Wow, that’s quite a lot of questions. I’ll just start with the first one.
All of these creative works have a central meaning. They revolve around the actions of the heroes. They stress the importance of their success. As we spoke about in class the characters all go on a quest, be it accidentally or willingly. Each of the protagonists gain something from these quests, and they are almost always changed for the better.
As for what is a hero, they are the grand ideal of human society (in creative works at least). They have traits that the people value. They are courageous, moral people who rise up against challenges and evil. Heroes are what people hope for when they have nothing, what people hope to be in the face of a difficult choice. These people are held in such high esteem that heroes seem unnaturally perfect.
In real life, heroes do not have all of these traits. Firefighters and policemen are heroes because they give their lives to save people. Revolutionaries can be heroes because they risk everything for what they believe in. Presidents were once thought to be heroes for their incorruptibility and high moral standards.
In writing, it is almost like heroes are an exaggeration of these traits. Most all heroes are willing to risk there live to save people and to stand up against wrongdoing. They are incorruptible and preserver through tremendous obstacles. In Lord of the Rings Frodo, though tempted with the evil of the ring ultimately makes the right choice and overcomes evil.
Of course women can be heroines! The traits of heroes are not gender exclusive. They are, however, more inclined to be described to a male (at least prior to the 20th century). Men are expected to go on journeys, to go out and right the wrongs (and so on and so forth…), but women were not always viewed in the same light as men. This is why men are always pictured as the hero; women are only just starting to shed their bad rap.
The most important attribute to heroes seems to me that they are incorruptible. They do not give into temptation. The reason this trait is so important to becoming a hero has to do with the fact that people in general will never be able to step away from temptation. Since heroes are the ideal, people like to believe that they cannot be corrupted; which in turn shows hope for themselves.
People need to have heroes. They need to have standards to which they can always hope to strive towards. Heroes represent everything a person can hope they could be, and if there were no heroes, there would be no hope to be better.
What Bertolt Brecht meant by saying “Unhappy the land that needs heroes”, was that if people need heroes than that means that they themselves have not reached that level of excellence. It shows that they are weak, and that on some level they know they are not perfect.