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Folk Hero

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A folk hero is a type of hero, real or mythological, who has become the stuff of legend through generations of retellings. The single salient characteristic which makes a character a folk hero is the imprinting of the name, personality and deeds of the character in the popular consciousness. This is evidenced by mention in folk songs, folk tales and other folklore. In modern times, folk heroes are also the subject of films, comic books and literature.


Although some folk heroes are historical public figures, they generally aren't, and even if they are they won't bear much resemblance to the real person. Because the lives of folk heroes are generally not based on historical documents, the characteristics and deeds of a folk hero are often exaggerated to mythic proportions. The folk hero often begins life as a normal person, but is transformed into someone extraordinary by significant life events, often in response to social injustice, and sometimes in response to natural disasters.

One major category of folk hero is the defender of the common people against the oppression or corruption of the established power structure. Members of this category of folk hero often, but not necessarily, live outside the law in some way. There is a strong tendency for them to be Guile Heroes.


The tradition is carried on nowadays in an "ironic" fashion in the form of the Memetic Badass - games of one-upmanship involving Chuck Norris or Bruce Campbell only really differ from embellishing the exploits of Cu Chulainn or Paul Bunyan in the fact that they're about living people, and as such are obviously fake.

See also King in the Mountain.

Historically Documented Folk Heroes

Possibly Apocryphal Folk Heroes

Fictional Folk Heroes
Comic Books


Live-Action TV

  • The Hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne (Firefly)
  • The Doctor (Doctor Who)
  • James T. Kirk is seen as something of one both in and outside the Federation in Star Trek.



Video Games

  • Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)
  • The Warden - "The Hero of Ferelden" (Dragon Age: Origins)
  • Hawke - "The Champion of Kirkwall" (Dragon Age II)
  • The Inquisitor - "The Herald of Andraste" (Dragon Age: Inquisition)
  • The Lone Wanderer (Fallout 3)
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Ancient Founder of the Kingdom Indoril Nerevar is one to the Ashlanders in Morrowind. They've even kept alive an ancient prophesy foretelling his Reincarnation despite it being suppressed by the Tribunal Temple.
    • The Dragonborn of Skyrim already has a folk song being sung about them by the end of the game.
    • From the series' backstory, Reman Cyrodiil, the founder of the Second Tamriellic Empire, is considered one in Cyrodiil. Reman is considered a "cultural god-hero" and the "Light of Man", held right up there with St. Alessia and Tiber Septim himself as the greatest Imperial leaders in history.
    • Likewise, Tiber Septim, founder of the Third Tamriellic Empire who ascended after his death as Talos, the Ninth Divine. He was the founder of the first truly pan-Tamriellic empire and is revered simply in general as a great hero of mankind.
  • Braum, the Heart of the Freljord from League of Legends has shades of this, his character background framed as a bedtime story from grandmother to grandchild.
  • Geralt of Rivia (The Witcher)

Web Original

Western Animation


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