Myths and heroes

A myth can be defined as a story about gods or heroes, it can be a popular belief or a tradition or a false notion. A hero can be a mythological figure, a person who is admired for his or her achievements, a superhero or maybe a role model or an icon.


Examples can be:

– a patriotic or national hero (sportsman, politician, human rights defender…..)

– a fictitious hero (superhero or film star)

– an icon or role model (fashion, tv, music)

– a defender of common values

– a politician/king/queen who has achieved international recognition

LINK: Fiche en lien avec la vidéo

LINK: vocabulary

LINK: Listen to the words

Myths and Heroes

Myths are stories that are based on tradition. Some may have factual origins, while others are completely fictional, but myths are just as important to us today as in ancient cultures because they help explain the world and man’s experience. They help to answer questions, they reassure us and sometimes even give people hope. The subjects of myths are usually based on topics such as birth, death, the origin of man, good and evil and the nature of man himself.

Myths are not always optimistic – they can also be a form of warning. In this way we can consider them to be instructive and a sort of guide to social norms. They tell us how we should and should not behave. They can be used to justify choices when times are hard.

Just like myths, heroes can be real or completely fictional. A hero can be a mythological figure, a person who is admired for his or her achievements, a superhero or maybe a role model or an icon. Heroes are people we can look up to, people we would like to ressemble – whether they are sports personalities or political figures. A hero is not necessarily someone famous, it can be a member of our family or circle of friends. Someone we simply admire.

Heroes lead, inspire, and entertain the masses. This is why heroes, with all their mistakes and shortcomings, are vital to humanity. Heroic stereotypes can be considered to be unrealistic and outdated, but heroes show how vital they are to society when they inspire younger generations to do great things, and when heroes influence movements toward the improvement of humanity.

Here are just a few examples that could be used to illustrate this notion:

  • rags to riches stories : Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, JK Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, and others here
  • Founding myths of the United States (Pilgrim Fathers, the Constitution, Thanksgiving)
  • the American Dream – stories about those how have succeeded but also reasons to believe that it is simply a myth : the American Dream is dead
  • Heroes or fallen heroes of the Vietnam War that are portrayed in American films (Platoon, Born on the 4th July, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket)
  • National leaders or figures who can be considered as heroes: Queen Elizabeth II, Obama, Mandela, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malala Yousafzi …..
  • Pop stars or sports heroes (and fallen idols)
  • American movies : superheroes such as Superman or Captain America and their role in society: why do Americans love superheroes?
  • Famous British film characters: Sherlock Holmes, James Bond
  • British heroes or heroines: Churchill, Florence Nightingale, Stephen Hawking…..
  • British myths and legends: Robin Hood, King Arthur, the Loch Ness Monster


Useful and probable questions:

1. What myths do you know?
2. Why are myths and heroes important to our society?
3. Do you think that myths and heroes can teach us a lesson? Can you give examples?
4. Is the ‘European Dream’ the new myth replacing the ‘American Dream’?
5. What types of heroes do you know?
6. Do you have a personal hero? Who? Why do you admire him/her?
7. Is it a sportsperson, an actor, an artist, a pop star, a member of your family, an ordinary hero such as
a fireman? Why is this person considered a role model?
8. What are his/her qualities?
9. Can you think of an anti-hero? Can you talk about his/her behaviour?
10. Would you like to be a hero? What type? Why?
11. What is the difference between a hero and a superhero?
12. Do you consider MLK a hero? Why? What about Malala or Mandela?
13. Could you name a person who, in your opinion, best exemplifies courage/ wisdom/
loyalty/ selflessness/ honesty?
14. Are myths and heroes important to our society?
15. Could we live without heroes?
16. If a hero does something wrong, is he/she still a hero? (Ex Mandela and illegal actions)
17. What super powers would you like to have?
18. Some people say that people like Mandela, Zinedine Zidane or even anonymous firefighters can be
considered as heroes . Do you think they can influence the development of a young person’s
personality ?
19. Would you say heroism is essentially about risk- taking? Which other features would you focus on to
define ‘heroism’?
20. Who was your hero when you were a child? What about now? So what?
21.Is a world without myths and heroes sustainable? Would you survive without them? .
22 .Don’t you think the word ‘hero’ is being over-used nowadays, that it has become almost a cliché ?
What does it reveal basically about us ?
23. In what way are modern-day heroes different from those of the past?