Hero, Part 2: A Closer Look At Morel Rihtwis, Part 2

This is both a continuation of my last post, and of a series of posts about the roles of the protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain in a story, as well as my exploration on the nature of the hero. I have previously talked about the protagonist in Gods Among Men, Damon Roth, and the antagonist, Demiurge, and why both fail to be either a hero or villain. Today I will focus again upon Morel Rihtwis, an archetypal hero patterned upon classical mythological heroes.

When I started writing Gods Among Men I was heavily influenced by medieval imagery. This grew out of my love of the game Dungeons & Dragons, which itself was influences by medieval stories such as Le Morte d’Arthur, Beowulf, tales of Robin Hood, faerie tales, and even more modern works with a medieval flavor such as The Lord of The Rings.

Given this bias, I decided early that my hero would be a knight. I was young at the time, in college, and sought for a literary or historical figure I could pattern my knight upon. I considered Arthur, Lancelot, Gawain and other knights of the Round Table, but those thoughts led nowhere interesting. They worked against the emerging plot, and made the character hackneyed.

Then I thought of Charlemagne, Charles the Great, King of the Franks. He helped bring about the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture. Through foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the Middle Ages. He is counted as of the Nine Worthies; nine historical, scriptural, mythological or semi-legendary figures who came to personify the ideals of chivalry.

In Charlemagne I had a foundation for a character with a history as broad and deep as any of the Arthurian knights, and was as symbolically important as Arthur himself. In fact, Charlemagne formed a group of paladins who were analogous to the knights of the Round Table and form the basis for the French chansons de geste, “songs of heroic deeds”. Charlemagne as a historical or literary character is directly associated with spiritual and cultural rebirth and renewal.

Charlemagne gave me a touchstone for the character that would eventually become Morel Rihtwis. Whenever I felt the need to give Morel more depth or expand his character, I could search though information about Charlemagne and find something useful.

Charlemagne had a brother, Carloman, who died, so I gave Morel a brother name Carloman who died.

Charlemagne had a group of loyal paladins, so Morel now had a group of loyal paladins. One of Charlemagne’s paladins was Roland, who the Song of Roland is based upon. This inspired a subplot centered around Morel’s battle with a dragon.

One of Charlemagne ‘s chief opponents was the Saxon leader Widukind, who Charlemagne converted to Christianity. This inspired a character of my own creation called Widukind, with whom Morel will argue morality and religion in order to convince Widukind to break his allegiance to the villain, Maelgar.

Morel is not Charlemagne. I made Morel into his own character with a unique history and story to tell. But Charlemagne is the point from which I began creating Morel; it is Charlemagne that I return to for inspiration on how I should further develop Morel’s character. The history and legends surrounding Charlemagne helped me build Morel into a character that will be associated with spiritual and cultural rebirth and renewal.

Hero, Part 1: A Closer Look At Morel Rihtwis

This post is a continuation of my earlier posts about the roles of protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain, as well as my exploration on the nature of the hero. I have previously talked about the protagonist in Gods Among Men, Damon Roth, and the antagonist, Demiurge, and why both fail to be either a hero or villain. Today I will focus upon Morel Rihtwis, a man whose very name translates as moral, right, and wise.

Morel is an archetypal hero. Some of the characteristics that identify archetypal heroes are:

  1. Unusual circumstances of his birth
  2. Leaves family and lives with others.
  3. Traumatic event leads to quest.
  4. Special Weapon
  5. Supernatural help.
  6. Proves self on quest
  7. A journey that leads to an unhealable wound
  8. Atonement with father
  9. Spiritual apotheosis

Unusual circumstances of his birth
Morel is born into royalty, into one of the richest and most powerful families in the world. He begins life in the highest reaches of society with all of its advantages and disadvantages.

Leaves family and lives with others.
Morel’s mother died before he was ten years old. His father was king of Zephyr and gone for most of Morel’s childhood. Morel had a brother, Carloman, who was almost a decade his senior. Morel’s earliest clear memory of Carloman is him leaving to join the military. Morel spent most of his childhood surrounded by tutors, trainers, and staff. When he was in his teens he joined the military as a prerequisite for one day inheriting Zephyr.

Traumatic event leads to quest.
Before Gods Among Men begins, Carloman, Morel’s brother, dies in a senseless accident. Carloman was the heir apparent to the kingdom of Zephyr and the Rihtwis fortune. With his death, Morel becomes the heir apparent. Also, Morel arrives in the city of Guildtown, capital of the empire that Zephyr belongs to, shortly after the city has been attacked and its military defeated. These twin events, along with the responsibilities Morel feels as heir to a kingdom, forces him to follow Damon Roth. This sets Morel on a path to save his daughter, the kingdom of Zephyr, and the world as a whole.

Special Weapon
Morel wears armor forged from the hide of a dragon. This armor grants him superhuman strength and renders him almost impervious to magic. He also carries a sword forged by Damon Roth and Morel’s distant ancestor, Gideon Rihtwis. This sword is unbreakable, never requires care or sharpening, and is capable of cleaving a person in two. Later, Morel will come into possession of a lance specially made to kill dragons.

Supernatural help.
Both the wizard Damon Roth and the False God referred to as the Lady aid Morel. In addition he will receive help from Elves. Damon saves Morels life and gives him the magical satchel that Morel will need as the story progresses. The Lady advises and protects his daughter, Tara, when he cannot. I have not yet decided how the Elves will aid him.

Proves self on quest
Remember when I mentioned that Morel will come into a possession of a lance specially made to kill dragons? He doesn’t use it against a Komodo dragon. He fights a very large, very deadly, dragon in the prime of its life. In addition, Morel must also show his commitment to honor and duty despite personal costs. He risks his life on many occasions and dies, twice.

A journey that leads to an unhealable wound
Speaking of dying, Morel dies in the first book of the series. Fortunately, this is an epic fantasy in which death is not a career-ending injury. Damon restores Morel to life, but the wound Morel receives gives him problems for the rest of his life. Later, he battles Artemis Arrowsmith, is struck in the same place, and dies again.

Atonement with father
Morel is not close with his father, though he isn’t estranged from him either. His father was absent for most of Morel’s life, so the two really know each other through what they have heard from other people. Unknown to Morel, his father was involved in a dark deed that gave rise to the villain, Maelgar Tregadie. At some point this fact will be revealed to Morel, and there will be a reckoning.

Spiritual apotheosis
During his life Morel reaches a mythic stature that makes him almost universally admired. Even his foes hate him primarily for his virtues. He becomes the example others aspire to emulate, including his daughter, Tara. After Morel’s death he is revered and mourned and cited as the person who embodied the best qualities of mankind.

Most of these qualities are shared by Damon Roth. What Damon is missing is what I believe is key to labeling someone as a hero: the moral center that guides and limits them. The limits placed upon a hero by themselves are, to me, a crucial element in their heroism. It is that moment when when the hero thinks, “I need to kill/hurt/steal/etc…, but I won’t because its wrong.”

This is the crucial distinction between Damon and Morel. Damon will do anything he believes is required to accomplish his goal. Morel will not. Morel is willing to accept failure as a consequence of doing what is moral and right, which makes him wise.

This subject is too big for a single post. I will continue with Morel for at least one more post, detailing some of the inspirations for his character. Later I will delve into his daughter, Tara, and explore other types of heroes and how they are represented in Gods Among Men.