The Attributes of a Hero

I’m planning to create a Gallery of Heroes for the main Hero Workshop website.  Each page would be a short background, photo, set of links, and the attributes the hero is known for.  By attributes, I mean heroic traits, such as courage, integrity, respect etc.  Once up and running visitors will be able to rate the hero on each of those traits and the gallery could be searchable for the heroes with the greatest courage etc.  This essentially would be a library of heroes.

My question for you readers is: What attributes should I be putting into the list of heroic traits?  Please let me know in the comments.

26 Responses to The Attributes of a Hero

  1. Charles Leibrand October 24, 2006 at 2:52 pm #

    Wow, that’s a tough one. At first I was going to say character or one’s ability to stay true to a core set of values, on second thought however that seems way too broad. For example Adolph Hitler had a very specific character and a core set of values that he certainly stated true to, but I would not want to call him a hero. Though there are those who might. I would personally consider him an anti-hero. So what really needs to be done is for me to define what those values and character traits are that I would consider heroic. Filter out the ones that might be biased or skewed due to my own cultural and social perceptions, then see what’s left. At that point I have come up my universal set of character traits for heroism. Then I can rank them in order of importance. You had a post earlier that touch on this somewhat. I’ll think on it and get back to you. The idea is a great one though, especially for showcasing heroes who might not be well known or the more mundane heroes who are in every walk of life.


  2. Charles Leibrand October 25, 2006 at 2:53 pm #

    Heroism is more character then actions. I believe that it is the character of a person that is heroic; the actions are the direct result of choices that are made within that framework of character. Choice is really the important element. What separates humans from animals is that that humans can choose to act in ways that are contrary to their nature. Animals can not do this; they can only act in accordance with how nature has programmed them.
    There was a recent post about Michael A. Monsoor, a navy seal who threw himself on a grenade ending his life but saving the lives of three of his teammates. What made him do this? I can not speak for him, but I do belive that what he did was a volitional choice. He choose to risk the posiblity of losing his life to save those of his friends. At first we might be inclined to call this a sacrifce, I however don’t belive that it was. Mr. Monsoor made a chocie that he valued the lives of his friends more then he valued his own. This choice was made insentanously, the way that he valued human life made the choice simple for him. It was objective, reasoned and so ingrained in to his nature that it was almost automatic.
    Does that mean that one has to give up his own life to be a hero. No, but I do think that placing greater value in the lives of others over your own is a key element. Single mothers who work two jobs and choose not have things like dates, hair do’s and jewlery so that their children may have things instead are also making value choices. When a whistle blower in a job environment chooses to expose the imoral behavior of magagment, he too has made a value choice. He is risking a empolyment and shunning for the beterment of his fellow empolyees.
    You might say what about bravery or humility? These come after the fact. You first have to make that value choice, then have determination to carry it out. You have to have the courage to accept the consequnces of those actions. The perservence to contine in the face of difficulty. What comes first though is the volitional choice.
    That is what makes the Michael’s, Megan’s and Eric’s of the world heros.
    It is the yardsitck by which they should be measured. One capcity to choose others over himself.


  3. Matt Langdon October 25, 2006 at 3:50 pm #

    I like your comment that the actions are a result of the heroism inside – not the reason for the label of hero. I agree wholeheartedly.

    So, what characteristics do we have to play with? I see courage/bravery, humility, perseverance, risk-taking, sacrifice. I gave it some thought today. I came up with caring, integrity, achievement. What are we missing?

  4. writerchick October 25, 2006 at 8:27 pm #

    I would add to the list – selflessness, dedication to the greater good rather than self-interest, motivated to help others.

  5. Matt Langdon October 25, 2006 at 8:35 pm #

    Selflessness – I like it. It’s a fun word to say too. So we have nine attributes. Can we get ten?

  6. Lindsey Halcrow October 26, 2006 at 12:11 am #

    Hi Matt,
    When thinking about my own heroes, they have all had the qualities of loyalty and dependibility. They were also trustworthy, supportive of others goals, and optimistic. They have a positive attitude about life and live in a way that inspires others to improve their own lives. My heroes are also patient and tolerant of the ideas and culture of others. They are slow to condemn and willing to forgive.

  7. Matt Langdon October 26, 2006 at 10:09 am #

    What a great set of attribute Lindsey. Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading. I’m going to have quite a task working out which ones to use. I think trustworthy is involved in integrity. Optimistic is interesting – I wonder if that’s a universal attribute or one you look at because you’re so positive in your life.

    Again, thanks for posting – I’d love to see your thoughts more often.

  8. Charles Leibrand October 27, 2006 at 12:01 pm #

    I think that selflessness is an important one and should be near the top of the list. That’s what I was trying to get in my second comment but I did not articulate it well. The odd thing is that word “selflessness” for me implies that your not getting anything of value back, that the heroic act is pure altruism. That doesn’t work to well for myself personally because I don’t believe in altruism. The heroic act for me stems from a basic value judgment, that what you’re trying to accomplish from the heroism has a greater value then if you did nothing. Or in a more basic view putting others first has a greater value, and therefore reward, then putting you first. This is what in my mind makes it simple decision for guys to throw themselves on grenades, little girls to ask to shoot first and single moms to give up niceties so that their children have a better life. Of course for this concept to work you have to have an ethos or value set that places others before yourself.


  9. Matt Langdon October 27, 2006 at 2:42 pm #

    This is what I have so far. I’m working on a template for the Gallery of Heroes. Achievement, Caring, Courage, Faith, Humility, Integrity, Perseverance, Risk-Taking, Selflessness, Tolerance, Wisdom. That’s 11, which is a strange number. I’m not sure if that matters. What about Leadership? Or is that a combination of the above things? What about Vision?

  10. Althoff November 2, 2006 at 1:31 pm #

    I do like the idea of vision because without vision, we will go nowhere. A vision is a key stepping stone in becoming a hero. Maybe humbleness is needed in being a hero. Heroes do not spout off about all the good they’ve done, but rather heroes take everything in stride and help others and themselves without needing praise for what they’ve done.

    This might be a stretch, but I would be willing to say that most heroes, if not all, have a sense of camaraderie with others. Heroes are unbiased, willing creatures and are able to form that bond, no matter what differences are between them and others.

  11. Anonymous June 21, 2007 at 1:41 am #

    hey do u have Gandhi in the list of your heroes???

  12. Matt Langdon June 21, 2007 at 12:46 pm #

    I do indeed. You can check it out yourself.

  13. JZ September 18, 2007 at 1:12 pm #

    I think M.Teresa is the coolest

  14. Crystal October 18, 2007 at 8:26 pm #

    I found a list of heroic attributes on one site (not sure which), but this is what it included: sacrifice, determination, loyalty, courage, dedication, intrepidity, selflessness, conviction, focused, perserverance, bravery, humility, and tolerance.

  15. Crystal October 25, 2007 at 6:05 pm #

    Thanks peoples! I totally just found this site and needed som attributes for a term paper. As far as i can tell, you guys are my heroes!! In my class we also lisred pluck or pluckiness as an attribute. Thanks again!

  16. someone special December 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    thanks !!!!!!!!!!! i needed ehroic trates for a paper i have to do and this totally helped thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. jon January 28, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    Haha me too!!
    I had to choose 3 so I chose courageous, persevering, and selfless.

  18. Anonymous June 26, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    I have to write an essay where I have to pick six heroic traits. Then, I have to compare/contrast to Greek heroes/heroines and explain whether they had the characteristic or not. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas! It really helped me create a nice list to choose from.

  19. Matt Langdon June 26, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    Thanks for the comment. I’d love to hear what you came up with.

  20. Kidsa-Led Book September 11, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    I think Jesus rocks!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Conner November 3, 2008 at 8:26 pm #

    thanks i had to do a paper and your points helped me a lot and it really got me thinking about heroes

  22. Danielle May 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    i think it depends on what kind of hero your looking for. i like to think that a hero is just an ordinary person who thinks of others before themselves. but a hero isn’t necessarily just someone who jumps in front of a bus to save a perfect stranger. it’s the counsler who noticed the young girl with scars on her wrists and did something about it. it’s the teacher who saved the boy from the life of a gang member simply by believing he was capable of more. truth is, we can all be heroes, but most of us choose to do nothing because we think watching is safer than doing something about it.

  23. Matt Langdon May 16, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    Your last point is so accurate. Thanks for the comment. I agree completely.

  24. Jerry July 12, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    Archetypal hero (be sure to check Joseph Campbell)

    king or “prince in disguise”
    physically attractive, confident
    wears symbols that others recognize
    lives in a utopia to be defended or a dystopia to be restored
    ventures far from home (journey)
    names his weapon and/or horse
    wise and resourceful, often without knowing it
    abandoned, exiled, or left alone at some point
    has a teacher, mentor, or advisor
    faces extraordinary foes or opposition
    battles beasts, monsters, evil men, or forces of nature
    contests dark magic or superior brute strength or numbers
    feels fear
    remains steadfast
    grows, matures, or changes during this time
    saves a society or kingdom
    rescues a fair maiden
    returns with riches or glory (or a boon)
    may not be happy at the end (disillusioned)
    has followers
    is a great man, the finest values of the culture
    never loses his humanity (has flaws)
    represents good in “good vs. evil” theme
    femal characters may include an enchantress or temptress and also an idealized heroine
    other characters are folkloric or stereotyped
    fire-breathing dragons often involved

    I’d teach these characteristics to my middle school kids and then we’d evaluate which characteristic did or did not fit a character. Examples included King Arthur, Will Kane in “High Noon,” Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars series, Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun.”

    It was fun to have them spot the dragons. For example, there’s the train in “High Noon,” and the jet in “Top Gun.”

    The Eragon series fits this nicely, as does Harry Potter. Watch for the things that don’t fit as identifying the character and making the story fresh. Will Kane is NOT young anymore, for example. Mrs. Pollifax breaks many archetypes.

    There are also many other types of heroes, such as the reluctant hero, the self-sacrificing hero (Prometheus), the ordinary guy (Who, me, Jack Ryan?) as hero.

    Hope this helps.

  25. Matt Langdon July 12, 2009 at 9:07 pm #

    Thanks Jerry. That’s a lot of what I try to inspire in the workshop. My hope is teachers follow up some of the ideas you shared here after I leave.

  26. Sarah October 4, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Thanks for the heroic traites, I have to write a paper that involves beowulf, sir gwain and then a “hero” of our choice. This site helped alot.