Last week I started this series about heroes and how the Outlander series has taught me a lot about how we measure heroes and heroism. I came up with four major characteristics for heroes: strength, intelligence, compassion, and passion. Today I’m looking at strength, because when it comes down to it, from Jamie Fraser to James Bond, we want a guy with strength. Superior strength. Physical strength as well as inner strength.
Of course I love historical romance and back in the day strength was a very big deal. Men used weapons that few if any women could wield. Men had to be strong physically to do everything that needed to be done, from fighting to chopping down trees to building houses. That strength was utilized to keep the heroine safe, keep her warm, keep her fed. The hero’s physical exertions helped fulfil the heroine’s needs. Protective is the number one descriptor valued for a hero, and quite often in order to protect, a hero must have the physical strength to do it. Not only in historicals but contemporary romance novels as well. Think of all the firefighter and policeman and SEAL heroes that populate contemporary romance. They are all as tough as nails and that’s how women want them.
I saw this common trait in the heroes of the three examples I gave last week: Last of the Mohicans, Braveheart, and Outlander. Hawkeye, in LOTM, is a superb fighter, in stunning physical shape, and able to withstand physical punishment and continue on. William Wallace in Braveheart is another excellent fighter who disregards physical pain in order to achieve the goal he’s set his mind on. And Jamie in Outlander, well in our first sight of him he’s got a dislocated shoulder and after it’s popped back in, he’s right back wielding a sword, then shot and continues to ride through the night with no complaint. Heroes have the power to endure horrific physical torture and bear it with a stoicism that makes them stand apart.
Heroes must possess inner strength as well. Women want a man who has a conscience and an inner strength of conviction that he’s not going to break for any reason. Heroines need to know they can count on the hero to give his word and mean it. A man’s word is his honor and when he gives it, it is not. He gives it with the understanding that it is a code of conduct inviolable. I think that inner strength may be most appealing in this day where the perception of men often sees them as failing to have integrity or a conscience.
Next week I’ll give my thoughts on the surprising but necessary characteristic of intelligence in a hero.