I was reading a post the other day by a fellow WordPressian The Sage Abyss about childhood heroes, and it got me to thinking about mine.

When I was a wee slip of a girl I watched several shows religiously, She Ra: Princess of Power, Thundercats, Rainbow Bright, He Man, and such.  Basically all the 80s cartoons that were big and popular and we would sell our own grandmothers now to get on DVD to relive the joys of a lost childhood for a few more minutes.

But then I realized that the heroes that I idolized as a child, I had cast off in my teen years, and again as an adult and that got me to thinking about the evolution of childhood heroes.  I believe this evolution falls in three stages: The Super Heroes, the Super Human Heroes, and the Human Heroes.

Now this observation does not apply strictly to myself.  I have two younger sisters, the oldest of which is still a good 15 years my junior, and I have seen this in them as well.  But basically I’ve noticed that hero worship can generally be broken down into three categories, in three stages of life.

1: Childhood and The Super Hero

This one is pretty self explanatory.  As children, we tend to watch a lot of TV.  Our parents using it as a convenient babysitter, distraction, reward and ultimately punishment.  Generally speaking we watch a lot of cartoons, and in cartoons the characters can do many wondrous, impossible, magical things that cannot be done otherwise.  These I find generally tend to be our first heroes.

We begin to idolize the figures we see on the cartoons.  We want to fly like them, have super strength like them, and save the world like them.  Alternately as well, we start reading comics books for the same reason and see the same thing.  Superman saving Lois Lane from a burning building.  Spider man swinging on his web to stop bank robbers.  Batman defeating the Joker…again.  When you look at it this way it any real surprise that our first hero is the Superhero?

My childhood Super Hero was She Ra.  She was everything a young girl wanted at that age.  She was pretty, kind, smart, she was a princess, she had super powers and she even had a magical horse named Swift Wind that could freaking fly!  I mean, come on!  Magical. Flying. Horse.  You say those three words to any little girl, and they’re hooked.

She Ra was also very strong, but always preferred to outsmart her enemies rather than fighting them.  Yes, her shows and books even came with moral endings.  I think it was standard for 80s cartoons at the time, seemed like all of them had a moral at the end of the story.

I think the Super Hero worship especially rings true to those with darker childhoods, because then these powers that their heroes have would grant them the ability to escape or save those they love from the same situation.

2: Teens and The Super Human Hero

A little bit more difficult to explain, but follow me here….

Fast forward ten years. We’ve cast off the notion of superheroes and villains, moving into our teens and young adulthood.  Society has told us that superheroes don’t exist, and we foolishly believe them.  So now our attention turns to more real, more tangible targets.  For me, this was the time that Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess came about on TV, so they were my heroes of this stage.

Hercules was so strong and good despite being beaten down.  He was continuously hunted by his step mother Hera, she murdered his wife and children, yet he remained a good man.  Granted he lost his mind for a short period of time which I like to think is only understandable, but after that he continued on with what he always did.  He helped those in need, no matter who or what they were.  Hercules was proof to me that nothing was too great or horrible in your life to keep you from being a good person, and he went about saving the world one god-created monster at a time.

And Xena represented the fact that if you truly with to change, the world or yourself, nothing can hold you back.  She was a viscous warlord for years, but the birth of her son and Hercules’ intervention made her see that there was more to life than bloodshed, war and vengeance.  Xena turned her life around, and in an attempt to atone for her past misdeeds (a past she was never fortunate enough to truly leave behind during the series) she in turn helped those in need as well, much like Hercules, although her foes tended to be human more often than not.

They for the longest time were my heroes for their own reasons, only this time they were heroes that instead of being Super Heroes with awesome mutated powers (natural or otherwise), they were Super Humans.  They were human, they had flaws, they were beaten and they were able to get back up again.

Basically in this stage of our hero evolution our heroes are human with some type of ‘super’ element to them.  For Hercules it was his strength.  For Xena, her determination.  But Super Human Heroes are not delegated to be strictly from the world of television, for these are the heroes of our teens.  They can be actors from movies, tv, or members of a particular band, and still be super: super rich or super famous.

3: Adults and The Human Hero

After the Super-Human Heroes of our teens, I believe comes the last hero transition when we reach adult hood.  The Human Hero.

These are the kind of people you tend to read about in the newspapers and sometimes see on television.  Average, everyday people who overcome great hardships.  They’re not often rich, they’re not always famous, they don’t have any extra ordinary abilities that would make them stand out in a crowd, but they have made their impact on the world by the sheer strength of their character.

These are the strangers who run into burning buildings to save your child.  These are the family members who against all odds survive medical complications when the world says they should have died before they began.  These people are who become our final heroes, the last evolution of the ideal that we want to live up to.  They can’t fly, they’re not physically strong or beautiful, they often don’t have a lot of money but they have a lot of heart.

For me, I have two such heroes.  The first being my mother, who almost ten years ago was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, or CML.  She was told she needed to receive a bone marrow transplant within six months or it would be too late, and even then the transplant only had a 50% chance of success.  During that year, from diagnosis to recovery, my stepfather left us, we had to move from the only home I had known for most of my life, and my sisters who were only toddlers and I were split up to live among relatives while my mother went in for her transplant.

You think that having all this happen to you would change you, and not often for the better.  But my mother never changed.  She was a kind hearted and generous woman before she became ill, and she has remained such still, always giving more than she has of herself to help others and raise her family.  She never lost her optimism when she was sick.  The doctors all said she wouldn’t be home by Christmas and that she would most likely relapse within the first five years.

My mom was home by Thanksgiving.  It’s been ten years now and she hasn’t been readmitted to the hospital for anything worse than a check up.  She beat all the odds and I am so thankful that my sisters don’t have to grow up without her.

My other hero remains Kevin Sorbo, the actor who played Hercules.  My idolism has shifted from the character to the man after I read his biography True Strength.  Apparently he suffered through several strokes during his career as Hercules, and despite being hospitalized, almost paralyzed, and losing part of his eyesight, Kevin Sorbo still soldiered on to create the show.  Granted he scaled back his work schedule to accommodate his health issues, but who of us can say, when faced with such obstacles, that we would do the same thing?

I think most of us would have rolled over, given into out depression and despair, and left everything that we were working so hard on in the dust until we overcame whatever was plaguing us.  But he was able to beat the odds without sacrificing himself.  For that I admire him greatly, and call him my hero.

Its interesting to see how our heroes change as we grow with our needs and expectations.  Not all heroes will change, I know many people who have kept their childhood hero into adulthood, and not everyone will have a hero in all three stages, but they’re there.  They evolve as we grow, changing as our needs and definitions of security and safety change.  I’m sure as well that people have more than just three heroes in their lifetime, and some less.  All I know is that no matter how old we get, we never forget our heroes.

And I think no matter what kind of hero we look up to throughout our lives, we are made better people by them.