NOTE: This was originally published on a site that I wrote for back in 2018 that is now defunct. It was part of a series where I took a look at the characters in fiction that could help people in general. I have expanded this idea into the Sherpa Method and it is now more focused on the relationship between author and reader, but this was the start.
For days now, I have been thinking about how to use literature, and especially heroic tales like many fantasy novels center around, in your personal life. Before you go into to a frenzy about “How dare you tell me how think about the books I read?”, I am not doing it. I simply saying how I used it to help myself.
Let me set the stage. A few months ago, I started to have sever issues with anxiety and a lack of purpose in my life. I have always been a bit of an anxious guy, ever since at the age of 1 and a half I burnt my right hand severely. I hadn’t connected that event to my anxiety before because I couldn’t remember it at all, but after having some cognitive therapy and talking about what might be behind my anxiety, it became clear to me that this event had marked me more than I realized and this got me thinking; what things in my life could have been different if I started to act like the heroes in the stories that I loved. Not literally of course, because there are very few volcanoes in my area to throw rings into, nor do I own a key to hell that I need to stop the end of the world. For those who have not read The Red Queen’s War, do and you will get that reference.
As I grew up I loved the stories of the Norse gods and stories of various heroes, but I did not manage to connect it to my behavior. It didn’t inspire me to actions but inspired my need to write my own stories. I do believe that it was almost a subconscious need for me to set what I wanted in the world into actions and I do believe that reading and writing are not just purely escapism. We read and write to make sense of the world and to see what consequences certain actions have on the real world. It isn’t to escape the world, but to manage our expectations. This is why heroes that become stereotypical might bore some people and not others. Some see those heroes as interesting because they may not have had the need to address those issues in their lives, or they are just entertained by getting what they expect. I am not saying that all reading, writing or watching of heroes are to learn actions, but I do believe that this fact has been forgotten in a lot of analysis of movies, books and games.
Now games are particularly interesting in this area as the gamer often becomes both author and observer. This is why the hardcore gamers often like games that challenge them or give them something new. It is fun to explore one’s own actions in a world that is relatively safe and where the consequences of actions do not affect others than yourself. You get to be the hero that explores the actions and its consequences, but you also get to be the observer of the hero from the comfort of your own home. This can of course lead to too much questing in a virtual world and not enough on the outside world, but it is a good way of testing out actions.
One of the greatest venues for this type of work, is science fiction and fantasy in my eyes. I am not saying that social realism, crime fiction or other genres do not have a value and cannot have heroes, of course they do, but the two genres often associated with geeks and nerds, are some of the few where everything can be explored. No theme is too small or too big for science fiction and fantasy, and it should not be ignored in the exploration of ideas or of heroes.
I plan now to analyze some heroes that I love and place them into psychological picture, but that will be several blog posts. If anyone has any ideas of what heroes I should cover, please let me know down below in the comments section or contact me on Twitter