An epic was originally defined as a "long, narrative poem that recounts the deeds of a hero and represents the values of a particular civilization of culture"
Some of the greatest epics in history are;
The Odyssey - Attributed to Homer
The Iliad - Attributed to Homer
The Aeniad - Vergil
Epics, of course, have epic heroes in them. But an epic hero could also be in a story that isn't an epic.
Anyway, I was reading through the classifications that is needed for a character to be classed as an epic hero, and as I read through them all, one particular character of a series came to my mind; The Doctor from Doctor Who.
At the end of this unit study on epics, I had to choose one of five writing assignments. I chose number 4;
'Have you read any books or seen any movies that portray an epic hero? Write a paper telling how this hero fits some, or all, of the qualifications as an epic hero.'
Of course, Doctor Who is a series (although there is a movie and books!), but I figured that was close enough... anyway.. here's my essay (apologies for any spoilers etc. in the second to last paragraph [the one with 'The Eleventh Doctor' next to it] for those of you who haven't, but plan to, see Doctor Who.)
The Doctor: An Epic Hero
08 / August / 2012
What is an epic hero? He is not necessarily the main character of a story. Epic in the modern day society means large, or massive. In the early days of poetry, however, an epic was an extensive, narrative poem that recounted the deeds of a hero and represented the values of a civilization or culture. Being classified as an epic hero in these poems meant that he (or she) had to pass certain qualities:
- The epic hero is often of super-human origin
- The epic hero is favoured by the gods
- The epic hero performs super-human feats of strength and endurance
- The epic hero must have previously proven his courage in battle
- The epic hero is of national or universal importance and will hold the fate of a nation, civilization, or world in his hands
- The epic hero represents the values of his age (culture)
- The epic hero will usually take a journey to the underworld in order to accomplish his goal
|The First Doctor|
In BBC’s TV series, Doctor Who, The Doctor, who happens to be the main character, is an excellent example of a modern epic hero; he has mostly passed all of the above qualities. The Doctor, however, has not gone to the underworld, but he has gone to some pretty dangerous places to accomplish his goals!
|The Second Doctor|
|The Fourth Doctor|
|Dalek Invasion Fleet|
The ability to bear prolonged hardship: the ability or power to bear prolonged exertion, pain, or hardship2
To stop The Last Great Time War3, and the destruction of everything in the universe, The Doctor destroyed the ten million dalek ships. The explosions and burning resulted in the destruction of his own planet, Gallifrey, which was put into a ‘time lock’ – nobody could go in or out; it was frozen in time. For many years, he had to learn to live with the fact that he is the last Time Lord. The rest of his race was gone, however, because of that one act. While he may have felt torn, he knows that what he did was necessary. Thus, the obviously has the ability to bear prolonged hardship. This also shows another quality that the Doctor has, which portrays him as an epic hero; the feature to have courage in battle. Performing the act of destroying his whole race, his family, to end a war shows that The Doctor must, indeed, have an enormous amount of courage.
In nearly every episode, or series of episodes, of this fantastic television show, The Doctor saves:
- The Earth
- An alien species
- Another planet
- A combination of two or more from the options above
|The Sixth Doctor|
Thus, he shows another feature of an epic hero; they are of national or universal importance, and hold the fate of a nation, civilization, or world in their hands. When he protects the humans and/or aliens, he is defending their nation(s) and/or their civilization(s). The Doctor holds the fate of entire planets in his hand, and he protects them, showing that he does, indeed, have this quality of an epic hero.
|The Tenth Doctor|
An epic hero represents the value of his age.
The hero must represent the culture he has come from, in the Doctor’s case, Gallifrey, the home of the Time Lords. This ancient race values knowledge, they must have knowledge in order to keep time and space in order. Constantly learning, The Doctor, in all of his adventures, keeps this value true.
|The Eleventh Doctor|
Although The Doctor has not gone into ‘The Underworld’, in one of the latest Doctor’s episodes he does go into a time crack in order to save the universe. Doing this act meant that he wiped himself from history. He never existed. Because this is not a desirable place to be, this can, in a way, represent The Underworld. By going through the crack, he accomplished his goal; he prevented the destruction of everything that ever existed and everything that ever will.
|The Doctor's Time Machine|
Time And Relative Dimensions In Space
The Doctor passes every trait that he needs to be an epic hero. He is a super-human, and the favoured one at that. While he defends the world, he is practicing his endurance to live with the loss of his species. He has proved his bravery. Representing the values of his age, he is constantly learning and working to save mankind. To accomplish his goal, saving the universe, he went through a time crack, which wipes him from existence. He has therefore shown every one of the nine characteristics he needs. Truly, The Doctor is an epic hero!
1 Wikipedia – Superhuman - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super-human
2 Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 – Encarta Dictionary Tools - Endurance
|A Time Lord On Gallifrey|