The stage is set, the spot light is on, the audience sits in eager anticipation. Suddenly, the trumpets sound, the curtains roll back, and the hero walks out on stage.
A roar of applause fills the air and the audience stands in thunderous ovation. But wait… This is the hero? Instead of shining armor, he is dressed in simple cotton clothes. Instead of a royal robe, he wears a woven green cloak, fastened at his throat with a leaf shaped broach. A short sword hangs at his waist. He doesn’t look like a hero…
And in any case, isn’t he too small?
Frodo Baggins was as unlikely a hero as his uncle Bilbo Baggins was before him. But it is because they are such unlikely heroes, that they are so near and dear to our hearts.
An unlikely hero is a person you would not ordinarily expect to accomplish great and heroic deeds in view of their stature, condition, personality, character, or circumstances, etc.
The unlikely hero is a well known figure in the fantasy world. In the Lord of the Rings, the four main Hobbit characters are all unlikely heroes in their own way. Their height (or rather, lack of it), their love for peace and quiet, and the simplicity of their lives in the carefree Shire, are not exactly factors conducive to forming brave hero stock.
Other unlikely heroes in fantasy include the four Pevensie children from the Chronicles of Narnia, Reepicheep from the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aidan from The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson, and Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper from Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, to mention just a few. From folk lore, we have the tale of the little Dutch boy who held back the sea by plugging the leak in the dyke with his finger and so saved his city from destruction.
In most stories, the unlikely hero is thrown into events beyond his/her control and far out of his/her comfort zone and is forced to either sink or swim. I cannot help thinking of poor Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, thrust out of Bag End to participate in a quest he did not even care about, only to discover that he had forgotten his pocket handkerchief!
“To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick, or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his key into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more.
Very puffed he was, when he got to Bywater just on the stroke of eleven, and found he had come without a pocket handkerchief!” (The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien)
It is often the unlikely hero in fiction and fantasy that we find it the easiest to relate to. The unlikely hero is usually an ordinary person, thrust into most extraordinary circumstances, who manages to respond in a heroic way.
History is as full of unlikely heroes as fantasy and legend.
For example, think of Sergeant Alvin York. One of the most highly decorated American soldiers of World War I, he was born in the backwoods of Tennessee, became a devout Christian in 1915, and prior to being drafted was a pacifist! After he was denied exemption as a conscientious objector, Alvin went on to study his Bible and pray and became convinced that he should fight. He was awarded the medal of honor for his actions on October 18th, 1918, when:
“After his platoon suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncomissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several gun.” (Quotation from York’s Medal of Honor citation)
There are many unlikely heroes in the Bible as well. The shepherd boy David, forgotten in the field while his father and brothers met with the prophet Samuel. Peter – an uneducated fisherman! Gideon. Even Paul!
Isn’t it interesting that God so often chooses an “unlikely hero” to accomplish His great plans! God uses the weak and foolish, the lowly things of this world, to accomplish His great purposes! Why was it the simple shepherd boy David who killed the giant Goliath? Were there no strong men around? Why was it Gideon with his three hundred men who routed the Midianite army with trumpets and torches? Why was it Peter, a man who had denied Christ three times, who was chosen to be the leader of the Church?
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo asks this very same question about himself.
“I wish had never seen the Ring! Why did it come to me? Why was I chosen?”
“Such questions cannot be answered,” said Gandalf. “You may be sure that it was not for any merit that others do not possess: not for power or wisdom, at any rate. But you have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have.“
In the Bible, however, we have a clearer answer than the one Gandalf gave:
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.‘” (I Corinthians 1:27-31)
So that through weak instruments great deeds would be accomplished and God’s name would be praised! Why does God use us? Like Frodo, it is not for any merit, no inherent righteousness or ability that we possess. But rather so that through our weakness, He would be shown to be strong!
How marvelous are the workings of our God! We should indeed be grateful that He choses to use us, unlikely, unskilled, weak as we are! May his name be praised!
I started to read through that passage in I Corinthians the other day and this post popped into my mind. So, what are some unlikely heroes you can think of – from fantasy, fiction, history, or the Bible?
~ A Servant of the King
On a side note, Song of Leira has reached the amazing length of 100,690 words! Not quite finished, but entering the homestretch! Almost there! Then come the inevitable red pen days… editing… cutting… revising!