Men of Krateness. No room for Mauiui. Enemies will Beo bought to their Hercuknees.
The hero myth is a classic arc that can be found within any culture. It is typically marked by a great warrior, frequently of demi-god status, who completes almost impossible tasks to gain fame and revere. Often times, to my delight, they are involved in, how should I say, crack up as sexual encounters. A perfect example of heroic prowess is the man who gave us our name, Maui-tiki-a-taranga. He is joined by some big names like Hercules, and also by equally hearty, yet perhaps lesser known names: Kratos and Beowulf (just to name a few of my favourites). We'll soon see that these heroes all share several characteristics but they also differ in some interesting ways.
The hero myth can be explained to a large degree within the concept of the 'mono-myth'. In several narratives, the mono-myth, or 'the hero's journey' is a template that 'involves a hero going on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed'. I won't go into too much details as I'm sure I could put each of the aforementioned heroes within this template somewhat, but a simple compare and contrast will do just fine I think.
Maui is a demi-god in Maori myth. He is the child of Makea-tu-tara and Taranga. He is also a direct descendant of Tumatauenga. Maui was the youngest son and was a pretty cheeky fulla with a lot of confidence. His life was riddled with crazy feats from a young age such as when he fished up the country that we now live on. He captured the great ball of fire that gives us light and ordered it to slow down so that we could munch for longer and get that extra much needed mahi in before coming home to the tamariki.
Beowulf is a heroic genius of equal prominence in old literature. His tales originate from only one source, a poem, which is commonly cited as one of the most important works of old English literature. He achieved feats of bravery and courage such as his 3 day swimming contest with his childhood friend Breca. It is unclear who won this race but according to Beowulf they were shoulder to shoulder, however, Beowulf had slain nine sea monsters which is the equivalent of a modern-day points differential giving Beowulf the win. Beowulf also, later in life, slayed three titanic creatures in Grendel, a mammoth like troll-esque creature, Grendel's mother; a serpent-like gorgon-esque reptile and a flying dinosaur-like dragon-esque beast. These descriptions haven't been confirmed.
Hercules is by far the most well known of these GCs and almost needs no introduction. The son of Zeus himself. His 12 tasks involved slaying several man eating beasts like the lion, the harpies and the hydra. He diverted a river to clean the stables of a king who I'm guessing had a horse for all the blades of grass in China, as the saying goes. Other feats that, to his credit, weren't only tests of strength but of cunning as well. Hercules has many characteristics to which artists in history have been able to pick and choose how to portray him, which they have done (for all the art history fans), making for some amazing pieces.
Kratos, I'd say is the least well known of the heroes mentioned. He is present in Greek mythology but only very briefly. He is one of the brothers that tied up a man called Prometheus (Prometheus being the one who bought fire to humans according to Greek mythology). Kratos is better known for the part he plays as the protagonist of a popular game franchise on Playstation called God of War. What the writers did was combine a lot of feats achieved by several players in Greek myth (including Prometheus himself interestingly) and culminated them into one super badass hero. Also for those that know the story of Maui as the one who brings fire to humans in Maori myth, it's quite a cool link. He defeats the hydra, and other nameless beasts, and kills several gods and titans.
The most obvious similarity that these dudes share is the monumental heroic feats that they each achieve and the confidence to achieve these tasks. Hercules has his 12 tasks such as the man eating lion, diverting the river to clean the kings' stables, capturing the bull, and stealing the apple (without detailing all of them). Kratos has his feats too. He kills titans and gods, the hydra, sieges village after village and kills several gorgons. Beowulf's tasks although small in number are not small in manner of epic. He defeats the troll Grendel and his mother, plus kills a dragon. Maui equally courageous, fishes up the north island that millions of people now call home, he captures and slows the sun which as we know it could fit 1.3 million earths into it and then ventures into the underworld and back. Not to understate these, because no one can scoff at just how insane these guys were, but again as I've said the intrigue comes in how they differ.
Hercules and Kratos share a similarity of a much darker nature than the aforementioned heroisms; the murderous demise of their families at their own hands. Hercules and Kratos were deceived into killing their wife and kids, which lead to a motivation of repentance and revenge, respectively. From the words of the late great philosopher Ben Parker or 'Uncle Ben' as he's more formally known, "with great power comes great responsibility". It's crazy to see how markedly different power can be expressed. Hercules' suffering lead him to accomplish feats he may have never achieved otherwise and to cause his name to be carved in stone for eternity. Kratos' sadness on the other hand lead him to murder unquantifiable innocent and guilty victims, leading him further into despair. Bloodshed only begets more bloodshed right.
Of the differences, the most apparent seems that Beowulf is the only one of purely human blood yet his feats are still comparable, making him perhaps the most impressive. Kratos, Hercules and Maui all share the blood of a god, so to some extent their heroic experiences can be explained. Having said this, I want it on record that I'm not trying to downplay their achievements at all, only trying to build up Beowulf's ever so slightly.
Kratos' story takes on a completely different vibe from the rest of them in that he doesn't necessarily perform all of his heroic acts with altruistic intention. He is strongly motivated by vengeance meaning his feats have a very dark feel to them, so much so, he can be considered an archetypal anti-hero. An anti-hero shares many of the same characteristics of a hero but often lacks several key heroic attributes especially regarding both intentions and methods, to which Kratos can definitely relate to. Most notable is his motivation to exact revenge rather than for a quest for fame, or rescue. Although he does help Athena defend her city and help Zeus/the titans in their side of the war (arguable helping behaviour), he is motivated by vengeance. First vengeance for his dead family and then for somewhat of a self-defensive type vengeance for those trying to smite him.
All in all, the heroic story is one that makes for a good read/watch/play. It can be seen in all forms of entertainment and art, and I thoroughly advise becoming more acquainted. I could have spoken about others that, to be fair, could have provided content for an extra couple thousand more words, just mentioning the colossal names of Moses and Jesus makes me shudder, and I wish I had the room. Who knows, maybe in the next installment....
Who is your favorite? Have you seen/played/read about the heroes that we discussed in this article? Give us your thoughts!!