What makes a hero? 3 TED-Ed Lessons about fiction’s finest figures


The hero is one of our most ancient and beloved literary character types. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, from the classic, godlike Beowulf to the modern, more human Katniss Everdeen. Be they epic, tragic, romantic (or even an anti-hero), these characters can tell us a lot about ourselves and the world we inhabit. Check out these three TED-Ed Lessons that investigate the history and breadth of heroism, and ponder the question: what makes a hero … a hero?

What trials unite not only Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins but many of literature’s most interesting heroes? And what do ordinary people have in common with these literary heroes? In this first lesson, Matthew Winkler takes us step-by-step through the crucial events that make or break a hero.

What can some of literature’s most famous heroes teach us? From the epic hero (like Beowulf) to the tragic hero (like Oedipus), each has something distinctive to share. In this second lesson, April Gudenrath describes the many faces of the fictional hero — and shows how they can inspire everyday people.

But what about the antiheroes? How can an anti-hero teach us about the heroic–and sometimes, the unheroic–characteristics that shape a story’s protagonist? From jealousy to self-doubt, Tim Adams challenges us to consider how antiheroes reflect the very mortal weaknesses that can be found within all of us.