Every Child Needs a Hero

Richard Roper | July 4th 2019

It’s true. Well, it certainly was for me. From the days when I first learnt to read I found mine in the pages of books. On a wet afternoon or during a boring visit to an unknown auntie a small boy who reads would be complimented, given a biscuit and left alone while his imagination took him to places far away from his mundane surroundings.

Ladybird books first set me off on journeys of discovery, igniting my imagination with the conquering exploits of Alexander the Great, of Julius Caesar landing his Roman legions on the shores of Britain, or of Alfred fighting back against the invading Danes from his marshy stronghold in Somerset. 

Without computer games and with children’s TV limited to just one hour a day, I spent long afternoons daydreaming about great sea-faring heroes: Drake circumnavigating the world, defeating the Spanish Armada and singeing the king of Spain’s beard; Raleigh and Cook exploring and discovering the world afresh; and, of course, Nelson, tragically killed at the moment of his triumph at Trafalgar. 

From these true stories it was easy for me to transition towards the tales of fictional heroes. I remember Biggles the flying ace and C. S. Forester’s magnificent Hornblower, the honourable, troubled, talented outsider who climbed his way from midshipman to Admiral fighting the French and Spanish on the high seas. I read every one of those series.

Seeds of greatness

But the greatest of heroes? I was to find him in the pages of Tolkien’s monumental Lord of the Rings, a book that has shaped the imagination of generations. 

Tolkien presented heroes in many forms but the hero I found was not a great person of destiny, nor some mighty lord or lady, nor a scheming wizard or a warrior charging into battle. The hero I found was a humble hobbit and gardener. 

The self-effacing Sam Gamgee left his home out of love and loyalty for his friend Frodo, refusing to abandon him even when he was rejected. At the darkest hour, when all the others were gone, and (as he thought) his friend was dead through the sting of the giant spider Shelob and enemies were approaching, he picked up the burden of the ring of power and determined to march alone into the heart of darkness to destroy it and fulfil the quest on which he and his companions had set out. 

And what of the hero’s great reward? What did Sam receive when all was over? He went back home with a packet of soil and a handful of seeds to marry his sweetheart and renew the land that he loved from the ravages of evil, by making gardens and planting trees. A fitting reward for an everyday hero.

We all need a hero

A hero is a magnifying glass on life, making large and easy to read the qualities we need to live our lives, and Sam Gamgee is a hero for everyone, big or small. He taught me that to be loving, and loyal, and courageous when needed, is what is required of us. As Gandalf the wizard put it:

“I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Small acts of love and kindness.”

Or maybe as Jesus put it: “Love your neighbour.”

This article is part of our Spark Wonder campaign. For many of us, a love of God’s word was sparked in childhood as the Bible and Christian books were read to us. We can ignite the spark of wonder in a child’s heart that will set them up for a lifetime of curiosity into all the things of God and His Word. Find out more at www.thegoodbook.co.uk/spark-wonder

Richard Roper

Richard brings a wealth of experience and a wonderful aura of calmness to the busy TGBC printing buying department. He lives in Weybridge with his wife Grace and they have two lovely children.

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