Small heroes

"Smaug" | Art by OtisFrampton. Used with permission.
War stories are full of great men and women doing great deeds. They stand on the front lines and fight for what’s right and good. They are the heroes we expect to read about, the heroes whose lives we want to emulate. These are the Arthurs, the Aragorns, the Sarah Walkers, and the Harry Potters.

But there are also those heroes who are not considered great. They don’t have power and they’re not skilled fighters. To the world, they are “nobodies.” And yet, they are just as important, if not more so, than those great heroes. They carry the strength of simple, pure love, compassion, and humility. They fight for what’s right and good, too, but they do it behind the scenes when no one is watching, and they do it without expecting glory or praise. These are characters like Samwise Gamgee, Chuck Bartowski, Riza Hawkeye, the Doctor’s companions, Merlin, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood.

These are the heroes who stick with me because they tell me that I don’t have to be the most skilled, or the most brave.

My favourite example is Sam; how could it not be? There’s a moment in The Return of the King where all seems lost and Sam is alone. Frodo has been stung by Shelob and carried off by Orcs, and Sam has taken the Ring so he can continue the quest. As he looks for Frodo, Sam is tempted by the Ring. It shows him visions of himself as Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age; all he has to do is claim the Ring as his own and he can overthrow Sauron or command the valley of Gorgoroth to become a garden of flowers and trees.

Sam doesn’t give in. He thinks of his love for Frodo and his plain Hobbit-sense: “The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.”

There’s a failing that many villains have: they can’t conceive of the idea that a seemingly insignificant person can overthrow them and believe that only great heroes have enough power to be a threat.

The Ring’s attempt to tempt Sam don’t work because Sam doesn’t want its power. Instead, he sees the attempt as the trick it is; he knows that, if he were to put on the Ring, Sauron would spot him in an instant. But, the only thing the Ring can tempt Sam with is power because it can’t fathom the idea that he wouldn’t want it.

Villains want more power, and so they think that that’s what everyone else wants, too. They’re so intent on gaining more of it, and protecting what they have, that they’re blind to the “nobodies” sneaking up behind them. And so Frodo and Sam can walk all the way up to Mount Doom and drop the Ring in its fires because Sauron isn’t looking at them; he’s looking at Aragorn, a “true” hero, riding up to his gate with an army in tow.

They do it behind the scenes when no one is watching, and they do it without expecting glory or praise.

The reason small heroes succeed is because no one expects them (much like the Spanish Inquisition). Neville Longbottom spends most of his years at Hogwarts as a sub-par student, and yet when Harry, Ron, and Hermione are fighting Voldemort, the Sword of Gryffindor comes to him and he is the one to kill Nagini. There are Rose and Donna, a shop girl and a temp, who each save the Doctor on separate occasions. Or I think of Merlin, the lowly manservant, who hides his magic and acts the fool so he can protect his king.

I find encouragement in these characters. They have the qualities that I want for my own life: love for friends, compassion for others, and humility in everything they do (well, except for Donna). These are the heroes who stick with me because they tell me that I don’t have to be the most skilled, or the most brave. I can fight for what’s right and good to the best of my ability, and it’ll be enough.

Kyla Neufeld

Kyla Neufeld

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Kyla is a poet, writer, and editor living in Winnipeg. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Winnipeg and currently works as the Editor of the Rupert's Land News.
Kyla Neufeld

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