As it’s St George’s Day we thought we’d take a look at a few different kinds of heroes. History, folklore and fiction are filled with heroes who have made our hearts flutter with their romantic exploits. Here, we profile some of the best known and best loved.
Mr Darcy – Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Fitzwilliam Darcy is one of the central characters in Pride and Prejudice. He is portrayed as aloof and is seen as an unsympathetic character from protagonist Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view. This all changes, however, when a number of events are revealed to Elizabeth and she realises that Mr Darcy has gone out of his way to ease her distress when her younger sister runs off with Mr Wickham. In a survey conducted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, 1,900 women across the generations voted for Mr Darcy as the man they would most like to go on a date with.
Rhett Butler – Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The story tells of the exploits of Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. She has a tough time after she falls in love with a man, Ashley, who does not want to marry her. To spite him she accepts a proposal from another man. Her husband dies two months after they are married and it’s at this time she meets Rhett Butler, who is known for being a bit of rogue.
Because she is a widow, Scarlett is forced to wear black and avoid conversation with young men. Scarlett encounters Rhett again at a dance for the Confederacy. The men must bid for a dance with a lady and Rhett bids: ‘One hundred and fifty dollars in gold’ for a dance with Scarlett.
After troubles with a nearby battle, Scarlett asks for Rhett’s help. Eventually he abandons her to enlist in the army. They are reunited later on when Rhett asks Scarlett to marry him and they share a passionate kiss. This scene in the film adaptation of the book is one of the most famous in movie history…
Scarlett: If you think I’ll marry you to pay for the bonnet, I won’t.
Rhett Butler: Don’t flatter yourself. I’m not a marrying man.
Scarlett: Well, I won’t kiss you for it, either.
Rhett Butler: Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often. And by someone who knows how.
Romeo – Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
Despite the feud between their two families, Romeo and Juliet fall desperately in love after meeting at a party. Romeo does his best woo Juliet, despite the fact that their families say they can’t be together. He even shows up beneath her balcony one night with words of love.
Things don’t end well for the star-crossed lovers, however. When Romeo thinks that Juliet has killed herself because they can’t be together he commits suicide, unable to live without her. When Juliet wakes up with Romeo beside her she too kills herself. Shakespeare’s ultimate tragedy portrays Romeo’s love for Juliet as so deep he will do anything for her – and underlines this with the pathos of his simply not being able to face going on if he can’t be with her.
Prince Charming – Snow White – Fairy tale
Prince Charming is famous in a number of fairy tales, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and, of course, Snow White.
After learning that she was second fairest in the land to Snow White, a jealous queen orders her guards to take Snow White to the woods and kill her. They let her go, not wanting to murder an innocent girl.
Snow White stumbles about the house of the Seven Dwarves and lives there in secrecy. The Queen eventually finds out where she is and tricks her into eating a poison apple. It is Prince Charming who comes along to the save the day and his kiss awakens Snow White.
Westley – The Princess Bride -– William Goldman
Westley is a farm hand on the land where a beautiful young woman called Buttercup lives. She is always giving him chores to do and he typically replies with: ‘As you wish’. Eventually she realises that she returns his love and Westley sets off to make his fortune so they can get married. Along the way he is captured by Dread Pirate Roberts and Buttercup belives him to be dead. She becomes engaged to Prince Humperdinck.
Before she can get married, however, she is captured, only for a masked man to rescue her by fighting her captors. He claims he is Dread Pirate Roberts so she pushes him off a cliff saying: ‘You can die too, for all I care!’ As he falls he replies: ‘As you wish’. Buttercup realises it is Westley and, luckily, he is largely unhurt. They then have to work out how to get Buttercup out of her marriage to the Prince and face a number of obstacles along the way.
Jack Dawson – Titanic – Leonardo DiCaprio
Although Jack and Rose are members of different social classes – he is aboard the Titanic in third class (after he wins tickets in a poker game) and she is in first class – they fall in love.
Rose is distraught about her engagement to the rich and caddish Cal, who is also aboard the ship, and considers throwing herself off the boat. In true romantic fashion, it is Jack who stops her in one of the most famous scenes from the film.
Popeye – fiction
Popeye started off as a comic strip but also appeared on television and in a film. His love interest is Olive Oyl and he will do anything for her. They are caught in a love triangle of sorts with Bluto, who is always trying to steal Olive’s affections. Although Olive is not immune to Bluto’s charms, Popeye is always the one who rescues her from villains and solves crimes in order to impress her. Oh and of corse there are those famous pumping biceps.
Robin Hood – folklore
There’s a lot of history behind the story of Robin Hood, but even the earliest tales speak of how he robs from the rich and gives to the poor.
Maid Marian began to appear as his love interest in the 16th century but her role and heritage changes with each story told. More often than not she has disdain for Robin because of her aversion to robbery, but ultimately joins him and they fall in love.
In this sense, Robin Hood is the archetypal romantic hero – misunderstood but ultimately good.
Beast – Beauty and the Beast – Disney
A young woman, traditionally named Beauty in the early tales although she is Belle in the famous Disney film, is forced to live in a castle with a Beast after her father is imprisoned there.
Belle tries to escape, but she and her horse are attacked by wolves. Beast comes to the rescue and begins to develop romantic feelings for her. He allows her access to the castle’s library and they become friends.
After a heated battle with the jealous Gaston, who is also vying for Belle’s affections, Beast is stabbed. Belle comes to his aid, whispering that she loves him. In doing so the spell that turned him into a beast is broken and he returns to his human form with his wound healed.
Beast represents that other key fictional romantic hero – the one not blessed with good looks but with a heart of gold full of love.
Perseus – mythology
Perseus was the Greek hero who killed Medusa and claimed Andromeda after rescuing her from a sea monster sent by Poseidon.
Cassiopeia, Andromeda’s mother, claimed she was more beautiful than the Nereids, the nymph daughters of the sea god Nereus. Because of this boast, Poseidon sent a sea monster to ravage the coast of the kingdom belonging to the vain queen. The King sacrificed his daughter to the sea monster only for it to be slain by Perseus as he was coming back from defeating the Gorgon Medusa.
Perseus married Andromeda and had a number of sons. When Perseus died the goddess Athena placed Andromeda in the sky near to Perseus and her mother Cassiopeia. The constellations are named after all of them.
Do you think we’ve missed anyone out? Tell us in the comments.
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