How to Create a Legendary Hero
I recently watched Lawrence of Arabia for the first time and noticed a number of similarities to other stories I’ve read and watched over the years. The patterns I found could come in handy when creating a hero worthy of a legend.
Lawrence of Arabia is based on a true story about T.E. Lawrence, an officer in the British army during World War I, who unites warring factions of the Arab people against a common and formidable enemy, the Turks. He inspires them with the promise of an independent nation (freedom) and risks his life on the battlefield again and again for the Arab people and for the value of freedom.
Does this sound like another story?
Perhaps Braveheart, which chronicles the true story of William Wallace as he unites warring factions of the Scottish people against a common and formidable enemy, the British. He inspires them with the promise of an independent Scottish nation (freedom) and risks his life on the battlefield again and again for the Arab– sorry, Scottish people and for the value of freedom.
Or perhaps Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which is the totally 100% true story of the chimpanzee, Cesar, who unites warring factions of monkeys against a common and formidable enemy, the humans, and leads them in battle to ultimately gain freedom in the redwoods of Northern California.
Or perhaps it sounds like the story of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Spiderman, Erin Brockovich, or Harvey Milk.
To tell the story of a Legendary Hero, the hero must try to unite warring factions of a particular group of people against a common enemy with the promise of freedom. Freedom from what, and where/how the war is fought is to be determined by the circumstances of your story.
Of course, freedom doesn’t come easily, especially for the leader. The road to becoming a Legendary Hero is fraught with costs.
In Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence goes from being bright and idealistic in the beginning to risking not only his life, but also his sanity, his soul, and his belief that man can do good in this world, especially when he is betrayed by both the Arab people (the people he was helping) and his army superiors. He returns home, disillusioned and bitter.
In Braveheart, William Wallace is betrayed by his fellow Scots (the people he was helping) and sentenced to death. Also, his motivations for freedom (as it is told in the movie) where wrapped around the guilt he carries for not being there to save his wife, Murron.
In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cesar’s fellow apes do not betray him (…yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the sequel starts) but Cesar does have to say goodbye to the human family he loves and make a new home.
Spiderman carries the guilt of his uncle Ben’s death, has a screwed up personal life, and is betrayed when the people he tries to help label him a criminal and prevent him from helping them.
Erin Brockovich and Harvey Milk lose their home life to the cause they serve.
Jesus is betrayed and sentenced to death and just imagine the home life he must’ve had!
You get the idea.
So what’s the pattern again?
– A leader
– unites warring factions
– against a common and formidable enemy
– for the goal of freedom
– and deals with the consequences.
Here’s hoping your next hero is worthy of a legend.