Read this fantastic quote from Felix Adler,
“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.”
A great quote, isn’t it? I like books and movies with both heroes and saints in them, but I never differentiated them like this. I never thought to.
I’m curious how others react to this quote. For example, do you believe that a character can be both at the same time? What examples from literature are the best exemplars of each?
In terms of the Harry Potter series, I think Professor Dumbledore (prior to our revelations about him in book 7 at least) clearly fits the saint category. Whenever he is portrayed in the book we have information, clarity, and safety. It seems tied to his presence.
Harry, however, doesn’t seem to me to quite fit the role of the hero. Prior to book 6 in his revelation to Professor Slughorn during the Felix Felicitas chapter, he doesn’t really accept his lot in life. Acceptance seems an implied requirement for heroship to me. I mean, why would you go out into the night and set up a blazing torch if you didn’t believe in your own actions? Harry certainly does light a few fires here and there when certain things are set right, but they seem to be lit more as an afterthought than for any particular purpose. Some would argue that the Harry Potter books lack substance and are merely nebulous whirlwind rides of action. Good fun, but hardly worthy of proper critical acclaim. Are these claims justified here?
This brings me to a final thought. Doesn’t Dumbledore’s care over Harry make him into the hero he becomes? Isn’t this a form of setting up blazing torches in the dark? So, couldn’t our very own saint Albus also be hero Albus too? I’m reminded of the first scene where we meet Professor Dumbledore in the first book. He has his put-outer and is using it to conceal his presence in the street at Privet Drive. How remarkably ironic that first glimpse is in light of this quote by Felix Adler.