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knutaf avatar 8:23 PM on 11.23.2011  (server time)
The Myth of the Hero

It's funny how stories get changed as they're passed down from generation to generation. We read tales of daring deeds, masterful heroics, incredible skill... but how much of that is real, and how much of it is embellished? Bards of old will sing anything to get a copper and a bed at an inn, and I tell ya what: it's easier to rhyme "kill" and "skill" than "coward" and, um... "Howard"? Crap, that doesn't even make sense. See what I mean?

So what really happened? What is the truth behind the legend?

Well, legend has it that the hero cut the tail from the dragon, then scaled its back and strangled it with the tail itself.

Actually, he hid under the bridge and shot his tail off, then climbed a tower far off and shot it some more with like a thousand arrows 'til it died. Nobody challenges a dragon to its face. Are you nuts?

They say he wrestled the giant metal boar with his bare hands, grabbing the tusks and slamming it bodily to the ground with inhuman strength.

But really, in his flight, he happened to run past a flaming pile of debris, and the boar was consumed by this fiery happenstance.

You know of the lava demon that lives in the depths of the earth, yes? Well, it is no more; the hero stood tall in the lake of lava it effused, sliced through its arms, thick as tree trunks, and plunged his sword into its eyes.

Wait, no... actually, he hid in a cave, just out of reach, and poked the demon's arms whenever they got too close. It died from blood--er, magma--loss.

The four corrupted darkwraiths, former kings of the land, were banished to a deep chasm below the earth. Thither the hero ventured, and with his blinding sword of light hacked their limbs from them, all four kings at once.

...or so you've been told. Really, he looted an actual brave knight's corpse, donned his ridiculously heavy armor, and basically rolled down there like a rock. The four undead tyrants wailed on his magic armor for the better part of a day, and every once in a while he whacked them back from his impervious shell.

In the dark woods live a peculiar type of overgrown feline, with long, sharp teeth and a ferocious appetite. They eat any man to who braves their den, except the hero. He nimbly dodged around them, back and forth, now here, now there, stabbing and cutting whenever the chance presented... until they were no more.

Nimble, eh? It wasn't nearly so nimble as that. The cats are not too smart, you see. The hero, running like a coward, went past a sort of hole, and one by one the cats fell and foundered therein. It's not too hard to imagine what happened after that.

The fiercely protective guild of forest hunters is renowned for their skill at keeping intruders away, but the hero, with his skillful sword, bested them one by one in honorable single combat.

But there weren't any witnesses for that. How could anyone know that the so-called hero actually fled from them, and in their pursuit they all slipped on a slick, moss-covered cliff's edge and plummeted to their deaths?

And you will never hear of the atrocities that took place in the mushroom kingdom. The supposed hero desceneded like death's scythe and slaughtered every mushroom child he saw, feeling no remorse at their piteous wails as they fell. The parents of the mushroom children gave chase, of course, but they are heavy, ponderous creatures. The hero ran as fast as he could; those parents would probably have tried to hit him, and that would have hurt.


Since about mid-way through my playthrough of Demon's Souls (sic) my mind latched on to the idea of these games being a kind of commentary on the reality of what a hero does or what adventuring really is, as opposed to what gets told in stories afterwards. I doubt From Software had this in mind, but I think every one of us who's played these games has had at least one time where they got past some hard part using less than pure, honorable, courageous means. Is our hero from the game really deserving of that moniker?

By the way, I recommend the excellent fantasy series starting with The Name of the Wind, which is pretty much entirely about this notion of exploring the truth behind legends.

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