Characteristics of Epic Heroes
Most epic heroes possess most or all of these 7 general characteristics. You can use this list to help you decide if a character is, indeed, an epic hero or heroine.
Trait 1: A Noble Birth
Most epic heroes will have an above average station in life. They will be kings, princes, or nobles of some sort. Commoners usually donotbecome epic heroes.
Trait 2: Capable of deeds of great strength and courage
Basically, this means the hero has the potential for great deeds. The magnitude of these actions is well above and beyond what the commoner does. While most epic heroes are good, not all are.
Trait 3: Great Warrior
Before the hero of an epic does his business in the epic, he has usually established himself in combat during a war. Sometimes, as inThe Iliad, we see the hero at war. In most, likeBeowulfandThe Odyssey, the hero has spent much time in battle.
Trait 4: Travels Over a Vast Setting
Simply put, you cannot be an epic hero if you stay in your village your whole life. The more countries or areas traveled to, the better. The farther away from your own country, the better. Distance makes the hero’s actions greater because they aren’t selfish; they are for another country or people.
Trait 5: National Heroism
Before a hero can be celebrated by countries the world over, he must first be recognized in his home country as a great and heroic person.
Trait 6: Humility (Beowulfand other Anglo-Saxon epics are an exception to this)
Even as the rest of the world recognizes the great deeds of the hero, he is seldom a braggart or even willing to take applause. He commits his deeds because he knows they need doing, and the fame and rewards that he receives are only a matter of course, not the reason for completing his quests.
Trait 7: Faces Supernatural Foes and/or Receives Supernatural Help
Most epic heroes either receive aid from a god or goddess or battle some superhuman enemy. Theyfight something mere mortals cannot battle. Beowulf has his Grendel; Odysseus his Cyclops. For each hero, the enemy is unique. You won’t see two heroes battling the same foe.