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A few of my friends have convinced me to read the stories behind the popular Nintendo game series The Legend of Zelda. The storyline follows a young boy named Link, who has to fight many adversaries and work through complicated puzzles to help save Princess Zelda and prevent the villain, Ganandorf, from gaining access to the triforce, an item that provides the ability to completely destroy the world.
The reason I bring up the story of Link and Zelda is because the games present an interesting makeup for the hero, the villain, and the damsel in distress. You see, all three of these characters possess one part of the triforce: Power, wisdom, and courage. Princess Zelda, in her wisdom, carefully hides the keys to finding her part of the triforce. Ganandorf seems always to be winning, his power is unrelenting in his attempts to destroy Link. Link’s counterattack is using the simple virtue of courage. Courage allows Link to keep facing the challenges before him, and, if you’re good at the game, he wins in the end.
Last time we discussed the fact that underdogs are always the main character. The stuff heroes are made of is courage, and we could all use a little bit of it. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courageous people fear, but they aren’t ruled by fear. Our hero presses on even when he is convinced that all is lost. He is willing to get outside of his comfort zone, to face death, and to refuse credit for his sacrifices.
J.R.R. Tolkein explained this well in his conclusion to The Lord of the Rings. The character Eowyn insists to the king that she can go with his army to fight for Middle Earth. After Eowyn claims that she fears neither pain nor death, the king asks her, “What do you fear, Lady?” To which she replies, “A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.” You see, lost comfort is not what is to be feared. The true fear ought to be the life that goes unlived. Interestingly, Eowyn goes on to kill a monster and play a major role in the climax of The Return of the King. She didn’t have to face death, she only had to face her fear of death, and in so doing demonstrated the courage and success of the underdog.
What are your favorite most courageous movie characters?