When I was a kid, some of my favorite books were the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. My favorites were The Pearl of Lutra and The Outcast of Redwall. When I look back on them now, I’m not at all surprised that I was drawn toward the books that featured a hero who came from a dark past or was in the middle of a dark period in their lives. Considering now that my favorite heroes are people like the Tenth Doctor, Kieran, John Watson, and Artemis Fowl, I’d say that my love of dark heroes has only grown. So much so that many of the characters I’ve come up with could be classified as dark heroes.
It sounds funny, to anyone who knows me personally, when I talk about how much I like heroes who have a major rage problem, or who miss fighting in a war, or who insist upon being a criminal mastermind. I’m a sunshine person. I don’t like it when people I know are in a dangerous situation, or when they fight. I very much want everyone I care about to never hurt and to be happy.
I remember how upset my dad was at the ending of Ted Dekker’s novel Thr3e. He complained that Kevin and Jennifer only got together at the end because Jennifer thought she could “take care of and fix” Kevin. He told me that women have that problem way too often—their mothering instincts led them to become involved with a man who has a “problem” and needs “fixing”.
When I first became aware of my fascination with dark heroes, I wondered if my imagination was playing mom to these people. After many years, I think I understand why I love dark heroes so much. It’s not because I want to “fix” them—it’s because I see hope in their situations. Watching a character, even a secular one, go through changes that ease the darkness around them reminds me of the hope and redemption that God offers us.
A favorite author of mine, Ted Dekker, says this one his website:
We think it’s critical to show the darkness into which the light came; the pit from which we were rescued; to uncover the wolf who comes to steal as well as the lamb slain on our behalf…Instead, they retell our own redemptive story… (the entire post can be found here)
I may not have a deadly secret or an debilitatingly cynical outlook on the world, but I do have my own darkness that calls to me every day. It may not seem as big or as nasty as some of the fictional characters’ that I love, but it is there. I don’t feel like being reminded of my redemption in Christ can happen too often.
Do you agree? Disagree? And who are your favorite dark heroes?