2012-09-30

Everybody Loves a Hero

Originally published in the Chris Achilleos album "Beauty and the Beast", Everybody Loves a Hero is a poetic essay about the nature of heroes. I first read it when I was about twelve years old, and I have come back to it over and over again. I believe that it was and is a cornerstone of my understanding of the nature of stories themselves – and the way that our culture creates stories out of people, and the way human beings make themselves into stories, and stories into themselves.

The album was published by Paper Tiger in 1978 and reprinted several times. It is now out of print. You can get a used copy from alibris. I am reproducing the essay below without authorization. If you are the copyright holder and object to my reproducing it here, please get in touch with me.


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The time is out of joint. Behold, the Hero comes to set the clock aright.
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Man lives forward,looks backward. The present is ever intolerable. Now—the moment of existence—full of pangs and passions. "Tomorrow will be better—like the good old days."
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From this contradiction, "the hero" arises: the hero is a model of the past bound to the present to create the future.
The hero is a paradigm of time.
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The hero is unique but not alien. He is singular not solitary. Even when abandoned and alone, shunned by his tribe, the hero cannot be solitary. For he contains the flower of his race and the seed of civilization within him. The hero is not primitive, he is primal. Think of Aeneas.
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The hero emerges from the barbarous to destroy the barbarous. The first steps of the hero are away from the primordial ooze whence his race took birth. Thus Beowulf destroys Grendel and Grendel's dam. With all the barbarity of his race Beowulf destroys the barbarity that bedevils that race.
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Beowulf fertilizes the ground with his victim's blood. The seed of civilization is sown. The seed is the action itself.
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The hero cannot act once and be done with it. He must act again and again and again. The hero is an incomplete verb.
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Beowulf slays the dragon but is slain himself. His tribe survives. He is dissolves in flames. This is the point of the hero: he is mortal. Everything that lives with him is by its very nature, the epitome of his race and its destiny. His action is that destiny. When his tasks are fulfilled, his energy is absorbed by the race and he must vanish. He becomes a withered limb on the tree of his tribe. A monument. The tribe moves forward. The hero remains.
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Heroes are always perceived in the past. There are no living heroes. The hero is a verb whose action is complete.
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The Greeks, who more than most generated heroes like sparks, considered that even for them, the age of heroes was dead.
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A courageous man who fights fiercely to defend his country is not a hero. He is a courageous man
A hero defends the spirit of his race, acts singly and by his own will. He is condemned to be a hero. He cannot be drafted from the factory floor.
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Gengis Khan built a city of skulls
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Heroes are not humanitarians. They are racialists. They dash the infant brains of their enemies on building blocks of their tribe.
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The hero is eccentric, abnormal. He cannot be submerged in the masses. His gravity makes him rise. The spirit of his tribe is the centre of his individuality.
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The hero has nothing to do with politics — just as politics has nothing to do with heroism.
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The hero works for the race and against the masses. The masses retard, are retarded. "Hero of the Soviet Union" is a contradiction in terms.
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Early heroes are confused with gods. "Great men have been amongst us: the gods walked in the market place ". This is quite natural. Gods are made in the image of man, heroes in the image of gods: Horus, Osiris, Quetzalcoatl.
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Later heroes are fully mature, their humanity greater and more moving that obscure godhead: Hector, King David, Cú Chulainn, Beowulf, Siegfried.
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Mature Heroes are mortals who die and are defied: Hercules, Castor and Pollux. King Arthur?
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Heroes are human because they seeks to be more than human.
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It would seem that all legendary heroes are derived from actual historical figures – even oldest of them, Gilgamesh.
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Heroes emerge when a tribe is menaced or menaces. Triumph alone determines the virtue of the cause.
Heroes respond to menace.
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A developing tribe needs menace. Menace hastens change.
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Heroes arose late. Racial identity was long coming in human history. There were cavemen genuises. There no caveman heroes.
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Genuinely primitive societies have no heroes. Heroes are a symptom of change, the assertion of tribal domination and demonstration of tribal superiority. By the time a hero appears, his tribe is already beyond the palisade of mere survival and brute simplicity. The hero is the Will of the tribe.
The hero is historian who make history.
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Who are the heroes of the Eskimos?
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Developed societies which resist changed are deficient in heroes – the Egyptians, for example.
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Heroes know nothing of morality. They deal with what-is. Heroic action is impossible in the face of justice. Whatever heroes do, is correct. Heroes personify that "might is right". The most interesting acts of heroism occur when two heroes— the spirits of two races—clash: Hector and Achilles. David and Goliath. History goes to the victor. Morality is the jewel the defeated display.
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Alexander the Great murdered his Father. Who cares? Alexander is a hero.
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Shakespeare describes Achilles as a cheat and a coward. Who cares? Achilles is a hero.
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Heroes are more then brute, they are brain. They incarnate Man's rise above animal. They are sly, wily, cunning. They are confidence men: they lie, bewilder, deceive. Ulysses. They must have their way, and so they make it.
Everything falls before the hero, or he is no hero. And we should not know his name.
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Force and violence are cake and custard to the hero. Trickery is a sugar plum.
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The hero cannot exist apart from the menace. When there is none, he will make some. If Fafner did not exist, Siegfried would invent him.
Cú Chulain did battle with the sea.
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The hero requires that the world be a poison planet. There is no need for heroes in the Land of Milk and Honey.
The hero carouses with demons.
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The hero chastens and hastens. He moves from birth to death in a smooth arc of terror, murder, deception and triumph. Out of his vice comes the virtue of his tribe.
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Men need heroes more than heroes need men.
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Societies in decay are bedevilled by heroes.
Third century Rome witnessed Emperors disguise themselves as Hercules, as if their mere appearance were not his 13th labour.
An obsession with heroes is the wound of spiritual and racial Eunuchism.
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Report on the 20th century:
Item 1:             Heroes abound on football fields and prove all men equal. They wear and advertize "Brut", sign contracts for $2 million, and have two children, central heating and an album of press cuttings. Their heads are stacked at Madame Tussaud's. They speak poor English.

Item 2:             Boy meets girl. Hero marries heroin.

2 comments:

Dan Hartigan said...

I came across this book when I was about the same age. I remember reading these passages and loving their frankness and paradoxes (especially the hero is/isn't a complete verb). I went through the attic the other day to find it again - I would have bought my own copy but they are, as you say, out of print, and I didn't have any luck online - and having re-read them, they take on new meaning and new significance for me. Report on the 20th Century, for example is (I think) more significant in the 21st Century than it was back then. Thank you for posting them up here. I know they were copyrighted by Lee Anders, but I'm not sure who the author is. I don't think it is Chris Achilleos, but it reads a lot like Michael Moorcock's work, who I think has his name mentioned somewhere in the book.

Harry Dewulf said...

I agree that it reads like Moorcock; I've always just assumed that it was Lee Anders who wrote it; Achilleos did a lot of illustrations for Moorcock though... maybe some kind soul will comment and confirm.

You can get a copy of the album from Alibris, here is a search.

The binding has become detached on my copy, so I'll probably replace it, and frame a few of the prints.