Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.
Today, I want to talk about heroes. Not superheroes. Not heroes of Greek mythology. I’m talking about characters who willingly sacrifice something for the sake of salvaging what they believe is important.
#12: Jacob Black
Although he comes from a bizarre franchise written by a bizarre author with a bizarre worldview, he’s the only decent character in the series. He’s the only one making sacrifices and the only one thinking about others. He’s the good guy, people.
Let’s ignore the historical inaccuracy (as well as the sequel) and focus on the character in the film. I would’ve put Belle on this list because she sacrificed her life and freedom for her father’s safety. But while that’s admirable, I think her life in the castle was better than the one she had in the village. So overall, it didn’t seem like Belle had to give up anything. With Pocahontas, the phrase “it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” comes to mind. She was willing to die not only to save John Smith’s life, but also to show that hatred wasn’t the answer. And John Smith was still injured to the point where he had to go back to England for a chance of survival. Pocahontas is the only Disney Princess whose love story ended in tragedy. Though she didn’t expect that to happen, she’d rather negotiate with her foes rather than kill them in cold blood.
#10: Katniss Everdeen
Had Katniss not taken her sister’s place in the beginning, we would’ve gotten a different story. It’s interesting that the author decided to do that; instead of having Katniss selected, Collins wrote it so that Prim would be chosen and Katniss would volunteer to take her place and keep Prim safe. The brutality of the story showed how much Katniss sacrificed to keep her family alive. The aftermath of the Games seem similar to how war affects soldiers. She escaped with her life in the first book, but the rest of the series showed that she still paid a price: her agency and her emotional stability.
She’s unpopular, the teachers discover her magical abilities, she meets the Wizard, and she gets her happy ending, right? Wrong! When she finds out that the Wizard was behind the cruelty to animals, Elphaba gives up her happy ending to fight the ruthlessness. While no one else will fight alongside her, she sticks to her guns and counters others’ arguments with simple ethics.
#8: Samwise Gamgee
Giant spiders, cave trolls, Gollum, Frodo’s deteriorating mental health, small chance of survival…I don’t think Sam knew what he signed up for when he joined the Fellowship. But he endured all of it and more because Frodo was his friend.
#7: Ron Weasley
Harry and Hermione are both great, but Ron is the only one who goes up against his deepest fears and insecurities brought on by the Horcruxes. He doesn’t just have bad thoughts whispered into his ear; he has to see his worst nightmares dancing right before his eyes. It’s all summed up in the YouTube clip above (it explains it much better than I can).
#6: Addie and Mrs. Frisby
Courage isn’t going up against the monsters that no one else is used to fighting; it’s going up against the monsters that you’re not used to fighting. I know a lot of people admire superheroes, but I don’t think they hold a candle to characters like Addie or Mrs. Frisby. Superheroes are used to going up against monsters. But Addie and Mrs. Frisby are used to mundane living. They’ve never had to fight anything. It’s despite their fear of the unknown that they choose to push forward anyway. Addie does it to save her sister, while Mrs. Frisby does it to save her son. If they die or give up, they have everything to lose.
#5: Hester Prynne
Hester starts her story with little to be proud of. But she endures it all with dignity, because she knows what’s important in the course of a lifetime: the people she holds dear to her. In a Puritan point of history where adultery was punishable by law, maybe Hester’s life would’ve been easier if she revealed the name of her lover and gave up her child for adoption. But she loved her daughter too much to give her up, and did everything in her power to keep her. I won’t reveal the name of the father, but knowing his identity will explain why she refused to name him.
Okay, this is a little bit of cheating since this movie is based on someone in biblical history (no, I didn’t put Jesus on the list; that’s too obvious). But this medium transfer tells the story from a different point of view. The sacrifice that Moses has to make is his relationship with his brother. He did have two biological siblings. But to Moses, even while acting on God’s behalf, Ramses was always his brother, nothing more or less than that. Moses knows how much being a worthy leader of an entire nation means to Ramses. But he also knows how much turmoil his people are going through. No matter how much Moses loves his brother, he has to put that aside for the sake of his people and the Lord.
#3: Martin Luther King Jr.
Again, this is kind of cheating, since this is a movie based on a historical figure. And it is—to say the least—a weird movie. But it pays homage to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, who put his entire life into creating a better future for America. The film also brings up the fact that his sacrifice made a huge difference. And since MLKJ is one of my favorite historical figures, I had to put him on the list.
#2: Lily Potter
I know I already have a Harry Potter character, but I couldn’t let this countdown go by without mentioning Lily. Rowling described Lily as a place of refuge. Her act of sacrifice at the beginning of the story was the catalyst to Voldemort’s end; not only did she give Harry the protection he needed to survive the killing curse, but her sacrifice also gave him a fighting chance at defeating Voldemort.
#1: Atticus Finch
I haven’t met anyone yet who didn’t react with awed reverence whenever they heard his name. Not only does he stand up for black people in a racist point in history, not only does he put more value in his family than in his possessions, not only does he raise his children on his own, not only does he represent a black man and believe in his innocence even when no one else will, not only does he avoid trouble and yet fight it when it threatens his values, but he takes pride in all of it. There’s no doubt about it; he’s the perfect hero.
Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”