Culture Hero
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"Anthropologists working in East Anglia were recently excited to find what they believed to be traces of a previously unknown local culture hero named Ali, said to have lead the migration of local ancestors into the area. Unfortunately subsequent investigation showed that this was little more than a garbled reference to the A11"

Basic Information

A culture hero is a mythological (or perhaps legendary figure who plays an iconic role in the history of a given culture - usually as a discoverer or innovator (of a key technology or resource), a founder or common ancestor or the driving force behind some significant transition such as a migration. These roles can, obviously, be combined - indeed a cultural hero credited with founding "the first city" probably had to invent all sorts of other technologies to enable that.

Culture heroes can also pick up other aspects - The Trickster is a common one, bringing in the potential of a hero who steals his "innovation" from "the gods" (or someone else) … although less extreme versions can also acquire sites for anchor cities by trickery (for example Dido's trick with the Ox hide to secure the site for Carthage). They can also slay monsters, tyrants and the like, opening the door to a new civilisation. The more mythic end of culture heroes frequently undergo apotheosis and become tutelary deities (the transformation of Romulus into Quirinius would be an obvious example). A culture hero can also be multi-aspected - Abraham, for example, is both a shared ancestor and a migration guide, Moses a law-giver and a migration guide. In the same context, the sons of Lamech are credited with inventing most of human technology.

Whilst the culture hero is often considered a thing of The Time of Myths, this sort of thing can extend into the modern era - sometimes deliberately attempted as in the case of the Juche regime's efforts to create such legends around the Kim family and, more palatably, in the sometimes exaggerated stories concerning the Founding Fathers of the United States.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Ritual magic - especially that of a shamanistic character - may include a participant re-enacting the story of a culture hero, whether by a quest in the otherworld, a ritual dance or a series of ordeals that mirror trials from the myth of the culture hero. These may earn favour from the spirit of the hero, from some greater power that was his patron, or from other spirits that admire what the hero did and will reward those who seek to emulate him. On a larger scale, such things may even attract the attention of gods - for example, breaking a drought by performing a quest mimicking the story of a hero who first made a compact with the rain god so that the god in question remembers his promise and sends rain.
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