As I did favorite literary heroines last week, I thought it only fair to turn my attention to the men this week! Ready? I promise, I will try to be less wordy this time around. So, without further ado, I give you …
Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy L Sayers):
I first met Lord Peter in a library in Pennsylvania, a few years after getting married. I’m ashamed to admit that, newlywed though I was, I promptly fell head-over-heels in love and have never recovered. It took me ages to reconcile myself to Harriet Vane! (Possibly partly due to the fact that the first book I read featuring her was Have His Carcasse, so I got to see all her anger and bitterness without having a clue why – which made her very unlikeable. I mean, if you’re going to be Lord Peter’s love interest, at least be worthy of him!) I did eventually come to accept Harriet, and amusingly enough, Gaudy Night is now one of my favorite books – one of those I would take to a desert island if I was going to be stranded there a year.
Sigh. Lord Peter. It’s a good thing I met him after I got married. And a good thing my husband already knows about all my literary crushes, else this post might be slightly awkward!
Taran of Caer Dallben (Fflewddur Fflam) (Lloyd Alexander):
Taran Wanderer is another one of those books I would want to take with me to a desert island. It is the ultimate bildungsroman, a perfect coming-of-age story. I absolutely love how Alexander takes all of Taran’s notions about heroism and honor and glory and turns them on their heads – and then how Taran has to do all that he dreamed about as a boy, only it has lost its appeal, and he wishes to be a simple Assistant Pig-Keeper again. I also appreciate how the one thing he wanted to be the most he couldn’t quite master – because isn’t that how life really is? We don’t always get to live out our dreams; sometimes we have to let go of what we want the most and accept what life gives us instead.
As for Fflewddur, he is just a delight to read about. His tendency to stretch the truth because reality is so dull, his valor and nobility, his boredom with being king of such a well-run kingdom … such a joy!
Eustace Scrubb (CS Lewis):
Don’t get me wrong, I like Peter, Edmund, Digory, Caspian, Rilian, and Tirian as well – but Eustace tops them all. Perhaps because he is such an Everyman – we can’t all identify with High King Peter the Magnificent, or King Caspian the Seafarer, etc, but who hasn’t been an obnoxious jerk at some point in their lives? And to be redeemed from that so beautifully – not to a kingship, as with Edmund’s redemption, but simply to living a better life as Eustace – is wonderful to read.
And, I like his practical outlook on life, and his occasional snarkiness even after he is un-dragoned.
Martin the Warrior (Brian Jacques):
We had Mariel among the heroines, and now Martin for the heroes. Martin is everything a hero should be – brave despite his small stature; noble; loyal; true-hearted … he even has a secret sorrow from his past! His friendship with Gonff the Prince of Mousethieves is one of my favorite friendships in all literature (even better than Sam and Frodo, because there’s no nonsense about master/servant between Martin and Gonff). Martin leaves a legacy that carries Redwall through every danger and strife. He may be a mouse, but he has the heart of a lion!
Roger Hamley (Elizabeth Gaskell):
Roger Hamley is another one of those characters I wistfully wish was real. Although he does remind me of my husband in many ways … ahem. He is good and kind; he is loyal and faithful; he is both gentle and strong; he sacrifices his own desires over and over again for the good of others. Along with Molly Gibson, the reader learns to love him gradually over the pages of Wives and Daughters, and I, at least, always wanted to shake him for his incredible stupidity in falling in love with the charming but shallow Cynthia instead of valiant and quiet Molly!
Gilbert Blythe (LM Montgomery):
For any girl who grew up reading and loving the Anne books, Gilbert Blythe automatically became her ideal beau (I think – at least I’ve never met anyone who loves Anne and not Gilbert). Despite the fact that Montgomery doesn’t, in fact, flesh his character out very much beyond the first book, he remains one of literature’s best heroes. Anne’s House of Dreams is one of my favorite books of the series, not just because it introduces Leslie Moore, who is such a rich and full character, but because of the deeper glimpses we get into Gil’s character. The struggle he goes through in having to choose between the right thing and what his (and his wife’s) heart wants … he is truly a good man. And he loved Anne so faithfully for so many years, even when it looked like there was no hope – who could resist that?
Henry Tilney (Mr. Knightley) (Jane Austen):
Will I lose all credibility if I confess that I’ve always found Mr. Darcy rather stupid? I do, however, positively adore Henry Tilney. His sense of humor, the fact that he is not above teasing Cathy, his close friendship with his sister, his sense of honor and duty … he is a real, three-dimensional person, and a fun one, at that.
Mr. Knightley is on here both for his goodness (he is a true gentleman) and for the fact that his love does not blind him to the flaws of his beloved. In fact, he loves her so much that he has to do everything he can to help her become the very best person she can be, even if she never loves him in return. That didn’t sound very romantic to me as a kid, but now? Swoon.
Rush Melendy (Elizabeth Enright):
Rush is the ideal older brother, I’ve always thought. He almost always makes time for Randy, even when he is exasperated by her; he listens to her; he shares her same impetuous nature. Plus, when given a choice of anything to do by himself on a Saturday afternoon, he chooses to go see an opera. Siegried, no less, which brings back happy memories for me of staying up late on Sunday nights with my sister and parents to watch the Ring trilogy on PBS – my sister and I had never thought much of opera before then, but Wagner fascinated us. So I can identify with Rush there! I’ve also always like how he overcomes his reluctance to teach piano in order to raise money for the war (especially the unexpected outcome of his lessons with the school bully). He, like all of Enright’s characters, is a very human, very likable kid.
Will Stanton (Susan Cooper):
At age eleven, Will Stanton discovers he is not a normal mortal boy at all, but the last-born of the Old Ones, and is thus swept into a life of danger, adventure, and sorrow. Yet through it all, Will maintains his practical outlook on life, and his humanity even when he has to make the hard, cold choices. The Dark is Rising series is one of my long-time favorites, not just for the Arthurian thread that runs through it, but for Will himself. The youngest of a large family, friend to the Pendragon, quester for the Signs, nemesis of the Dark Rider … yet what makes him such a relatable hero is his utter normality through it all, the fact that you feel, but for the odd gift of being born an Old One, he could be anyone you know – the boy next door, maybe, or even you yourself. (And his attempts to learn the Welsh language always make me giggle, every time I read them!)
James Tarleton (Patricia C Wrede (and Caroline Stevermer):
In my heroines post, I mentioned how much I relate to Kate. Yet oddly enough, I see nothing of my husband in Thomas. Instead, he is very much a James. Almost everything about James makes me think of Carl, especially in The Grand Tour, when Kate is exhausted and weary and says how much she misses English toasted cheese, and James merely comments that she should get some rest, and then she’ll feel better. That is exactly the sort of thing Carl would do. Of course, Kate thinks about how glad she is that she isn’t married to James, as it would be very squelching to have a husband like that, but somehow, Carl and I get along just fine as we are.
Brother Cadfael (Hugh Beringar) (Ellis Peters):
I blame Brother Cadfael for giving me a romanticized view of monastic life in the medieval age. Not that Peters whitewashed anything (at least, I don’t think she did), but Brother Cadfael made being a monk seem AWESOME. You could have close communion with God and still have a hand in everything that happened in your corner of the world. Nothing happened without Cadfael knowing about it, and certainly his understanding of grace, hope, and love were advanced far beyond his day and age.
Hugh was of a different sort, but just as terrific. As under-sheriff and then sheriff, he recognized his liege’s flaws, yet stayed by him loyally. He upheld the law to the letter, and conveniently turned a blind eye to Cadfael when morality and justice didn’t quite match the law. He could not go against the law himself, but he could let his friend do so without a qualm. Cadfael and Hugh’s friendships is one of the best in all mystery literature, not least because it is most definitely not Holmes-and-Watson. Hugh is not the idiot sidekick, but a worthy detective and human being in his own right.
Wil Ohmsford (Terry Brooks):
The Elfstones of Shannara was the first Brooks I ever read. I got it from the library without ever having heard anything about Shannara or Terry Brooks; I picked it out based solely on the cover art and the fact that “elfstones” sounded really cool (I was young at the time!). Despite the fact that much of it was probably too old for me, I devoured it and loved it (the only other Shannara book our library had at the time was Druid of Shannara, which meant that for the next several years I bounced between both Shannara series, never knowing for sure which era each book I discovered was going to be set in, and getting completely confused until I had finally read all of them and could start setting them in order in my mind … proof of good writing, that I didn’t just give up out of frustration!). Wil, I liked not just for his part-human, part-elven heritage, which was a fairly new concept to me at the time and seemed very daring. It was his reluctance to do his part of the quest – not just because he didn’t think he was worthy (although that was part of it), but because he was morally opposed to what he was being asked to do (kill), and yet it was the only way to save the world, and he the only one to do it. That battle that he went through was what really drew me in, and what kept me coming back to the Shannara books even though I could never keep straight who went where and what happened when!
Well, that wasn’t quite so lengthy as the heroines. As with last week, which ones do you agree with, which ones would you have left off the list, and who would you add?
Next week, I think, will be favorite literary families (which will most likely be a much shorter list). Will your favorite be on it?