Heroes – Light Yagami

Many of you are probably thinking right now, “Light Yagami isn’t a hero!”  Well that depends on your definition of a hero and if you believe there is such a thing as a deeply immoral hero.

Light Yagami is the genius main character of the anime Death Note.   In the first episode, he receives a mysterious notebook called the Death Note which allows him to kill anyone whose name is written in it.  After a bit of experimentation, he decides to use the notebook to rid the world of all evildoers and become the god of a new world.  He is eventually given the title of Kira.

In other words, he’s quite a humble guy.

Light’s descent into immorality is slow but steady.  At first he’s killing criminals.  Then he moves on to anyone who opposes him, such as FBI investigators, then it spirals out of control from there.   Yet, in the end, Light justifies his actions by claiming he has made the world a better place.  Crime drops significantly, all wars end.

Light is a heroic figure in that he puts aside all distractions to pursue a vision to improve the world.  He is an idealist, yet his methods fall more under the pessimism of thinkers such as Hobbes.

Hobbes argued that most people are basically monsters who require an absolute power to keep them in line and prevent their lives from being “brutish, nasty, and short.”  Hobbes’ ideas were used by absolute monarchs across Europe in the 18th century to justify their power.  Light Yagami rules like an absolute monarch, creating a society of fear where people “behave” only because of the fear of Light’s judgement.

This is where we can begin to see why Light is an immoral hero, aka a villain.  Light is so prideful he believes he has the right to judge the entire world.  He is so certain of his “intelligence” and “righteousness” that he is unable to see how rotten and wicked he is.

A moral hero stands beside other people and recognizes his or her faults.  A villain fills themselves up with pride and stands above others.  Both the villain and the hero perform actions at times that could be called heroic.

A character like Light Yagami is so blind that they believe themselves to be the pinnacle of righteousness.  Few people set out to be a villain, and even the most vile of individuals believe themselves to be righteous.

A true hero is one that recognizes their own flaws and stands with humility not with pride.

Heroes Series – Frodo Baggins

Well it’s been a while since I last made a blog post, but today I’m starting a brand new series, which examines what makes a hero a hero.  I’ll be looking at heroes both popular and less popular in fiction.

Our favorite hobbit is not really a traditional hero in his genre of epics.  He is not a warrior, nor is he particularly skilled or strong.  He is a small, decent person with a great deal of courage and some incredibly supportive friends.  Frodo possesses a powerful artifact that might be able to defeat the Dark Lord, but his goal is not to use it but to destroy it.  It would be as if King Arthur retrieved Excalibur only to find out it was an evil weapon and decide to destroy it.

Frodo isn’t traditional but he is a beloved hero by many readers.  The reason for this is quite simple, Frodo is a relatable hero.  Many heroes such as Aragorn, Superman, King Arthur, are larger than life figures.  They can be admired and praised but no one can truly be like them.  On the other hand, simple heroes like Frodo can be emulated.  There are two key traits of Mr. Frodo that can be imitated.

First is his determination that is bolstered by loyal friends such as Samwise.  We are capable of imitating Mr. Frodo’s determination to keep on moving forward even when the road is uncertain and rough.  However, Frodo does not have to travel this path alone, and neither do we if we have the right companions to guide us.

The second is Frodo’s willingness to take the right path, even when others do not.  We all want to be the Good Samaritan who stops to help the injured man even when no one else does.

However, a discussion of Frodo would not be complete without mentioning one key fact, Frodo fails.  At the very end of the journey, Frodo is unable to let the ring fall into the fire.   Oddly enough it is a twist of fate that grants Frodo victory.  Smeagol’s violent attack on Frodo leads to Smeagol tumbling into Mount Doom with the ring in his hand.  Many interpret this as being the direct handiwork of Eru(the god of the Tolkien universe).    This event teaches us an uncomfortable truth.  We are all corruptible, even the most decent of us.  Yet, our failures do not always define our legacy.  Frodo is remembered as a hero when all is said and done.

Mr Frodo gives us a simple but beautiful picture of a hero.  A hero is nothing but a simple, plain person who does the right thing when the right thing is neither easy nor simple.

Our next “hero” we shall discuss will not be so noble….stay tuned.