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A folk hero or national hero is a type of hero–real, fictional or mythological–with the sole salient characteristic being the imprinting of his or her name, personality and deeds in the popular consciousness of a people. This presence in the popular consciousness is evidenced by its historical frequency in folk songs, folk tales and other folklore; and its modern trope status in literature, art and films.

Joan of Arc depicted on horseback in an illustration from a 1505 manuscript. The martyr and saint Joan of Arc is a national hero in France
Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of Italy's "fathers of the fatherland"
Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo
Statue of Pier Gerlofs Donia, a Frisian folk hero

Although some folk heroes are historical public figures, many are not. The lives of folk heroes are generally fictional, their characteristics and deeds often exaggerated to mythic proportions.

The folk hero often begins life as a normal person, but is transformed into someone extraordinary by significant life events, often in response to social injustice, and sometimes in response to natural disasters.

One major category of folk hero is the defender of the common people against the oppression or corruption of the established power structure. Members of this category of folk hero often, but not necessarily, live outside the law in some way.

Contents

Historically documented folk heroesEdit

Possibly apocryphal folk heroesEdit

  • King Arthur – Britain, legendary British warlord.
  • Cúchulainn – Ireland, folk legend and the pre-eminent hero of Ulaid in the Ulster Cycle.
  • Till Eulenspiegel or Tijl Uilenspiegel – Germany and the Low Countries, trickster and jester.
  • Fionn mac Cumhaill – Ireland, warrior, leader of the Fianna. Primary figure in the Oisin cycle.
  • Fong Sai-Yuk - China, martial arts folk hero.
  • Grettir the StrongIcelandic outlaw.
  • John Henry – United States, mighty steel-driving African-American.
  • Hercules – Greece, strongman and demigod.
  • Homer – poet credited as the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey.
  • Robin Hood – England, outlaw usually associated with the motto "Steal from the rich, give to the poor".
  • Hua Mulan – China, heroine who disguised herself as a man in order to join an army.
  • Hung Hei-Gun – China, martial arts folk hero.
  • Merlin – Britain, the greatest Mage ever existed, it's unknown if he was real and if he was an alchemister or a priest.
  • Nai Khanom Tom – Thailand, master of Muay Thai.
  • Nasreddin Hodja – Seljuk Empire, Muslim philosopher and wise man.
  • Miloš Obilić – Serbian knight, assassin of Ottoman sultan Murad I.
  • Odysseus – Greece, legendary king of Ithaca.
  • Ragnar Lodbrok or Ragnar Lothbrok – Sweden and Denmark, legendary Viking king.
  • Rummu Jüri – Estonia, outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor.
  • Siegfried – Germany, the legendary dragon-slaying hero in Nibelungenlied.
  • William Tell – Switzerland, hunter began the rebellion against the Austrians.
  • Twm Siôn Cati – Wales, robber and trickster nicknamed the Welsh Wizard.

Folk heroes known to be fictionalEdit

  • Beowulf – Scandinavia, legendary Geatish hero later turned king
  • Pecos Bill – United States, giant cowboy who "tamed the Wild West"
  • Paul Bunyan – United States, giant lumberjack of the North Woods
  • Febold Feboldson – United States, farmer who could fight a drought
  • Martín Fierro – Argentina, hero of the eponymous poem by Jose Hernandez
  • Koba – Georgia, folk hero whose legend bears a resemblance to Robin Hood
  • Joe Magarac – United States, steelworker made of steel
  • Juan Bobo – Puerto Rico, trickster folk hero
  • Alfred Bulltop Stormalong – United States, immense sailor whose ship was so big it scraped the moon
  • Chen Zhen – China, martial artist who fought against Japanese aggression in pre-World War II China
  • Momotarō – Japan, legendary figure from the Edo period who defeated a band of ogres
  • Väinämöinen – Described as an old and wise man with potent magical powers.
  • Zorro – United States, a masked vigilante.

Real people with fictionalised livesEdit

  • Vlad Dracula – Romania, an emperor who defended his country from the ottomans, with fictionalised identity as a vampire.
  • El Santo – Real life Mexican wrestler, with heavy fictionalised adventures in movies and comic books.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 6.
  2. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 34.
  3. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 49.
  4. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 50.
  5. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 77.
  6. ^ Czesław Robotycki (2003). Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in Central Europe: Proceedings of the International Conference on Ethnic and National Minorities in Central and Eastern Europe, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, May 11-16, 2000. UJ. p. 90. ISBN 978-83-233-1774-6. 
  7. ^ Charlie T. McCormick; Kim Kennedy White (2011). Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art. ABC-CLIO. p. 809. ISBN 978-1-59884-241-8. 
  8. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 107.
  9. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 125.
  10. ^ Appalachia Appalachian Mountain Club, 1964.
  11. ^ Monahan, Robert. "Jigger Johnson", New Hampshire Profiles magazine, Northeast Publications, Concord, New Hampshire, April, 1957.
  12. ^ Seal, 2001. Page 132.
  13. ^ About Kaluaiko'olau Archived November 27, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Danielle S. Sremac (1999). War of Words: Washington Tackles the Yugoslav Conflict. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 35–. ISBN 978-0-275-96609-6. 
  15. ^ Tanya Popovic (1988). Prince Marko: The Hero of South Slavic Epics. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-2444-8. 
  16. ^ Velma Bourgeois Richmond (17 September 2014). Chivalric Stories as Children's Literature: Edwardian Retellings in Words and Pictures. McFarland. p. 182. ISBN 978-1-4766-1735-0. 
  17. ^ Tanya Popovic (1988). Prince Marko: The Hero of South Slavic Epics. Syracuse University Press. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-8156-2444-8. 
  18. ^ Wes Johnson (2007). Balkan Inferno: Betrayal, War and Intervention, 1990-2005. Enigma Books. p. 469. ISBN 978-1-929631-63-6. 

Works citedEdit

  • Seal, Graham. Encyclopedia of Folk Heroes. ABC-CLIO, 2001.