Fun Friday: The Reluctant Hero’s Allure

I just couldn’t resist. I had to post a little something in response to Lisa’s post about White Knights, because although there is something ultra romantic about a man who’s rash and ready to jump into conflict to save me, I have a major soft spot for the heroes who resist their calling and who feel that despite having no say in the matter they just aren’t fit to carry the world on their shoulders.

While white knights have a short sided view of themselves, the reluctant hero not only doubts his ability, but knows that with all his failings, he could never be good enough for his mission, even if he is the only one who can fulfill it. He is often considered selfish or even morally ambigious, but that’s what makes him human. He’s often tortured by his past or even by his current actions, though he knows they’re done for the greater good.

And when it comes to romance, things get complicated because he knows that his place in life will make it impossible to be with the woman he loves.

A perfect example of this is Batman, by far my favorite anti-hero type. He’s so far from Superman. He’s not all pretty and perfect and sweeping in with his tights and cape. He’s haunted and angry and at times loses sight of the fact that he’s supposed to be the good guy, because he’s been jaded by the world. His sense of justice is often battling with his desire for revenge and it makes him dangerous and volatile.

Seeing a reluctant hero’s growth throughout a story (or even better, a series) can be so fulfilling. Most times, they grow into a truly formidable hero, someone who is a beacon of hope and justice. But even when they don’t, you can’t help but feel for them, because they’re like you and me. Flawed and average and just wanting to live a normal life despite the larger than life plot twist coming their way.


About Isabelle

Isabelle is a multi-published author who dabbles in romantic fantasy and Young Adult fiction. A dreamer who loves Jane Austen as much as she loves Star Wars, Isabelle is most comfortable on stage behind a microphone belting out her favorite karaoke tunes, or curled up in bed with a book and a cup of cocoa on a rainy night. View all posts by Isabelle

9 responses to “Fun Friday: The Reluctant Hero’s Allure

  • Charlotte McClain

    I love Batman. I’m still burned that I never got to meet the editor of the Batman line, Denny O’Neil.

    As for which I like better, I don’t know. The reluctant hero has a lot of charm. I was stained by Han Solo as a child and watching him go from “I’m in it for the reward, sister” to “General Solo, have you picked out your team?” was magic.

    But sometimes I really want to watch a white knight ride in to save the damsel in distress (who doesn’t want his help, thank you) and have to figure out how to save her. Though it might be the 2 and 2/3rds firefighter romances I’ve written talking.

  • Hailey Edwards

    I prefer the reluctant hero. The good, average Joe who looks at a women he knows will be trouble (because those are the most fun) and has that moment of “what the hell am I getting myself into” before he dives into the situation.

    White knights have their place, and some characters are really just that pure and selfless.

    I can love either if written well, but there is something about the hero cursing his luck under his breath while saving the damsel in distress that works for me.

    • Isabelle

      I can love either if written well, but there is something about the hero cursing his luck under his breath while saving the damsel in distress that works for me.

      I’ve been known to fall for a well written white knight. It’s rare, but when done properly, I swoon all over myself.

  • Rosalind Stone

    *points up* What Hailey said. I think I like the reluctant hero becuase I can identify more easily with him (or her) – debating over doing the right thing versus what will benefit you in the short term, etc. Plus, they’re more likely to think out the issues of saving the damsel (“so you want me to rush over a rickety old bridge, battle a dragon, scale up a tower to find some girl I don’t know?”) whereas the white knight just goes without really thinking because, well, shoot, it’s the right thing to do and he knows it’s expected of him!

    As I read this post, images from the movie Enchanted kept popping up in my head. You had Prince Charming who comes riding up on his steed to save the damsel and you haeve the jaded New Yorker who doesn’t believe (at first) in love and other such nonsense as I’m sure he’d call it. Both guys completely different from each other and sorta went about their ‘missions’ (finding their true love) in different ways…and their methods completely worked for their personalities. 🙂

  • Nonny

    I won’t turn down a really stellar hero of either type, but in general, I prefer the reluctant/anti-hero.

    Frequently, in fiction, the White Knight has not been tried. He’s probably done some amazing things, but rarely have his morals, ethics, and spirituality been tested. He has not gone through the same sort of hell that the Anti-Hero has. His motivations are different. Whereas the Anti-Hero generally has something “in it” for him, the White Knight does it purely because it’s Right, or perhaps because his sovereign demands it.

    In reality, I find that the sort of person who does things blindly simply because they are Right very frequently breaks when something happens to bring their beliefs into question. They often think in terms of black and white, and when they realize that is NOT how the world works, they don’t know how to manage. They crumble.

    Sometimes that is actually the backstory and basis for the Anti-Hero, but as a character on its own, particularly for a romance hero, I don’t find it appealing. I find black and white thinking very dangerous, but then, I’ve frequently fallen into the “black” category with that sort because of my choice in lifestyle.

    The Anti-Hero to me is a far deeper character, flawed and faceted. Usually he has been emotionally traumatized, which makes it a far bigger deal to me when he comes to trust the heroine. They often do things that are not pretty, but what are necessary, and sometimes life can’t fit in a nice pretty box. There are dark sides to the Anti-Hero, but for me… it’s a lot more precious to find the light within the darkness than to be blinded by the light. 😉

    • Lisa

      I find that the sort of person who does things blindly simply because they are Right very frequently breaks when something happens to bring their beliefs into question

      Ah, see, that’s just what I love about White Knights, though. I love to see someone’s ideas challenged, see a character broken down, because THEN if they’re strong enough to continue to believe in right despite what they’ve seen that might end up jading them, they end up as a much stronger character.

      I tend to find reluctant heroes… I don’t know, whiny. Though Batman would be a notable exception to that. I don’t know Bruce Wayne is reluctant so much as damaged and angry, though. haha Damaged and angry I’ll take any day.

  • C.

    I’m all about the black knights/anti-heroes. But then, I have a thing for bad boys. 😉

    In truth, anti-heroes are *real* to me. They’re someone I can identify with. Maybe that’s why I prefer them. 🙂

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