Wednesday, 11 April 2012

More Romantic Heroes

I have to toddle into town for the library, but I thought I would open up another combox to your "Romantic Heroes" stories. In short, what we are looking for here are the fictional heroes who have most captured your feminine hearts, what qualities they have did the trick, and what is just totally unbelievable about them when you compare them to men in real life.

Our theme is that the rules of fiction are not the laws that govern real life.

Sometimes novelists themselves point to this theme. In George Heyer's Cotillion the heroine reflects with the hero's sister that the hero is nothing like their romantic hero Lochinvar. The very thought of what the hero would say about Lochinvar romantically riding into a building on his horse makes them fall about with giggles. And as much as I admire Han Solo, I cannot imagine my husband bounding around the universe with a Wookie and a price on his head. ROFL.

Eventually I might collect up the heroes of the combox and bring them to the attention of male readers of my other blog. If English-speaking men really want to understand who it is that English-speaking women like, then perhaps they should read Little Women and the Anne books. Of course, it might very well puzzle them how they might affect the same manners and virtues of fictional characters created between the American Civil War and the First World War.

I've just asked B.A. which fictional character he is most like, and he says one can never tell. Meanwhile, I don't think he is like any fictional character because he is just too real. I am trying to think of a romantic hero who tells jokes simply all the time, and the only character who comes to mind is Roger Rabbit. Oh dear. Still, that would make me Jessica Rabbit, which is AWESOME!

Update: Another plug for Young Fogeys. I am very fond of British Young Fogeys, particularly the ones keenly interested in clothing, and it occurs to me that there is something vaguely Heyeresque about them. Of course none of the ones that I know stepped fresh from 1812 or have much money or titles or frequent London clubs (perhaps a visit once in a blue moon if they are particularly lucky). But it does suggest a romantic spirit if a man hunts down sock braces or, like B.A., affects to wear bow-ties--real bow-ties that he has to tie himself, and does admirably, never the made-up ones, which are anathema.


TGWWS said...

In no particular order:

Lord Peter Wimsey.
Mr. Knightley.

Now let me say right out that the COMMON THEME here is that they all are rescuers of one sort or another--not, I think, because they want to rescue in general (that would make them all like Henry Higgins in Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, which is not appealing AT ALL) but because they happen to fall for women who need rescuing. Still, I can see (going back to some of the comments on the last post) how this quality might be a little more problematic, a little more Higginish, in some of its real life manifestations.

Faramir is just a good guy, period. (Yeah, he likes Eowyn because she's pretty. What else is new?) He's also vulnerable (in the literal and the psychological sense) which is not so much the case with Aragorn, and makes him far more human.

LPW--sense of humor and wit and very well read. Hard to beat all that. (The long pursuit--not so much.)

Mr. Knightley--the best of the Austen heroes, for my money. Certainly the most mature. Has a sense of humor, like LPW. Honest, straightforward. Charitable. Knows how to bite his tongue, but also not afraid to criticize when criticism is needed and may be helpful.

Morgan said...

I second Han Solo (soooo dreamy) and Gilbert Blythe from the first round of comments.

Also, I totally loved Professor Bhaer in Little Women--and then in Little Men and Jo's Boys, as he and Jo run Plumfield School together.

I read a lot of contemporary fiction but I can't think of a single man from a book written in the last 10 years whom I'd consider a romantic hero. I go to older novels (most recently, Emma and Middlemarch) for romance.

Maggie said...

John Thornton from "North and South." He's a bit on the melancholic side like Mr. Darcy, but much more sociable and, at heart, a very good, hard-working man.

Catherine said...

This clip from Thumbelina just about sums it up:

Robin Hood
Mr. Thornton from North and South
Aramis from the Three Musketeers series
Several of King Arthur's knights, as portrayed in The Squire's Tale series by Gerald Morris.

Seraphic said...

Yes, but you are forgetting to say what is simply unrealistic about them. How are these FICTIONAL types, and how might they lead you away from a proper understanding of what real men are like?

TGWWS said...

Oh ... right ... REAL men ...

Faramir: In real life the likelihood that a young man with that kind of family background (crazy, depressive father, overbearing older brother, dead mom) would actually be a healthy individual strikes me as being slim. In the book, it makes him more sympathetic and admirable that he manages to rise above all that; in real life, even if somebody from that sort of background SEEMED nice, one would (or should) be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

LPW: In real life, someone who (1) is that arrogant, (2) has no real religion, and (3) --as noted already by several people--pursues a women for years despite multiple rejections, is probably not as good a person as the fictional LPW seems.

Mr. Knightly: Actually ... I'm not quite sure what's unrealistic about him. His proposal is a wee bit sudden in the book--so I suppose he could lead, say, a very romantic teenager to expect out-of-the-blue proposals from men old enough to be her father ... well, OK, that's a bit creepy ... but other than that I'm not sure how he's be misleading.

Katie said...

Nobody has mentioned Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre)yet. Ahh Mr Rochester. He's passionate, in command and unpredictable. He's not conventionally attractive but has a certain masculine ruggedness. He has made mistakes but is trying to be a good man. (Except when he tries to get Jane to live with him out of marriage - never a particularly attractive trait in a man).
On the flip side - Mr Rochester would be downright moody and the unpredictableness would drive me mad eventually.

Anonymous Just This Once said...
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Urszula said...

As someone who spent her young teenage years with books rather than friends for company, I had far, far too many romantic male heroes who had nothing in common with real life. And I grew up looking for them around me, even in spite of normal brothers and cousins who should have been models of manhood, rather than fictional creatures.
The culprits are the usual:
-Jane Austen heroes: too gentlemanly and polite, even when they are wicked and corrupt. There is something about Austen's prose and the characters' discourse that make everything seem charming and otherworldly. But I know there is a tendency in young sheltered creatures as I was to think all men around us should behave in a polite and refined fashion and reject them if they don’t speak like Knightley or Darcy. About Darcy – I had a huge crush on him as the ‘strong and silent’ type and it took me years to realize that if men don’t ask you to dance, are mean to you, and in general don’t seem to want you around, it’s not some sort of cover they want you to break to discover their warm and noble heart underneath, it actually means they just aren’t interested.
-Rochester! Another strong and (mostly) silent, brooding type. The type that just asks for a warm, womanly hand and heart to thaw the ice around his heart. I actually think Rochester trying to trick Jane into an invalid marriage is quite realistic male behavior – I don’t have a problem with Rochester as being unrealistically portrayed, he’s simply not a very good person to pine away for.
-LM Montgomery’s heroes. I never realized when I devoured her novels as a pre-teen how terrible and sad her own life was, and how in a way she created a bit of a fantasy-land in her novels, at least as regards the dynamics between men and women. I loved Gilbert too – although from my own experience I can now say a guy who shows up and claims unrequited love for many years is more creepy than charming. Also, the whole friendship-turned-love is misleading. I feel a woman can realize latent romantic feelings for a male friend, but not after that many years ! She must have had some indication of her feelings earlier, and I don’t believe it’s in a woman’s nature to go that long looking for romance and love without at least thinking about the possibility of finding it right under her nose.
-Adam Bede. Strong, passionate, noble, although a simple carpenter. Realistically for a male, he also falls in love with the ‘wrong’ girl, Hetty – a flirty flighty thing who romances instead with the local squire. He ultimately realizes that love is not the passion he felt for Hetty, but the quiet understanding and mutual support/friendship he has with Dinah.
I majored in English literature, so the list could go on, but these were the main literary figures that populated my mind when I was growing up, and seem to have been the most significant when it comes to shaping my expectations of men.

Meredith said...

I have always adored Faramir. He seems to be going towards a sad, Sidney Carton-ish fate for most of the book, but he ends up living happily ever after. But now that I think of it, he is a little too noble and serious for me. I'm not much like Eowyn, and I would prefer a fellow hobbit.

I really like Razumikhin from Crime and Punishment. Anyone who could be that cheerful to Raskolnikov would be delightful to live with! He's also super resourceful... a little absent-minded, though.

Rachel said...

I have a bunch, but will try to limit myself:

I have always liked Emily of New Moon more than Anne, and it is probably for that reason that I tend to have more of a crush on Teddy than on Gilbert. I suspect that this also has something to do with Teddy being an artist, and thus being a bit more interesting than Gilbert. But my experience with artist-types in real life (mostly musicians, as it turns out) has made me a bit more careful about them than I would have been inclined to be as a teenager. At the risk of perpetuating a stereotype, I will say that artist are oftentimes kind of flaky.

I am also among those who have fallen prey to the charms of Lord Peter Wimsey. Mainly it is the intellectual factor that is attractive, here. And his ability to talk, even when he is just talking nonsense. In real life, I do actually like men who talk a lot, although this depends a lot on what they talk about, I guess.

And I have always liked Meriadoc the hobbit a lot. Fun-loving, loyal, a bit cleverer than Pippin. I feel as though the problems here, though, as far as translating such a crush into real life, are pretty obvious. I mean, he's a hobbit.

Rachel said...

I forgot Alyosha Karamazov.

n.panchancha said...

I’m all about Alexei Karamazov, but if he were real and Catholic... let's face it... he'd most likely have a vocation to the priesthood. (Weep weep weep.)

I also rrreally liked Boromir when I was fourteen (how embarrassing?): somehow his eleventh-hour conversion, and even aspects of his very misdirected sense of honour, endeared him to me back then. In real life, though, gents who have to do things their way and throw fits when they're prevented from doing so are probably not THE BEST to fall for. Ultimately his failure is one of faith and hope, I think, and it's revealed in a moment of trial. It makes him more realistic, sure; but I wonder now whether my attraction had anything to do with an unconscious sense that perhaps someone like that would have been okay if he’d had ME to help him. Oh dear.

Ugh - Mr. Rochester makes me want to spit. I really worry about those Brontes... They seem to have been fascinated by the absolute WORST kind of man. (Although Anne seems to at least know what to look for and what to avoid, idealized though her Reverend hero might be.)

n.panchancha said...

[... and as a LoTR-themed follow-up point, a religious sister once asked me, "Who's your very favourite character in The Lord of the Rings? Is it Aragorn, or Sam?" ... Apparently those were the only orthodox options, as far as she saw it. I gave her a hug.]

Seraphic Spouse said...

Sorry, no Anonymous comments allowed on this one.

Jam said...

I had a crush on James Garner('s character (Hendley?)) in The Great Escape... I don't think that counts for this discussion but there you go ;)

I read a LOT of books when I was a kid but I really don't remember having crushes on the characters.

Seraphic said...

@n.panancha. Just Aragorn or Sam? ROFL! A hug was an excellent and witty response!

Goodness, Alexei Karamazov! Can it be the you are fundamentally attracted to Good Boys? Ahhh, Alexei. So GOOD!

I don't like Mr Rochester either. "My wife is immoral and crazy and not really human, Jane. That's why I keep her locked up in the attic. She was like that before I shoved her in; it's not like being shoved in an attic chained up has a negative impact on one's psyche." On the plus side, Jane loved him, so Jane can have him.

Eve said...

I'd have to agree with previous heroes Gilbert Blythe, Mr Knightley and John Thornton, but the 2 men who took most of my fancy as a teenager were Biggles and the characters John Wayne played.

I also reserved a soft spot for Robin Hood and Tintin. I think Tintin was my first 'crush'. Lol!

For those who don't know, Major James Bigglesworth featured in about 100 novels based in England and around the world from around 1890 to the 1960s.

He was brought up in India, fought as a pilot in the RAF in both world wars, travelled the world and ended his illustrious career in the Air Police and lived in a house in Mayfair with his cousin Algy, and his friends Bertie and Ginger, his companions on all his adventures.

He was a defender of the defenceless, fought for good old British values, was pretty much an adrenalin junkie and had excellent judgement, prudence and a will of steel. He was a fearless leader and never rested until the bad guys were caught and put away.

It is hard to imagine such a man actually surviving for as long as Biggles did, with all the battles he was in and the injuries he sustained.

He also never married and as a girl I was concerned about this, wishing that he was the marrying type (so that I could marry him?!) but then realised that if he was married, he probably wouldn't be able to maintain the life he did, which was what made him so incredible. Haha! The author W.E Johns certainly meant Biggles to be a hero, but probably for boys, not romantically minded girls!

There was only ever one woman in Biggles' life. She featured in one of the war stories, she was French and he met her in a village near the airfield one day. Poor Biggles fell for her and declared his love, only to find out later she was a German spy. It seems he never recovered.

Eve said...

I loved John Wayne for some of the same reasons. He could sling a gun, shoot it, ride a horse and rescue people.
He also had a bad habit of shouting at women and doing things that today, could get him arrested for assault.
One scene in particular says it all. A pretty woman protests about going with John somewhere in a wagon, so he stands there while she argues and talks and talks and talks (he never much liked chatty women) so he gets fed up, picks her up, slings her over his shoulder and dumps her in the wagon amid her shrieks of protest.
Then he jumps up alongside, slaps the reins and off they go. I don't know why I loved this as a child!

If he was real you'd sock him.

TGWWS said...

Yes to Alyosha! Forgot about him. I'm still in awe of how Dostoyevsky pulled that one off: a really good guy who's not boring or wimpy in the least ...

Jam said...

Eve -- I suppose you probably know that WE Johns had a hero for girls named "Worrals"? He wrote a second series of books about "Worrals of the WAAF" i.e. the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, precisely because so many girls were fans of the Biggles stories. (I just looked this up because I couldn't remember her name, and I find that she is supposed to be a ferry pilot, which is a bit historically tricky, but anyway.)

healthily sanguine said...

I just want to say a little word on behalf of Henry Tilney, who got totally SLAMMED in the initial post on Romantic Heroes. I recently re-read Northanger Abbey and found myself in tears over the part where (SPOILERS AHEAD!! Ladies unfamiliar with Jane Austen PLEASE stop here and go read the book!) Catherine gets rejected by General Tilney and sent home in disgrace. There isn't a whole lot more romantic--though I will concede that Austen doesn't write it in a romantic way--than how Henry follows her back to her home and proposes. And he IS sweet. And funny. I'd want to marry someone like Henry Tilney, in the end analysis--someone a couple notches more intelligent than I am, with a wicked sense of humor, and ultimately, a good and true heart.

Athanasius lover said...

My earliest crush was actually Kermit the Frog. I liked him because he had an earnest voice, he was always kind and patient, and he seemed to be the wisest of the Muppets, almost acting as a father to them in the way he protected them. He was also very humble. I always hated Miss Piggy, not because I saw her as a rival but because I always got the feeling that Kermit was with her only because she was so forceful in her enormous crush on him.

Realistically, I can see a man who lacks self-confidence accepting a relationship with a woman just because she pursues him, but I think someone who had all of Kermit's leadership ability would probably also take a bigger lead in his romantic relationships.

Also, Kermit is a frog, which is not very realistic. At least he's not promising to turn into a prince if you kiss him.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I don't think I had many crushes on boys in books until I was getting a bit too old for it (high school). I did very much like the Anne series and Little Women, but if I had any particular fascination with Gil or Teddy, it wasn't strong enough to stick with me. I was much more invested in the heroines in those. I love Anne and Jo so much!

Right around that age (12-14) I got super into history, and read a lot of non-fiction, so if I had any crushes from reading, well, I did find Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain quite heroic. The nice side is that he was a real person. The downside is that he died about a hundred years ago. My "literary" crushes were almost always characters from TV shows (the late '90s were a golden era of syndicated reruns) or old movies. And now that I think of it, I did like a couple leading men, but for the most part I liked main characters who were a bit more background (e.g. everyone went for Steve McGarrett in the original Five-O, but I liked Danno). Most of these characters were strong, tough, seemingly inured to pain, compassionate, and valued justice even when vengeance was understandable (very principled). They might start to lose it, but they'd get control of themselves. I wanted to be like them in a lot of ways, actually - but I think most folks do and, of course, absent a writer to give us such fascinating plot lines, most of us will have to show those virtues in much smaller ways. None of us could really be quite so dependably exceptional, but that's fiction then, isn't it? I definitely go for the "good guys." I really enjoy a modern show called White Collar -- and while the con man who's helping the FBI is devastatingly handsome, I love the devoted husband FBI agent who's trying to guide the con man towards doing things the right way.

I love the "Aragorn or Sam" question! Sam is definitely my favorite - and I will admit to some pure ridiculousness with similarly crazed LotR fans on that part as a teenager. I can see Boromir or Faramir, too (I love both repentant sinners and those who manage to avoid it). And I read Silmarillion last spring/summer and the story of Beren and Luthien is amazing. Sam is, I think, the most "realistic" of these, despite not being human, simply because what makes him extraordinary isn't anything about his lineage or particular prowess -- it's his big heart that would have happily gardened if loyalty to a friend had not led him into great adventures. Aragorn could not help but be great; Sam could have and didn't. (Of course, Aragorn is still awesome, but I'd expect that from the ragtag warrior descendant of the great kings of old looking to reunite the kingdoms.)

I'm impressed you liked Razumikhin so much, Meredith! He would be actually quite a good person, but now that I think of him I can see similarities to a friend of mine in his manner of talking, and to be honest, it's quite annoying in person after a certain point! We have a couple classes together and I really do try to pay attention when he gets called on, but he cannot ask a question without a preface, talks things to death, etc. - but then another friend of mine also likes to overanalyze and get too into it, and I was not particularly surprised when they started dating. :-)