heroes). To first gain entry into the Mountain of Cragdaw, Finn must prove his intelligence by solving the Key-per’s riddle, proving how heroes must be able to use their brains and not just their brawn. Finn chooses to first help the gnomes, ignoring his wish to find the Enchiridion; thus demonstrating the more selfless attitude of modern day heroes. After Finn defeats the Ogre and saves Jake, he still vows to do the right thing; when the Ogre cries that Finn had stolen his money, Finn returns it, proving just how good a guy he is. Jake tells him “…That was righteous.” But for me Finn proves himself a true hero in the last test when he refuses to destroy an ant because it is just an innocent "neutral" creature. This shows how Finn sticks to his moral code, doing what he believes is right. Finn is rewarded by Mannish Man the Manly Minotaur because he is “the goodest of heart and most righteous hero”; he displayed “tenderness, ingenuity, bravery, the ability to fight”. A great example of the classical hero for me is Heracles. As the illegitimate son of Zeus and Alcmene, Heracles had an immortal enemy right from the very beginning; Hera, Zeus' jealous and bitter wife, tried to kill Heracles by sending two snakes to kill him when he was just a babe. He displayed his immense strength though, killing both snakes before they could get him. When he was much older Heracles settled down to a wife and several children. Hera was not done with him yet and made him mad; during this fit of madness he killed his family. To atone for the atrocities which he had committed and gain immortality, Heracles was set a series of 12 tasks, each designed to test him in some other way or form. These included defeating the Nemean lion (in a lot of Greek art he is depicted wearing its pelt as a cape with its head as a hat and with his favourite weapon, the club), the Lernaean Hydra, the Cretan Bull, the mares of Diomedes and many other terrible monsters. He succeeds with the help of the Goddess Athena and his brother’s son Iolaus. HERCALES FINN THE HUMAN Stories develop over time to suit the desired audience. Classical hero myths take place during a time when society was far less developed. Everyday people lived and people died, that was the way of their world. In many regards it was a much more lawless society, this is shown especially in tales about the Gods who raped many women and punished a lot of innocent people. We also saw this in Homer’s The Odyssey, in which the suitors plotted outright murder in order to win over Telemachus’ mother, and in Odysseus’ response when he massacres those who were disloyal to him. We are reminded that they deserved to be punished by Athena in book 13 when she says “It is true that the young men with their black ship are lying in wait for him to kill him before he reaches his country; but I think this will not happen, but that sooner the earth will cover some one of those suitors, who now are eating away your substance”. It is Odysseus' right to seek justice by killing the treacherous suitors. In today’s society those kinds of acts would be considered atrocious and absolutely unacceptable, but that was the time and the way in which Greek people lived. The main purpose of classical myths was to inspire people to achieve glory and fame, in this way people could obtain “everlasting immortality” as they would live forever in myth. They promote gaining wealth, power and high status along the way so that the hero could live comfortably. However, modern hero stories, like the ones about Finn the human, promote the ideas of being comfortable in who you are, doing the right thing and trying to help those around us. Adventure Time shows how we don’t necessarily have to help people with huge problems or take on impossible monsters to help those around us. Adventure Time is a show aimed at children for it's fun, bright cartoon animation; but it covers much deeper and more meaningful topics, exploring one boy’s journey as he becomes a hero. Something which I have found interesting learning about the similarities and differences is how myths and stories change. Because myths were mostly passed down orally (the Greek word ‘muthos’ means oral), there are many different versions of the same story; each one changes slightly as it is passed on, kind of like Chinese whispers. This is the same with most superheroes of today. Stories develop over time to suit the desired audience. Classical hero myths take place during a time when society was far less developed. Everyday people live and people died, that was the way of their world. In many regards it was a much more lawless society, this is shown especially in tales about the Gods who raped many women and punished a lot of innocent people. We also saw this in Homer’s The Odyssey, in which the suitors plotted outright murder in order to win over Telemachus’ mother, and in Odysseus’ response when he massacres those who were disloyal to him. We are reminded that they deserved to be punished by Athena in book 13 when she says “It is true that the young men with their black ship are lying in wait for him to kill him before he reaches his country; but I think this will not happen, but that sooner the earth will cover some one of those suitors, who now are eating away your substance”. This suggests it is Odysseus right to punish them, it would be considered fair and just. In today’s society those kinds of acts would be considered atrocious and absolutely unacceptable, but that was the time and the way in which Greek people lived and how justice was determined. The main purpose of classical myths was to inspire people to achieve glory and fame, in this way people could obtain “everlasting immortality” as they would live forever in myth. They promote gaining wealth, power and high status along the way so that the hero could live comfortably. However, modern hero stories, like the ones about Finn the Human, promote the ideas of being comfortable in who you are, doing the right thing and trying to help those around us. Adventure Time shows how we don’t necessarily have to help people with huge problems or take on impossible monsters to help those around us. Adventure Time is a show aimed at children for it's fun, bright cartoon animation; but it covers much deeper and more meaningful topics, exploring one boy’s journey as he becomes a hero. Something which I have found interesting learning about the similarities and differences is how myths and stories change. Because myths were mostly passed down orally (the Greek word ‘muthos’ means oral), there are many different versions of the same story; each one changes slightly as it is passed on, kind of like Chinese whispers. This is the same with most superheroes of today. One major factor during the classical hero’s life was the importance most Greeks placed on their relationships with the Gods. The Greeks were very frightened of the Gods and saw them as all-powerful, much stronger beings. They lived their lives trying to please the Gods with sacrifices and various other rituals. During the classical period, people had a far less detailed understanding of the world around them; much was simply attributed to the Gods. Early stories, what we now view as myths and legends, made the Greeks believe that people who tried to be good were often not rewarded, and actually usually suffered a great deal more for their efforts. This is true in the film, Clash of the Titans, when Perseus' adoptive father, Spyros (Diyctus in the real myth) is unjustly killed. A humble fisherman he cared only for his family and making sure they were happy. He readily took in Babe'n Perseus (literally, a baby Perseus) and raised him as his own. Later when the soldiers tore down the statue of Zeus he, his wife and their child were killed by Hades, even though they had nothing to do with what had happened and disagreed with the soldiers actions. This showed Perseus that life (or more importantly, the Gods) could often be unfair, even to those who are good people, and from this day on he was a changed man. Hades' cruel and unjust punishment taught Perseus to hate the Gods. Greek myths were often more entertaining than educational, and unlike many of the heroic stories told today, they did not contain messages in regard to the importance of moral behaviour. Today however, we teach people to believe that they are rewarded for being what we consider a good and moral person. We talk about Karma, the belief that what goes around comes around (comes around, comes around...) and we are taught to treat people the way we wanted to be treated. These lessons go back to the days when we first start school and begin to interact with people around us. I think that in many ways society is much more accepting of a lot of different things and because of globalization we are all connected somehow. This has lead to us being less selfish and instead looking to live more harmoniously. Whilst we appreciate the different values of other religions much more I think it is a much less dominating force. We see it's importance and values, but people now have the choice to choose what they believe and how they live. The different understanding of the world and our cultural beliefs are leading factors in the differences of how we perceive both classical and modern day heroes. A true hero.... http://adventuretimeforfree.blogspot.co.nz/2010/06/03a-enchiridion.html For me, a true hero is someone who is willing to do the right thing for the right reason; but the definition of a hero changes over time as society evolves. This is because as our understanding of the world grows and society develops, we begin to overcome our most basic and often barbaric tendencies. In classical times and today, the act of defeating "monsters", in what ever shape or form they come in, represents man "conquering barbarism and saving their people". I think the definition of a hero is different for everyone as we all value different virtues. The main idea of helping people and overcoming evil is true for everyone though, no matter when or where the hero is from. Bibliography Bibliography: Books:
• Marion Findlay, Pearson Education New Zealand Limited1999,
Classical Mythology (Secondary)
• Homer, 8th Century BC, The Odyssey (Primary)

Websites: (All Secondary)
• www.mythweb.com/heroes/heroes.html
• www.greek-gods.info/greek-heroes
• www.modern-heroes.com/idea/idea.html
• www.greekmythtrotter.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/heores.html
• www.Classics.uc.edu/~johnson/epuc/modern_heroes.html
• www.butler-bowdon.com/enchiridion
• www.adventuretimeforfree.blogspot.co.nz (The Enchiridion, Memories of Boom Boom Mountain)
• www.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid= (20080121193000AAasF0L, 20091218122059AApJ1WP)
• www.en.wikipedia.org

Film: (Secondary)
• Clash of the Titans (2010), Directed by Louis Leterrier An obstacle which made researching and coming up with examples for this internal rather difficult, was the limitation or lack there-of of primary sources. This is a result of how far back classical times go. Obviously I was not able to find many primary resources and could not get first hand accounts from people around at the time, the most primary and basic of all sources. In fact my only primary source is that of Homer's, The Odyssey, which I used to help demonstrate some of the beliefs held during Greek times and of the social customs. I also based a lot of my information on my other book, Classical Mythology. Although it is a little outdated the information still holds true and as it is designed for school use I feel that it is a reliable, valid resource. I do feel that I used a large number of websites, which means that most of my information is based on A Comparison Finn! secondary sources. The secondary sources that tell of life during the classical period are also only based on OUR understanding of classical society, therefore there are probably many things which we still don't fully understand about how they lived. Modern interpretations and the various different versions also make it harder to give accurate and detailed examples from the classical period. Thanks for reading! Watch the episode here! Finn the Human Heracles (hero-cles, Disney edition)
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