Loyal Retainers Made Heroes compared
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“The best servant does his work unseen,” stated by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in The Poet at the Breakfast Table, strongly epitomizes the significance of people that transcends in their roles as being a servant to assist in another’s greater cause. Their heroism usually goes unnoticed until the greatest times of need, and their role becomes the defining moment of a great victory. Through all facets of literature, film, life and its experiences, archetypes of loyal retainers appear as underlying roles of a greater picture. From the literary piece Beowulf to the box office hit The Lord of the Rings to even the current leaders of today’s society, archetypes of loyal retainers portray similar comparisons to each other based on a model that their heroism is revealed through the bravery and loyalty they provide the hero at their greatest time of need.
In the epic poem Beowulf, translated by Burten Raffel, Wiglaf embodies the role of the loyal retainer by standing next to his lord and assisting Beowulf in his final battle for the pride of his legacy and the glory of winning. During the critical battle between Beowulf and the dragon, Wiglaf, one of eleven thanes chosen for this deadly adventure, proves to be Beowulf’s one and only loyal retainer as he tries to convince the other ten comrades to risk their lives to save their king. “Go to him, while angry flames burn at his flesh, help our glorious king,” states Wiglaf as he reminds all of the warriors of their loyalty for the king in his greatest time of need, but instead Wiglaf was the only one willing to honor his word (105). The second portrayal of Wiglaf’s role as the loyal retainer comes during the fight with the dragon “when Beowulf needs him most, Wiglaf shows his courage, his strength and skill, and the boldness he is born with,” as he risks his own life to defend the tired king (106). Being the prime archetype of a loyal retainer, Wiglaf’s heroic actions not only provide assistance to his king, but also reflect Beowulf’s bravery, nobility, and honor.
In the film The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee embodies the archetypical character of Frodo Baggin’s loyal retainer during their dangerous journey to save the world from the evil Mordor. Sam, alike Merry and Pippin, accepts the role as the loyal retainer, as he leaves behind everything that he has and risks his life to accompany his best friend Frodo. Even though Sam did not know how to swim, he further exemplifies his role as a loyal retainer when he jumps into the river to chase after Frodo, who was about to take on this lonely and dangerous journey by himself. Understanding such dangers, Sam is still willing to sacrifice his own life in order to fulfill his honor and promise to Gandolf of protecting and supporting Frodo until the end. During the latter half of the movie, all of the members of the Fellowship resemble Frodo’s loyal retainers, as they display their heroic efforts and battle to their deaths in order to protect Frodo in his journey. Even though Frodo is the main character and hero, his brave and loyal retainers surround him, as they assist him during this life risking adventure.
However, not all archetypes of loyal retainers are portrayed in literature and films, but they are also seen presently in the everyday lives of great leaders. Mayor Rudi Juliani’s assistance to President Bush during the September 11th crisis illustrates one of the largest and most current examples of a loyal retainer in today’s time. Not only was he the coordinator of the September 11th disaster, but also the spokesperson for President Bush when he was escorted to safety. When the President and the people of the United States needed him, he stepped up to the plate and assumed his responsibilities. Mayor Juliani’s actions of bravery and ability to persevere reflect the leadership characteristics of the President. Yet another example of a current loyal retainer is President Bush’s right-hand man, Vice-President Cheney. With numerous time consuming duties, Vice-President Cheney is usually seen in the shadows of the President and is rarely mentioned on his contributions to the United States. Both Mayor Juliani and Vice-President Cheney’s actions and character must embody the nobility, prestige, and leadership of the President, as do all loyal retainers to the heroes.
With all these archetypes of loyal retainers seen through different literary pieces, films, and current events, they all portray a similar characteristic in that the bravery and loyalty towards the hero in the greatest time of need is true heroism. Earl Benjamin once said, “to believe in the heroic makes heroes,” and as seen through such examples, all of these loyal retainers in the different examples become what we call a real hero.