Welcome to another list! On this list you'll find the heroes that have influenced my writing the most, from the earliest days of my (remembered) childhood, to my teen and adult years. You'll also find more book heroes than what was on my "15 Villains" list and more ties for characters who are linked in my head. I chalk that up to being a visual learner. Anyway, let's get this show on the road with number 15!
15: Sir Small from Sir Small and the Dragonfly by Jane O'Connor
"Sir Small and the Dragonfly" is an easy reader that my mom bought for me when I was learning to read, when I was maybe 5. I can't count how many times I read the story of a tiny knight and his valiant battle with the dragonfly. A loose retelling of St. George and the Dragon from the Faerie Queene, this book captured my interest, for a reason I couldn't understand at the time. Having lost my original copy in a house fire, I found a shiny new replacement in a Borders and of course, $5.99 was a small price to pay for childhood memories regained! I also collect picture books and fairy tales, so it fit right in.
14: Prince Cornelius from Don Bluth's Thumbelina
Prince Cornelius, the valiant fairy Prince from Don Bluth's classic animated film "Thumbelina" did very little to break the Disney mold, being pretty much Prince Philip with wings. But there was something enchanting about the idea of a fairy prince rather than just some dude in tights. Not to mention that fancy fencing rapier, now the special weapon of my own Lord Rhodon! Now, Thumbelina is not what I'd call a "good" movie now. Mr. Mole could have lived quite comfortably in all the plot holes, and both Cornelius and Thumbelina are quite ditsy, there wouldn't have been much of a movie if they weren't but hey...
13: Aladdin, from Disney's Aladdin
Ah, Aladdin! My favorite Disney movie starred this lovable rogue with a heart of gold. Aladdin is a young man living on the streets of Agrabah, a city in the mythic middle east, who steals in order to survive. One day, he spots the beautiful Princess Jasmine and rescues her from an innocent crime. After being thrown in jail for a crime he didn't commit he is roped into a quest to recover a magic lamp, and discovers the Genie, who can make all his wishes come true. Even with the Genie's magic, it's Al's own street smarts and intelligence that he wins the day.
Aladdin may be a thief, but he also knows how to do the right thing. We see that in the first ten minutes of the movie, when he gives a loaf of bread to two children worse off than himself and then stands up to an arrogant prince who mocks the commoners. It's his desire to do the right thing that makes him a hero in my eyes, though maybe his methods leave something to be desired!
12: Shang, from Disney's Mulan
Captain Li Shang, the handsome and disciplined leader of Mulan's unit of the Chinese army first thinks that she and her fellow recruits will never make it. Though a talented martial artist, he lacks the life lessons in leadership that he needs to make the unit function. It takes a gawky girl in boy's clothes to show him the way, and he is willing to swallow his pride when it's revealed Ping is actually a girl and learn from her.
Shang's skill, know-how, and honor spoke to something in my mind as a child. Echoes of Sir Small, perhaps? Again, here is a character that wants to do the right thing, even if he can't see what it is at first. Most embarrassingly for a Chinese man of the time period Mulan is set, it takes a girl to show him the way. But he's okay with it!
11: The Tick, The Tick Franchise
The Tick is a superhero with no memory of who he really is, only a desire to do right and defend The City (what city? Who knows!). He meets the mild mannered Arthur Everest and makes him his sidekick for his wacky adventures around the city, making corny speeches and fouling the plans of supervillains, usually by sheer dumb luck.
The Tick was not a huge part of my growing up years. I was aware of him, sure, my Dad was a huge fan, but, like Samurai Jack (see number 7 on this list) I didn't understand him until adulthood. I still consider him a "guy" character, but one I can get along with, as the Tick so strongly attached to doing doing the right thing no matter what.
10: Tie- Silverbolt from Beast Wars Transformers and Optimus Prime from Transformers Animated
When I was a kid, I enjoyed watching the Transformers series available. The stories and characters were often more interesting than more "girlish" fare. My favorite heroes, were again the guys who did what was right no matter what, even if it meant danger or if it wasn't the "smart" thing to do. Silverbolt, in particular was the victim of the "it's the right thing to do, even if it's not smart" mentality. He let his heightened sense of honor and heart lead him, especially when it came to his beloved Blackarachnia. If she was in any sort of danger, he would charge headlong into the fray to her rescue, with some sort of corny speech on his lips.
Optimus Prime is a favorite of mine no matter what version of the show (well, not Micheal Bay's version, that was just a mess) but as he's portrayed in "Transformers Animated" is my favorite version. Optimus is young, not the experienced commander that appears in other shows, trying to find his feet and balance the needs of his team with his own code of ethics. He believes strongly in the right of all to be free of tyranny, and will defend that right to the death.
9: Martin the Warrior, from Brian Jacques' Redwall series
Everyone who knows me well knows that I love the Redwall novels by Brian Jacques. I have literally read them all, own them all, and have memorized a few of the poems and songs in the series. But by far, my favorite novel in the series is "Martin the Warrior" which is I believe the sixth novel in the series. It tells the story of Martin, the mouse who would go on to found Redwall Abbey, his friendships, and his battle with the wicked stoat Badrang the Tyrant. Martin never sets out to be a big hero. All he really wants is to avenge the death of his clan at the hands of the Stoat, but he ends up leading a revolution against a a great evil. From Martin and his friends, I learned that no one is too small to fight against injustice. I also learned that I should never read this book in public, I always end up bawling at the end.
8: Peter and Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia
The Pevensie brothers made a huge impact on me. Starting out as ordinary British boys, the two find their own courage fighting for Narnia and learn to rely on Aslan for the wisdom to be good kings. Contrary to the movie version of Prince Caspian, neither brother ever gives up hope in Aslan's power to help them, even as adults. Quite frankly, I'm glad Disney never got to The Last Battle, they would've ruined it completely. Anyway, the Pevensie boys have taught generations of children what heroic faith looks like the face of impossibilities, and for that, we are grateful.
7: Samurai Jack, from Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack
Action series Samurai Jack is one I didn't see much of as a kid (It was on too late at night, LOL. I also didn't understand it) but I came to enjoy it as an adult. The show tells the story of The Prince, AKA Samurai Jack, who wanders the world after being thrown into the distant future, seeking a way to end the menace of Aku, a shape-shifting wizard. Jack's code of honor precludes him from letting anyone suffer, even in the name of escaping the dystopia Aku created. Again, noble, but perhaps not the smartest strategy. Jack also avoids ever taking life. He will fight, but he will not kill. This rule is broken in the Season 5 miniseries when Jack is forced to kill insane cultists known as the Daughters of Aku. Only one, Ashi, survives (most of them fall to their deaths, so everyone's aware). Ashi becomes Jack's partner in battle, then girlfriend in the remainder of the series. The action of shedding human blood affects Jack deeply, almost driving him to suicide and insanity, this is deeply impactful in this environment that treats human life as disposable.
6: Thor Odinson from Marvel's Thor and Avengers series, and Vincent Wells, from Beauty and the Beast (1987)
But T.K., you say, these characters don't belong together, you say. In my mind however, these two are inseparable, because together they were my muses for King Llew, one of my favorite heroes to write.
Thor Odinson is of course the Mighty Avenger wielding the hammer Mjolnir. In the first Thor movie, I was enthralled by the story of Thor, stripped of his powers and sent to earth, finding redemption through the love of Jane Foster. His endearing misunderstanding of Earth customs, old fashioned manners, chivalry, and flowery way of speaking (before he adapts to earth vernacular, which was equally great) were extremely inspirational for my character of King Llew. Like Thor, Llew is sent away from his kingdom to learn about humility and how to be a good king.
Vincent Wells, the "Beast" of the 1987 TV series is mostly here for aesthetics. In the course of learning humility, Llew is cursed to have the form of a beast. My brother and I chose Vincent (played with pathos and power by Ron Perlman) to be the muse for Llew's beast form. From there Vincent's chivalry, kindness, and honesty influenced both Llew, and another character, Bjorn Carrson, an ogre who serves the elf-king.
5: Tomodata, from the Story of Aoyagi/The Story of Green Willow
In the folk tale The Story of Aoyagi/Green Willow, we meet a young samurai named Tomodata, in the service of the Lord of Noto. Tomodata was sent on a mission to the Daimyo of Kyoto, but on his way, he was lost in a terrible storm. Seeking shelter in a peasant's hut he finds their daughter Aoyagi (which Ms. James rendered in English as Green Willow. Lafacdio Hearn records that this is the meaning of the name Aoyagi.) who is both beautiful and clever and seeks to make her his bride. With the assent of her parents, who had worried for her safety after their deaths, Tomodata takes Aoyagi with him to Kyoto, where they are married after some little difficulty. Throughout all of this Tomodata takes the utmost care of Aoyagi, seeking only her comfort in the matters set before him. He loves her more than life and is willing to fight even his superiors for her.
This story spawned a whole section of Avalon stories. Aoyagi and Tomodata both appear and become allies of the great heroine Mulan herself, all three fighting for their world and laying the darkness around them low.
4: Sir Gawain, from the Myths of King Arthur
Sir Gawain of the Orkneys was my favorite Knight of the Round Table. Lancelot? Psh. What a drama-king! Gawain, with his flaws so similar to mine was a bit more like it. Gawain is Arthur's nephew, from his half-sister who is recorded by various names, but most often as Morgause or Anna. Gawain's most famous adventure was that of the Green Knight, where he fought a giant of a man (believed by some to be the forest spirit the Green Man or perhaps Cernunnos) and then was given a quest to follow by him. After overcoming all the obstacles in his path, Gawain is rewarded for his valor and chivalry. His other most famous solo adventure is his marriage to the Loathly Lady... but that's a story for another blog!
3: Robin Hood, from British Legends
Robert of Locksley, was a British nobleman known in folklore for his generosity to the poor. An archer without peer, Robert, better known as Robin, used his skill to defend the weak and take money unjustly gotten and return it to the poor. With his band of Merry Men around him and his equally skilled Lady Marian at his side he became the legendary outlaw Robin Hood.
I was introduced to Robin though the animated Disney Classic. After Aladdin, it was my favorite Disney movie. I can still remember drafts of dialogue and songs from the movie, I watched it so much. When I was much older, I watched what I believe to be the ultimate version put to film, the 1936 extravaganza starring Errol Flynn. Now, Flynn was a notorious womanizer, not at all the wholesome, dashing figure that comes across on the screen. But you don't watch this movie for the man in the tights- you watch for the chivalrous character of Robin Hood.
2: Odd Thomas, from Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas Novels
Odd Thomas is an ordinary fellow. A wholesome hometown boy, yes siree! Except he can see dead people. Odd Thomas can see ghosts, the spirits of those who died violent deaths or died with unfinished business on their souls that keeps them from moving on. Odd lives his life solving crimes by following the ghosts to their destinations, (for instance the site of their death or to their murderer) and courting the marvelous Stormy Llewellyn. One day, a man allied with a satanic cult comes to Odd's hometown, surrounded with evil spirits called Bodachs, who only arrive when a great evil is about to happen. Odd makes it his mission to stop whatever evil is about to happen to his beloved town, which he does... but looses his Stormy.
Odd is a fairly new addition to this list, as I only met him about a year ago. Odd doesn't want to be a big hero. He wants to be normal! But he can't. He was given a gift, and he has to use it. The ghosts that he encounters take care of their special human as best they can, especially his sidekick, the spirit of Elvis Presley. Yes, I'm serious. Though their care, we as the audience also sympathize with Odd and his quest to right the wrongs around him.
1: Aragorn and Frodo Baggins, from The Lord of the Rings.
Frodo didn't ask for any of this. He didn't make a wish on his birthday candles to be the hero of a big quest. But there he was, and he had to do what was right. So armed as he was with nothing but his simple hobbit heart and a group of loyal companions, he set out to destroy the great evil of the One Ring.
Aragorn has a destiny. He is the rightful king of Gondor, and must defend his land from the evil of Sauron. To do that he must safeguard a young hobbit and get him to Mordor so he can destroy the Ring. It means danger, it could mean death. But he does it anyway... because that's what a king does.
I'm T.K. Wilson, Read my blog for great information and stories about dolls, toy restoration, Christian Fantasy and so much more! Blog updates Fridays.