Heroes in Hypertext

Heroes in Hypertext
Our Heroes
Welcome to HEROES IN HYPERTEXT, a website that helps you discover the heroes of today and from long ago. We have links to modern heroes like Thor from Marvel comics, or ancient heroes in the form of Beowulf. We hope to introduce to you a range of critical concepts concerning the text in a variety of media ranging from manuscript culture, through film, to the mobile screen. We hope to identify key concepts in textual transmission and explain the socio-cultural impact of literacy in the medieval world.

Heroes in Film

King Arthur's Influence on The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

Ancient heroes have had many reincarnations in modern films. I will be examining the presence of King Arthur in The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

The legendary figure of Arthur can be seen in the character of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn was raised by Elrond in Rivendell and by the elves of Lothlórien. Similarly, following Arthur’s birth he was taken by elves and blessed with many enchantments. The role of elves and the fae in the two tales play central roles to the shaping of their kings. They bestow upon the heirs many kingly virtues and qualities either through magic, as in Arthur’s case, or upbringing, as in Aragorn’s case. The two kings’ true identities were hidden from them since birth until they came of age and came into possession of their ancestral swords and began their quests to reclaim their lost heritage.

Both fulfil prophesies by coming into public awareness bearing swords of great importance which allow them to unite and rule kingdoms. Both swords are symbols that herald the return of the rightful King. The ownership of these swords further entitles the bearer to contest their right to the crown. Aragorn and Arthur are instrumental in fighting for their people’s freedom and bringing victory where once there was defeat.
In The Lord of the Rings the island of Avalon is embodied in the forest of Lothlórien. Galadriel can be compared to Morgan le Fay. The “Isle of Apples” is echoed in the “Golden Wood”. While Arthur’s story ends with his journey to Avalon, which becomes his resting place, there is no way back for Aragorn, who chooses to die in Gondor. However, Lothlórien becomes the final resting place for Arwen, his queen.

If we see Aragorn as Arthur, it is easy to find other comparisons between the two texts. Gandalf is clearly the wizard Merlin, sent to aid the rightful and future king to free his lands, unite his kingdom and begin his reign.

Aragorn’s reforged sword Narsil is Arthur’s Excalibur. Although Aragorn does not get the sword through mystical means, he must still earn the sword by fighting for his people and his land.
The Fellowship’s quest to destroy the One Ring bears resembles the Knights of the Round Table’s quest to find the Holy Grail. It is not the king, but a member of the Fellowship who is best equipped to complete the quest and destroy the ring, just like it is one of Arthur’s Knights who earns the grail.

Like Aragorn, Harry’s childhood in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone can be compared to that of King Arthur. Both were orphaned at a young age and grew up unaware of their true birth and identity. It is with the coming of a wizard that they learn the truth about themselves.

Like Arthur’s blessing by the elves, Harry is unintentionally, granted unnatural powers (even for a wizard), such as the ability to speak to snakes, by Lord Voldemort. The Dark Lord murdered Harry’s parents and attempted to kill the infant Harry before his corporeal body was destroyed by a protecting charm placed on Harry by his mother.
Arthur’s apparent death is comparable to Harry’s years spent sleeping under the stairs. Arthur is said to return to England when their need is most dire. Harry can be seen to have been sleeping until Voldemort’s second rise to power, whereupon he returned to the world of his birth to again save his people.

The heroes face predestined futures. Having travelled backwards through time, Merlin knows Arthur will become king. As a result, Arthur spends his time preparing himself for his reign. Harry too had his future predicted before his birth. He must either kill Voldemort, or be killed himself. Thus the fate of the wizarding world is in his hands, as the fate of England rests with Arthur.

Merlin guides the young king toward fulfilling his destiny, becoming king and uniting England. Merlin’s role in Harry Potter is filled first by Hagrid, who introduces Harry to the wizarding world and teaches him about their basic customs. Upon Harry’s arrival at Hogwarts, the role is passed on to Dumbledore, the headmaster, who resembles Merlin in appearance.

This connection is emphasised when we learn Dumbledore was presented with an honour by the Ministry of Magic called the Order of Merlin. Merlin himself is mentioned in the books as he is displayed on a Chocolate Frog collectable card.

Many wizards also call upon his name when surprised or alarmed (“Merlin’s beard!”). Dumbledore teaches Harry about Voldemort and how to destroy him through his Horcruxes, magical objects that contain part of a soul. Voldemort has seven of these and until they are destroyed he will remain immortal.

In Arthurian legend, it is Merlin who first establishes the Knights of the Round Table to aid Arthur in his quests. Dumbledore acts in much the same way by founding the Order of the Phoenix, a movement aimed towards ridding the world of the evil Lord Voldemort. The Order also serves to protect Harry, who is in danger from Voldemort, and aid him in his many adventures against him.

Both heroes face many quests. The quest for the Holy Grail can be compared to Harry’s desire to find the Philosopher’s Stone. These objects both offer the possessor the Elixir of Life, a mystical substance that heals all wounds and grants the bearer eternal life. Coincidentally, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry’s quest is to find the eponymous Goblet, which is a Grail-like object. However it does not have any powers akin to those of the true Grail, although it is, in itself, an extremely magical object. Harry’s greatest quest is the search for and destruction of the horcruxes.

Although Harry shares many of his features with Arthur, it is in one of his adventures that he adopts the characteristics of another Knight as it is not Arthur, but Galahad, who obtains the Grail. Harry and Galahad are paralleled when Harry discovers the Philosopher’s Stone. Both heroes are free of sin, a prerequisite to find the Grail. It is Harry’s innocent intent that allows him to see the Stone, as it was hidden so someone who only wanted to find the stone and not use it would be able to do so.

A notable semblance between Harry and Arthur is their swords. While Arthur pulled his sword Excalibur from a stone, Harry pulled his, the sword of Godric Griffindor, from a magical hat in his moment of need in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Arthur could only draw the sword because he was a rightful king. Harry was able to produce the sword because he displayed the qualities of a true Griffindor. Also, it is revealed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that one other Griffindor, Neville Longbottom, was able to draw the sword from the Hat. This is interesting as it was revealed that Neville might have been the child Harry’s prophesy referred to as they were born around the same time. This indicates that Harry may not be special, just born at the right time and if circumstances were different we would be reading about the adventures of Neville Longbottom instead.

It is clear that J.R.R Tolkien and J.K. Rowling drew inspiration from the legends of King Arthur. In his lifetime, Tolkien denied this, announcincing such claims as "irrelevant". Whether intentional or not, the characteristics of Arthur's story is strewn throughout the text. Indeed the title of the third novel, The Return of the King seems to be related to the belief that Arthur will one day return to England. Rowling, however, admitted to being greatly influenced by Disney's take on the classic tales; The Sword in the Stone. She once described the Arthur figure in the film as "Harry's spiritual ancestor".


Achilles is the heroic Greek mythological figure, who has been depicted throughout time, from ancient Greek stories to modern day films. Achilles is the son of Peleus and Thetis. Thetis is a semi god, it was said that Thetis would have a child greater than its Father, as a result Zeus decided he did not want to marry Thetis and a result she was passed on to marry Peleus. It is believed that Thetis wanted Achilles to be immortal.  Although throughout time there have been many different stories about how exactly Thetis made Achilles immortal. In some Greek myths about Achilles, it is said that Thetis rubbed him with ambrosia, the food of the Gods and she held him in fire to burn away human weakness. The most popular story however is the one about Achilles being dipped in the river Styx. It was believed that Thetis desired Achilles to be immortal so much, she dipped him into the river Styx that flowed through the underworld. Unfortunately she held him by his left ankle and as a result this is the only part of his body that is not immortal.

Some aspects about the myth of Achilles have been kept in modern day interpretations, From Helen of Troy, to the most recent interpretation, the 2004 movie Troy. Both movies kept the mythological aspect of Achilles mortal left ankle. In the 2004 movie Paris Prince of Troy, shoots an arrow into Achilles left ankle, fatally wounding him.  Similarly we can also see this in Helen of Troy, were Achilles is on his chariot and an arrow hits his left ankle. Some aspects about Achilles have survived through time and are kept in modern day interpretations, however many aspects about Achilles and his life have been changed and questioned.

In Greek myths Achilles is the legendary but reluctant warrior who fought in the Trojan War. It has been described in some Greek tales that Achilles mother Thetis did not wish for her only son to go to war. In some tales it is said that Thetis knew Achilles would never return from battle, if he went. Some Greek stories suggest that Achilles mother made him dress like a girl to avoid going. In modern interpretations however we see that this aspect about Achilles has not been kept. In the 2004 movie Troy, we see a different story, Achilles mother encourages him to go as his name will live forever. For her that appeared to be more valuable than if Achilles had stayed and lived.

Achilles has been depicted as a heroic figure throughout time, although some aspects about his life have been either changed, forgotten or have come under scrutiny in the past centuries. The relationship between Achilles and Patriaclus has been open for dispute in both the classical period and in modern times. In some Greek tales, it said Thetis raised both Achilles and Patriaclus. According to Homer, Thetis raised both Achilles and Patriaclus as brothers. In many Greek tales, Patriaclus has been described as Achilles best friend. However this aspect has come under scrutiny as in other Greek tales about Achilles, Patriaclus is described as Achilles lover. This aspect about the relationship between Achilles and Patriaclus has been changed in modern day interpretations. This aspect about the heroic figure has been left open for personnel opinion, on which tale you prefer to believe. There have been many different stories about Achilles and his life, throughout time many aspects have been forgotten or changed. However despite things being changed or forgotten one thing about Achilles has continued to remain the same, Achilles continues to be depicted as a great heroic figure

There have been many stories written about Achilles throughout the centuries about his involvement in the Trojan War. They all retain similar views on Achilles and his enemies. In the Iliad of Homer, the tension between Achilles and Agamemnon is described. “Agamemnon and Achilles fell out at the siege of Troy and Achilles withdrew himself from battle, and won from Zeus a pledge that his wrong should be avenged on Agamemnon.” This aspect about the turbulent relationship between Achilles and Agamemnon is captured in many stories about the Trojan War. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis describes how Achilles name was used by Agamemnon to lure Iphigenia to be sacrificed. This book is similar to the Iliad of Homer, as it captures the deceptive ways Agamemnon was towards Achilles.  The hostile relationship between Achilles and Agamemnon is captured in the 2004 movie Troy, This essence of their relationship is still portrayed the same. The hostile relationship between Achilles, Hector and Paris is also still described in a very similar way to the ancient Greek tales.

The tale of the heroic figure Achilles has been told in many different ways from stories, plays and movies. However in all the tales about this heroic mythological figure, we can see why Achilles is still portrayed as a Greek hero. His extreme strength, good looks and immortal body make him the ideal hero. He is depicted as a brave honourable man who is true to himself and his own beliefs, rather than those of his enemies, such as the beliefs of Agamemnon.  We can see this when Achilles withdraws himself from battle over how Agamemnon has treated him and his men, the myrmidons. Achilles is the commander of the myrmidon, a feared force that a loyal to him above everybody else. Achilles is one of the few Greek mythological heroes that have continued to be depicted as an almost Godly figure, from the Iliad of Homer to the 2004 movie Troy.
In conclusion we can see why Achilles has continued to be described a heroic figure. He is a semi God but thanks to his mother’s determination, he is almost completely immortal. Although some aspects about Achilles have been changed or forgotten, some things remain the same, from Achilles strength and determination to his extreme skill in battle. Achilles has continued to be depicted as Greek mythological hero. There are still many feathers about Achilles that can be easily recognised by those from every century.

Sinead Reed.

Robin Hood and his portrayal in film
                          The most recent Robin hood interpretation is Robin Hood (2010) directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian.

                            Robin Hood is everyones favourite outlaw and in today’s society almost everyone knows the name Robin Hood, which is an amazing feat given his origins as ballads and folk tales in medieval times. He has become one of modern day’s most enduring heroes. Many characteristics of the medieval Robin Hood character are still present in today’s modern portrayal; and many of these characteristics have become defining features of Robin Hood by which he is instantly recognisable. Physically some of these are his green clothes and hat that blend with the forest, and his bow and arrow. His bow and arrow are a big feature of Robin hood as he is known to be an expert archer and many of the medieval ballads have Robin participating in an archery contest, such as Robin Hood and the golden arrow, the competition is usually for a silver and gold arrow with the sheriff attempting to deceive Robin, but he usually shows up in disguise and wins the competition. This is also portrayed in many films, but more recent films have actually foregone the famed archery contest including the most recent Ridley Scott version.
                           The most famous characteristic about Robin Hood is the fact that he steals from the rich and gives to the poor, but interestingly the medieval Robin Hood did not overtly do this. The earlier Robin Hood was described as a yeoman who stole from the dishonest and gave when it pleased him, but in time Robin Hood has become famed for his generosity. The figure of Robin Hood has been made more virtuous as time goes on to fit in with modern societies view of what a hero is. In early ballads such as Robin Hood and The Monk, Robin is somewhat of an anti-hero with questionable actions, morals and motives. Yet in films today robin has turned into a very generous character, and stealing from the rich to benefit the poor is one of his most defineable characteristics. The most recent Robin Hood film, Robin Hood (2010), directed by Ridley Scott has veered away from thie typical Robin Hood characteristics. Only one scene in the movie has Robin stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Another major element of the Robin Hood story is the idea of saving Nottingham and Sherwood forest, usually from an evil sheriff and King John. Ridley Scott focuses on this main plot throughout the fim. In many stories Robin is known to be a follower of King Richard the lionheart and enemy of King John, whereas this film eventually has Robin an enemy of both.

                                       Robin Hood has been known by many names and in this film alone he goes by three, Robin Longstride, Robert Loxley and Robin of the hood. He was often depicted as a dispossessed noble man or under the guise of being a nobleman, which you can see in Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and in this most recent Robin Hood interpretation one of the elements taken from the medieval ballads is that he impersonates a knight. This all adds to the mysteriousness of the Robin Hood character who is loved for his mischievous ways.
                                 Marian is depicted in many ways in the ballads, from an outlaw with fighting skills as good as Robin, to a damsel in distress who needs Robin to save her, which is the stance taken by most films. Yet in most cases Marian is usually portrayed as having great strength of character and self sacrifice, in Robin Hood the Prince of Thieves she agrees to marry the sheriff in a bid to save some of the outlaws. In Robin Hood (2010) she plays the very male role of looking after and working the land. She also defends the property from a group of plundering orphans, and at the end of the film rides into battle just as bravely as Robin does, but true to form Robin has to save her, physically but also saves her land. Marian was not in the earliest ballads but her character has become central to the Robin Hood story, as Robin’s love interest.

                              The merry men in the medieval ballads are depicted as brave fighters who often save Robin Hood  himself but the merry men in this Robin Hood film seem to take a back seat and many plot points associated with them are left out, such as how they came to be merry men byt Robin challenging them in the forest. This scene is included in most Robin Hood films such as Robin Hood the Prince of Thieves. The merry men we see in this version are portrayed as men who are interested in getting drunk and chasing woman. Whilst in the ballads Robin would not last very long without his merry men and can be seen blowing his horn three times if in trouble and his merry men come to his aid, such as in Robin Hood and The Curtal Friar. Yet in this film they become a bit unnecessary and serve more as a bit of comic relief.

                                   Overall it seems many of the main characteristics that define Robin Hood have been left out of this film in a bid to be original and to not sound too cliché, but those characteristics are why we love Robin Hood and it doesn’t feel like a true Robin Hood story without them. From Maid Marian to the Merry Men everyone loves the original or more typical characters.                
Stephanie Reed.