A hero ( old high German helido ) is a person who accomplishes a heroic deed, i.e. a special, extraordinary achievement. These can be real or fictional people, characters from history , but also from legends or sagas . His heroic abilities can be of a physical nature (strength, speed, endurance, etc.) or of a spiritual nature (courage, willingness to sacrifice, struggle for ideals, virtue or willingness to work for fellow men ).
The Zedler lexicon from the middle of the 18th century defined: “Hero, Latin hero , is one who is gifted by nature with a handsome figure and exceptional physical strength, who achieves fame through brave deeds, and who rises above the common class of men . "
The hero as a hero
The figure of the hero is first encountered in the ancient hero . This is announced by parentage or sign . On the other hand (for example in the Icelandic sagas ) the coming hero can be a useless young man who just lies behind the stove. In any case, he becomes a “hero” through his first extraordinary (“heroic”) act, for example when he kills an enemy, a monster or a giant , carries out a blood revenge or saves people (preferably virgins ) from distress. A hero usually fits the definition of what is considered excellent in their culture . That luck (“ salvation ”) regularly stands by his side is not necessary, in the Norse epic even unusual.
Well-known heroes in some cultures approached the status of gods . Many were demigods, descendants of mortals and gods. The word hero comes from the ancient Greek " ἥρως " and describes the cultural hero of mythology . The Greek heroes ( ἥρωες ) were often the characters who were considered the mythical founders of the Greek cities, states and countries. These mythical heroes were not always impeccable role models. The age in which heroes of this kind worked and where the stories of Greek mythology took place is also called the " Heroic Age ". This era ended shortly after the Trojan War , when almost all of the legendary fighters fell or perished on their way home.
It is not uncommon for historical persons to achieve so much reputation that they are called heroes, cf. Folk hero, national hero . This phenomenon was and is often accompanied by a rapid growth of myths about the person; she is often ascribed special powers.
End of heroism?
In times of war and emergency, the propaganda often heroizes soldiers and fallen soldiers in order to strengthen morale and perseverance. The term “hero” can become obsolete as a cultural model if heroic characteristics have to reckon with negative reception and / or if the term is used inflationarily or is watered down. In the final phase of World War II, for example, “hero's death” was often received as a euphemism (or a cynical term ) - for example, when relatives knew that their fallen loved one had gone to war not out of conviction but out of compulsion.
After the war, the word “hero” was hardly used in West Germany . It was often used in the GDR ; z. B. were (based on the Soviet model) working people who had clearly exceeded company target production values, awarded the order of hero of work and presented as role models . Politicians could be honored as heroes of the GDR . In the Federal Republic of Germany and in the Republic of Austria , the word was hardly used for a long time after the lost Second World War. Children who were enthusiastic about the heroic ( Hitler Youth , military education ) had become the “ skeptical generation ” of the post-war period . The 68 movement advocated pacifist goals. It condemned the Vietnam War and specifically the war crimes committed there .
In the United States are at war fallen soldiers often ease as a "hero" ( English hero called); The same applies to fire fighters who died in action. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 , dead firefighters and police officers were often referred to as heroes .
In times of social upheaval (cf. barbarism ) or national crises, sociologists foresee a strong need for heroes, whom real or fake heroes can help or not. Whether or not a remedy is successful does not necessarily depend on the “authenticity” of a hero, but also on the nature of the problems.
Heroes then form a specific role model (sometimes a cliché ), especially for young people . Today she trained to become a celebrity cult under the influence of the mass media or the press . Under certain historical circumstances this is specifically promoted by governments or the military, for example.
From the rejection of heroism, national self-sacrifice, the development of "authority through authorship" ( Bazon Brock ) etc., the sociologist Dirk Baecker or the Germanist Peter von Matt developed the term "postheroic".
In an Indo-European comparison, the religious scholar Georges Dumézil pointed out that many structurally comparable legends of the gods from India to Europe could go back to common prehistoric hero legends. The religious philosopher Hermann Usener turns the tables in his book " Gods Names " by making the following postulate: "... that all heroes, whose historicity is not verifiable or probable, were originally gods."
In literary studies , a hero is - with a different word meaning - in literary works generally and neutrally the main character of a story or a stage play, regardless of his abilities or his moral status. One then speaks of the hero or protagonist of a play or novel (if he appears in the title, he is the "title hero"). He can then also be weak or angry ( antihero ) or commit serious mistakes that lead to his fall (especially in tragedy , see for example Hamlet ). This also applies to Jacob the liar , who lies to save his companions hope and life.
The medieval concept of the hero's journey (cf. the epic about Duke Ernst ) has held up and can be found today, for example in the books of the mythologist Joseph Campbell . In the comic literature, the exaggerated figure of the superhero survives .
In the art of acting , the youthful hero and the difficult hero belong to the character roles .
It takes exceptional athletic performance to become a hero in sport, but only through skillful management can an athlete become a brand through consistently consistent performance . In her analysis of the heroes in sport during the Weimar period, Swantje Scharenberg showed the extraordinary achievements that heroic potential had for the respective time. But she speaks of heroes in sport and not of sports heroes . For Garry Whannel, however, from an Anglo-American perspective, the media sports star and hero always has to be a man, since in the present, when physical dominance is no longer required professionally, male hegemony is preserved. They all affirm that there are times when heroes are more socially desirable than others (end of heroism?). In hardly any other area of society is the fall from hero to anti-hero as deep and fast as in sport, since athletes are stronger than B. Politicians are stylized as youth idols ( Lance Armstrong , Oscar Pistorius , Jan Ullrich etc.).
The following list contains a selection of well-known characters who are or were often referred to as heroes. The list contains fictional characters, real people and names whose authenticity is controversial (see also legendary figure ).
|Surname||time||place||position||Reason of notoriety|
|Gilgamesh||3rd mill. Chr.||Mesopotamia||Sumerian king||Epic of Gilgamesh|
|David||Palestine||king||killed the giant Goliath|
|Odysseus||Trojan war||King of Ithaca||Odyssey & Iliad|
|Achilles||Trojan war||General of the Greeks|
|Hector||Trojan war||General of Troy|
|Paris||Trojan war||Prince of Troy||kidnapped Helena|
|Penthesilea||Trojan war||Queen of the Amazons||fought on the side of Troy|
|Aeneas||Trojan War , Italy||Trojan prince||legendary founder of Rome|
|Romulus and Remus||753 BC Chr.||Italy||legendary founders of Rome, twins|
|Theseus||Greece||fabulous king of Athens||kill the minotaur|
|Perseus||Greece||Demigod||killed the Medusa|
|Jason||Greece||Prince of Iolkos||Argonauts legend , stole the Golden Fleece|
- Cú Chulainn (most famous hero in Celtic mythology )
- Beowulf (Scandinavia)
- Totila and Teja (Ostrogothic Kings, Italy)
- Dietrich von Bern (legendary Ostrogoth king )
- Siegfried (Germanic hero in the Nibelungenlied , in Scandinavia "Sigurd")
- Arminius ("Hermann the Cheruscan")
- Vercingetorix (Gaul)
- The twelve paladins of Charlemagne were heroes whose stories were important in the development of courtly love and chivalric romance (described in the Roland song ; see also Hruotland )
- Prince Igor (historical, is sung about in the Igor song)
- Sindbad the Navigator (Arabic, from the Arabian Nights )
- King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table , including Lancelot , Parceval and Gawain (late antique / early medieval England)
- Grettir and Gisli (Iceland)
- Robin Hood (robber chief in medieval England)
- Richard the Lionheart (England, Crusader )
- Friedrich Barbarossa (Germany)
- Joan of Arc (medieval France, savior from the English)
- Saladin (oriental sultan )
- El Cid (Spain)
- Winkelried (Switzerland)
- Wilhelm Tell (Switzerland)
- Gustav II Adolf (Sweden)
- Eugene of Savoy (General of the Habsburg Empire)
- Ilja Muromez (Russian Bogatyr , is sung about in several bylins )
- Stenka Rasin (Russian folk hero)
- Alexander Nevsky (Russian folk hero)
- El Pípila (Mexican folk hero)
- Simón Bolívar (Liberator of Latin America from the Spaniards)
- Miguel Grau Seminario ( Peruvian national hero)
- Hua Mulan (China)
- Liu Hulan (China)
- Yamatotakeru (Japan)
- Tomoe Gozen ( Japan , one of the few female samurai)
- Fra Diavolo (Italy)
- Giuseppe Garibaldi (Italy)
- Zorro (California, Mexico)
In the 20th century, numerous soldiers and revolutionary leaders were referred to as heroes. There was often a personality cult around the latter (from the people and / or staged). Examples e.g. B.
- Mao Zedong (1893–1976, China)
- Che Guevara (1928–1967, Cuba)
- Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918–1989), Romanian dictator
- Kim Il-sung (1912–1994, North Korea) and his son Kim Jong-il (until 2011)
- Otto Weddigen (1882–1915, he sank three British armored cruisers as a submarine captain on September 22, 1914 within 75 minutes and was then celebrated as a war hero. He died six months later when his submarine was caught by an English ship was sunk);
Flying aces of the First and Second World Wars ;
- Manfred von Richthofen (1892–1918)
- Hans-Ulrich Rudel ( attack pilot in World War II)
- “ Martyrs of the Movement ” - propaganda term for the honorable designation of dead Nazi fighters. Most of them died before 1933; B. in the (failed) Hitler putsch in Munich in 1923.
- Bearer of the knight's cross , especially those of the degrees ( oak leaves with swords and oak leaves with swords and diamonds ).
They and their deeds were well known through Wehrmacht reports and Nazi propaganda (e.g. newsreels ); they were very respected. They attended schools and lectured at events; their public appearances were often accompanied by honors. Many of the knight's cross holders were high officers (e.g. Erwin Rommel , known as the "desert fox").
- Audie Murphy (1925–1971), the most decorated US soldier of World War II
- Heroic saga
- Hero of the Soviet Union
- Hero of work
- 'Heldenklau' campaign by the German Wehrmacht (in 1944 the last men capable of war were evacuated)
- Virago - a young "man woman"
- Heinrich Beck , Hermann Reichert , Heinrich Tiefenbach : hero, hero poetry and hero legend. In: Heinrich Beck, Dieter Geuenich, Heiko Steuer (eds.): Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde Volume 14, de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-080063-2 , pp. 260–282.
- Joseph Campbell : The Hero in a Thousand Figures . Insel, Frankfurt am Main, 1999, ISBN 3-458-34256-7 .
- Ralf von den Hoff , Ronald G. Asch , Achim Aurnhammer , Ulrich Bröckling , Barbara Korte , Jörn Leonhard , Birgit Studt : Heroes - Heroizations - Heroisms: Transformations and conjunctions from antiquity to modernity. Conceptual starting points of the Collaborative Research Center 948. In: helden. heroes. hero. E-journal on cultures of the heroic. Issue 1, 2013, pp. 7–14, doi: 10.6094 / helden.heroes.heros. / 2013/01/03
- Ralf von den Hoff u. a .: The heroic in recent cultural-historical research: A critical report. In: H-Soz-Kult , July 28, 2015, http://www.hsozkult.de/literaturereview/id/forschungsberichte-2216 .
- Arnd Krüger , Swantje Scharenberg (ed.): Times for heroes - times for celebrities in sport. LIT, Münster, 2014, ISBN 978-3-643-12498-2 .
- Michael Naumann : Structural Change of Heroism. From sacred to revolutionary heroism. Koenigstein / Taunus, 1984
- Martin W. Ramb, Holger Zaborowski (eds.): Heroes and Legends or: Whether they still have something to say to us today. Wallstein, Göttingen, 2015, ISBN 978-3-8353-1691-1 .
- Jan Philipp Reemtsma : The hero, the I and the we. In: Mittelweg 36 . Vol. 18, 2009, Issue 4, pp. 41-64.
- Julia Mährlein: The sports star in Germany: The development of the top athlete from hero to brand. Sierke, Göttingen, 2009, ISBN 978-3-86844-130-7 .
- Swantje Scharenberg : The construction of public sport and its heroes in the daily press of the Weimar Republic . Schöningh, Paderborn, 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77117-9 .
- Stanley H. Teitelbaum: Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebr., 2005, ISBN 0-8032-4445-2 .
- Manfred Wekwerth : Hero. In: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism . Volume 6.1, Argument-Verlag, Hamburg, 2004, Sp. 55-63.
- Daniel Hess , Markus Prummer: heroes, martyrs, saints. Paths to paradise. Publisher of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg 2019, ISBN 978-3-946217-18-3 .
- Extensive and permanently updated bibliography on the subject of heroes from the University of Freiburg
- Negative heroes : About 'inhuman' acting protagonists in the film
- Special exhibition Heroes, Martyrs, Saints. Paths to Paradise , Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg
- ↑ Hero, Lat. Hero. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 12, Leipzig 1735, column 1214 f.
- ↑ Dirk Baecker: Postheroic Management: A Vademecum . Merve Verlag, Berlin 1994, ISBN 978-3-88396-117-0 .
- ↑ Julia Mährlein: The sports star in Germany: The development of the top athlete from hero to brand. Sierke, Göttingen, 2009, ISBN 978-3-86844-130-7 .
- ↑ Swantje Scharenberg : The construction of public sport and its heroes in the daily press of the Weimar Republic . Schöningh, Paderborn, 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-77117-9 .
- ^ Garry Whannel (2001): Media Sport Stars: Masculinities and Moralities. London: Routledge, ISBN 0-203-99626-7 .
- ↑ Arnd Krüger & Swantje Scharenberg (eds.): Times for heroes - times for celebrities in sport . LIT, Münster, 2014, ISBN 978-3-643-12498-2 .
- ^ Stanley H. Teitelbaum: Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols . Lincoln, Nebr .: University of Nebraska Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8032-4445-2 .