Theories in Mythology: Definition of the “hero” as a concept.

Mythologies of all types are consistently associated with a central heroic character.  Some historians believe that mythologies evolved in the first place as a medium of admiration for the hero.  The actual manifestation of the hero can take varied forms. He/she could assume the form of a human being with all its frailties or can be conjured up to having special and extra-human powers.  In its latter form, the hero is equated with God himself and it is not uncommon to find references to him as the son of God.

Another defining characteristic of the Hero is his benevolence.  All mythic heroes are invariably ethical and moral.  Most of the stories depict his hardship and travails in pursuit of a morally acceptable equilibrium.  His persistence in the face of adversity and his dedication to his convictions are the other hallmarks of a mythic hero.  But most importantly, irrespective of the human or super-human quality of the Hero, the mythology surrounding him is constructed to enlighten people on appropriate behavior and give them a sense of direction during phases of ambiguity.


Rank, Otto. (2004). The myth of the birth of the hero: A psychological interpretation of mythology (Gregory C. Richter and E. James Lieberman, Trans.) Baltimore, M.: Johns Hopkins University Press. (Originally work published 1909)

Tylor, E.B., Primitive Culture: researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion and art., 1871, Routledge/Thoemmes.

Hard, Robin., The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology (based on H.J.Rose’s original work), Routledge, 2003.