chapter  3
28 Pages

The Hero

WithFrederick Turner

Much has been well said about hero tales by Joseph Campbell, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and others. It remains to distinguish the special meaning given by epic to the archetypal features of the hero, and to point out the ways in which the epic hero perhaps differs from the hero in general. Epic is a second look at myth, from within the mythic world and language, but at the edge of it too as it gathers itself together, so to speak, for civilization, for philosophy, for more explicit psychological understandings, a more conscious and detailed view of history, more inclusive forms of political organization, and new codes of communication, recording, and commemoration. This is especially true of a very common plot element in the epic: the hero's strange birth and extraction. The extraction of Vyasa, the poet and one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, is also oddly similar. Mysterious births are everywhere in epic.