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What Are the Different Types of Mythology Heroes?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Different types of mythology heroes are often based on a number of common traits and attributes, and have largely become archetypes for modern stories about heroes. Many heroes that can be found in various myths are immortal or partially immortal due to some divine origin or parentage. There are also a number of mythological heroes that are not immortal. These mortal heroes are often powerful or wise kings, though there are a number of stories in which the hero is aided by others in some way. Many mythology heroes have some type of flaw or tragic failing that simultaneously enhances their heroism and leads to their downfall.

Mythology heroes are characters that appear in a wide range of mythological systems, who act in ways that are worthy of note or respect. These characters often overcome some type of evil or perform legendary acts that make them seem beyond the scope of human behavior. Many of these mythology heroes are gods or other immortal beings, usually the partially human offspring of gods or goddesses. While immortality in and of itself makes these characters remarkable, their actions usually enhance this status and can include the slaying of mythological beasts, rescuing or aiding mortals in some way, and defying tyrants.

There are many mythology heroes, however, that are neither immortal nor have divine parentage. These mortal heroes are often stronger, smarter, or otherwise superior to “normal” people and demonstrate this superiority through heroic acts that are beneficial to others. Such heroes are often seen in Norse mythology, in which kings and warriors are responsible for slaying terrible beasts and fighting in legendary wars and conflicts. These mythology heroes are often aided by others, either as a group of adventurers, such as Jason and the Argonauts of Greek mythology, or through possession of legendary artifacts like an enchanted sword.

Many mythology heroes suffer some type of flaw, often referred to as a tragic flaw, which allows these heroes to remain more “human.” Even immortal and supernatural heroes can have this type of flaw, which may ultimately be their undoing or at least provides conflict which they must overcome. Hubris, or an excessive amount of pride, is one of the most common tragic flaws for heroes, especially in Greek and Roman myths. This flaw often results in mythology heroes who help others and slay monsters, only to believe they are unstoppable and meet their end in a way that makes them more remarkable and serves to remind people that no one is invincible.

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Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Jul 05, 2012

@ankara-- I agree with you that Hindu heroes and deities appear to be much more superior than mere mortals. Mythological heroes of some other cultures like the Greeks appear to have more mortal-like characteristics. Although, both have some common ground, like having romantic partners and children, learning and fighting.

Technically though, all Hindu heroes, except for Brahman, are imperfect. They have to be because they are all avatars, or reincarnations of Brahman-- God. It is believed in Hinduism that all deities and heroes are born from Brahman, they are expressions of Brahman who is the ultimate and most perfect expression of God.

I didn't read the Vedas or any of the other Hindu scriptures. But I'm sure the flaws and mistakes of Hindu deities are mentioned in them.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 04, 2012

@ankara-- I guess so.

I don't know about all of the Greek heroes, but the one I know about-- Hercules (or Heracles)-- definitely had flaws. According to my book on Hercules, he was first a mortal but later became a god. Just like the Hercules shown in movies and cartoons, Hercules was very strong. He could beat and destroy any enemy.

But he was also careless, proud and sometimes unnecessarily violent. He made many mistakes because of these qualities but he also had many accomplishments.

I actually like that Hercules has flaws. I think that a mythological hero who can make mistakes like a human is a more realistic role model for people. It's hard to imagine a hero, whether human or deity, that is absolutely perfect.

By bluedolphin — On Jul 04, 2012

I guess Hindu mythological heroes are very different than Greek and Roman mythological heroes because Hindu heroes usually do not have any flaws. In contrast, Hindu heroes who are also deities and kings are perfect. It's their opposition, the demonic and evil deities who have flaws and they always lose in the end.

The one example I can think of right now is Lord Rama. I read about Rama when I read the English translation of Ramayana which is one of the most important epics of Hinduism. Rama is actually the son of a king. But unlike most kings, he doesn't seek the material life of the world. He prefers to live in exile for many years so that he can discipline himself and live virtuously.

He's not just the perfect human, but also the perfect husband and his wife is completely devoted to him because of his goodness. I guess Rama is the perfect mythological hero.

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