The Epic Hero

From Odysseus to Aeneas, from Beowulf to King Arthur, from the Mahabharata to the Ossetian Nart tales, epic heroes and their stories have symbolized the power of the human imagination. Drawing on diverse disciplines including classics, anthropology, psychology, and literary studies, this product of twenty years' scholarship provides a detailed typology of the hero in Western myth: birth, parentage, familial ties, sexuality, character, deeds, death, and afterlife. Dean A. Miller examines the place of the hero in the physical world (wilderness, castle, prison cell) and in society (among monarchs, fools, shamans, rivals, and gods). He looks at the hero in battle and quest; at his political status; and at his relationship to established religion. The book spans Western epic traditions, including Greek, Roman, Nordic, and Celtic, as well as the Indian and Persian legacies. A large section of the book also examines the figures who modify or accompany the hero: partners, helpers (animals and sometimes monsters), foes, foils, and even antitypes. The Epic Hero provides a comprehensive and provocative guide to epic heroes, and to the richly imaginative tales they inhabit.