Ravyn Freewrites: A Musing on Heroism

Some freewriting I did not long ago on the subject of heroism.

If I were to choose a type of heroism for myself, it would not be the kind that pounds into the near-ruins of a town on a white charger, or gets into pistol duels on dusty streets while the citizens hide behind doors and barrels; the one who, triumphant, leaves a grateful populace and blows away with the wind or rides off into the sunset, always seeking out that next great deed to do. Right has been restored, where once was desolation the healing rains fall… life returns, joy returns, the vacuum somehow fills and rights itself, and life goes back to The Way It Was Before, somehow.

I wouldn’t want to be that sort of hero, who wins once and it’s over. The work, the reward—it’s like taking credit for the growth of a plant when the first point of green peeks through the soil.

I would choose to be the one the hero leaves behind to ensure the city recovers, one little task at a time. Find these people. Fix this. Gain the trust of this group so they’ll listen to me, and I can ask their help for this other project here. Ensure security after the disaster, treat the casualties of that final confrontation, perhaps help to write or enforce the laws…. Bit by bit, hour by hour, task by task, I would nurture my successes, watch them bloom or fruit one by one. I would delegate where I could, do where I could not delegate, let one task spin off as I focused on another, bring it all together in the end. Whether it was my place or not before the crisis, it would become my place—and I might, perhaps, even leave it better than it started.

I don’t want the heroism of one great deed, the kind of thing that people talk about forever (or until the next great deed comes along). I want the kind of a thousand smaller deeds, that together turn into something greater, more intricate, than one lone hero on a white charger could—or perhaps would have the patience to—do alone.

From the library I’ve learned the glow of a thousand little accomplishments, one after another. A thousand beginnings, a thousand goals in sight that comprise the trail towards one apparent impossibility far in the distance. The fighter may have one great victory, one stroke of lightning; I will be a builder, my triumphs little and regular.

5 comments

  1. Shinali says:

    Wow. I never really thought about it like that, but I agree. Especially in fantasy and roleplaying, heroes tend to be into the big things, not the vital every day help the people often really need. Even my most many-little-acts character, Samar, who until recently was teaching poor villagers medicine so they could help themselves rather than have her just heal them, is currently trying to do Big Things. Maybe it’s just that big heroics make for better sounding legends?

  2. Ravyn says:

    It’s not so much the Big Things that I have issue with as the Big Things that are over and done in one fell swoop, and nobody realizes there’s still cleaning up to be done.

  3. Shinali says:

    That’s sort of what I meant, I think. Like if there’s an earthquake, there are the people who act in the moment and save lives, and then there are people who act longer term and preserve lives and get life back to normal-ish.

  4. Michael says:

    That was beautiful. Not just the sentiment, but a really beautiful piece of writing. I’m going to keep it and treasure it in the hope that it will inspire some of my characters.

  5. Ravyn says:

    Thanks!

    I think the book I was reading around the time I started thinking about it helped; it was about prose style and word choice, and it got me thinking really hard about my imagery.

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