In traditional hero stories there are ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ (better known to adults as heroes and adversaries). The activities of the heroes are sanctioned by society whereas the activities of the adversaries are considered wrong. Apart from pickpockets/thieves, the following groups tend to be depicted as adversaries in stories, because their ways of making a living undermine our perceptions of how decent society works. For example:

  • Smugglers
  • Pirates
  • Gypsies
  • Prostitutes
  • Highwaymen

What are some examples of stories you’ve enjoyed featuring each kind of adversary?

Are the adversaries in these stories threatening to the wellbeing of the hero, or to the ‘ideal society’?

Do your examples condemn the adversaries, or do they encourage analysis?

Are the adversaries presented as innately wicked, or as complex/downtrodden members of society, whose circumstances lead them to less savoury lifestyles?

ANTIHEROES

An antihero is a hero who lacks the attributes society accepts as moral and good. An antihero is a leading character in a story. The story is set up so that the audience cheers him on, though we are probably encouraged to question our own values at some point in the story.

Who are your favourite antiheroes?

What about female antiheroes? Can you think of any?

Of your favourite antiheroes, do any of them embody a sort of wish-fulfilment? For example, Walter White of Breaking Bad embodies the wish of ordinary men to become kingpin by putting his underappreciated knowledge/skills to full use.

POST READING: HILDA BEWILDERED

There are a few clues in the illustrations of Hilda Bewildered which hint at the princess’ inspiration for a criminal anti-hero. What are they?