I should preface this with a spoiler for themes and events in Homer’s Iliad and Ol Parker’s 2005 film Imagine me and you… if you haven’t read or seen these you will be spoiled by my comments so step away now. They are both worth while reading and watching, more so if you are coming to them as a ‘newbie’, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
When I first thought about writing on this topic, something that I have had in mind to do for awhile now, my sole intention was to consider Hector, the unsung hero of the Iliad. However, after further consideration I realised that there was another unsung hero of the name Hector, or Heck to be precise, the uncommonly lovely, potential jam maker from the film Imagine me and you (IMAY).
That being said, perhaps I should alter my title to reflect this change in thought; “Hector’s are my hero”? Conversely maybe that is too far reaching and all encompassing a title.
The original stands, for clarities sake.
I’ll start with the original chap I meant to consider, Homer’s Hector.
The wrath of Achilles may well have been Homer’s theme (to save arguments, we will go with the assumption that Homer was indeed to author and leave it at that), but really Achilles isn’t much to fuss over. Though perhaps it should be briefly mentioned that Achilles’ wrath was brought about because Agamemnon stole his prettiest prize Briseis for himself thinking himself more deserving of her and Achilles took affront at this supposed slight upon his honour and withdrew from the battle in a bout of petulance.
It should also be noted that Achilles didn’t rejoin the battle until his lover Patroclus (or cousin if you believe that imbecilic Hollywood film Troy… I suggest you don’t) joined the fray on Achilles’ behalf, disguised in his armour and was subsequently killed by the Trojan hero Hector.
This isn’t meant to be a big sprawling thesis on Achilles, quite frankly I think he has enough column inches to his name as it is, nor is it about his wrath or anything else pertaining to the events, storylines and themes of the Iliad per se. This is simply about Hector being my hero, so naturally some discussion of the above will arise, but it is certainly not intended to be my sole focus.
Word web definition: HERO
- A man distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength
- The principal character in a play or movie or novel or poem
- Someone who fights for a cause
- (classical mythology) a being of great strength and courage celebrated for bold exploits; often the offspring of a mortal and a god
The fifth definition whilst not at all pertinent to this idea flummoxed me, I have never heard the word used in the following way before today, but wordweb says it is so;
5. [N. Amer] A large sandwich made of a long crusty roll split lengthwise and filled with meats and cheese (and tomato and onion and lettuce and condiments); different names are used in different sections of the United States
Hector: A brief introduction
Hector; the son of Priam and brother of Paris; the idiot who caused the Trojan War, primarily by thinking only with his penis (He won the prettiest woman in the world for saying that Aphrodite was the most beautiful of a trio of Goddesses (Hera and Athena being the other two, though quite frankly I am disappointed at Athena for joining the fray in this way), I’m not even going to begin to discuss the woman as prize aspect. I suggest that you just go with the premise that this was Ancient, (Homeric and heroic) Greece and accept it as fact… it will come up again later in relation to Achilles.
Unfortunately for Paris the most beautiful woman; Helen, was already married to Agamemnon the leader of the Greeks, and ruler of Mycenae. So, naturally…war, nine years of it to be precise by the time the Iliad opens, the Greeks and the Trojans are in the ninth year of War.
Ancient women do something called ‘vengeance’, chaps have a big long-winded brawl with lots of feasts and games interspersed throughout.
Hector is married to Andromache and father of the young Astyanax (again, this is something that will come up later… also; Astyanax (Ass-tee-ann-axe) is an awesome name).
Of all the characters in the Iliad, Hector is one of the most realistic (interestingly I consider Patroclus to be the other) and therefore relatable characters… in fact a case could be argued for saying that about most of the Trojan side; Paris for thinking with his penis then being a ‘fraidy cat’ about battle, the Trojan women, in particular Andromache who after Hector’s death will no longer be as protected and will later be taken by the Greek Neoptolemus (Odyssey’s son) as a war prize and concubine, whilst the young Astyanax would be thrown from the battlements of Troy to his death.
The fall of Troy occurs after the death of Hector at the hands of Achilles, who pierces Hectors heels, ties the girdle Hector exchange with Ajax through the tendons and then drags him around the walls of Troy three times, until someone intervened in his actions then left Hectors body outside for the carrion eaters. Priam, leader of Troy and Hector’s father comes to Achilles’ tent and begs for the body so as to give it a proper burial and mourn his loss properly.
Interestingly, I don’t believe Hector is mentioned anywhere else in Greek literature, if that is not in fact the case, please let me know. Admittedly he is briefly mentioned in the Aeneid, the Augustan propaganda piece written by Virgil (and also well worth a read, it is far more readable than the Iliad it must be said) in the Homeric style, but only on reflection of the fall of Troy and the leaving of Aeneas and his family to eventually, via Carthage and the Queen Dido, found Rome, as an alternative myth to the Romulus and Remus myth, ‘proving’ Augustus’ right to the Emperorship through familial ties.
He is however, mentioned in later literature such as; Dante’s Inferno as living with his family in Limbo, and also in Troilus and Cressida of Shakespeare authorship, Troilus was one of Priam’s children with Hecuba (though he had many others, presumably with other women) and thus a brother of Hector (along with Deiphobus, Polydorus, Helenus, Polites, Antiphus, Pammon and Hipponous).
Why Hector is my hero
Basically, I suppose my argument boils down to the fact that in my opinion Achilles is whiny with gods given immortality, barring that pesky heel of issue, he’s selfish and self-centred and if there’s one good thing about him, other than his ability to lob a spear with great accuracy, and the film Troy, is that Brad Pitt made an excellent choice for Achilles…take that endorsement as you will.
I comparison, Hector is utterly human has little to no divine backing, barring the occasional bout of, good will or malicious intent I am not sure from some of the Gods, and is thus awesome in all regards.
This is a man who fights to save his city from the invading forces of Greeks, who are only there in the first place because his brother can only think with his penis. Paris pretty much hides inside the wall of Troy for most of the siege and is certainly no great loss to the battlefield.
Hector fights despite all of this; he fights because defending his city is the right thing to do. He fights for kith and kin, yet he never holds a grudge for his brothers behaviour and he, nor do any of the Trojans for that matter, never paces any blame upon Helen either, he is defending her whilst she is within the walls o his city just as much as he is defending all other Trojan citizens. Thus, I feel, that the Iliad’s modern, and that point should be emphasised, for we come to the tale with very different viewpoints and cultural identity than the original Grecians listening to the tale in the 600’s BC (the poem was orally composed around the 8th century BC) audience would empathise more with Hector.
He is brave and loyal and thus has more reasons to fight than Achilles has, who is pretty much in it for the loot and glory more than anything else. Hector has so much more to lose than Achilles, who can only really lose honour or timé… and Patroclus of course but that wasn’t really foreseeable at the time. Hector fights literally to the death, which in my opinion, whilst there is no honour in dying or being dead, is by far more honourable. He is also significantly less shallow than Achilles in his lack of need for honour or timé, or anything else for that matter barring the continued survival of his family and home.
In a streak of, I can’t decide whether it is cruelty or generosity, I suppose an argument could be made for either way of seeing it, Apollo grants Hector some success in battle and indeed enters the battle on the side of the Trojans for a time, running up to the fight to the death match with Achilles. Hector kills Patroclus with the aid of Apollo thinking he is Achilles, for Patroclus went into the fray wearing his armour for the sake of Achilles.
I like that Hector, unlike Achilles appears to take no especial joy in the killing of his enemy, indeed at one point he sets up a one on one battle with Ajax with the two armies sitting it out and thus ensuring less deaths at that time. He is defending his city through whatever means possible. Nor does he take any cruel delight in defiling the dead as Achilles later does with Hector’s body. That is not to say he is perfect or infallible, he is after all just a warrior, just a man.
So, Hector is my hero.
Heck: Imagine me and you
Heck from Imagine me and you, is ultimately not that dissimilar from the Trojan hero Hector. Okay, yes he isn’t a warrior, a Trojan citizen nor does he die or be defiled in death. In fact the inference from the films credits indicates that eventually he will end up doing alright for himself if not even better. However they are still similar, in thoughts, deeds and actions and attending to that which is; The Right Thing To Do.
This one s harder to jump into, so perhaps a quick précis of the film to help us, or rather me, on the way, I might have a passle of bullet points for this section but it’s not giving me any aid in the jumping in part.
Imagine me and you plot premise
(Piper Perabo, Lena Headey and Matthew Goode)
The film opens with the wedding of Heck (Goode) and Rachel (Perabo) (which is actually ‘all about the mother’) where Rachel meets the florist, who did the flowers for her wedding; Luce (Headey). They seem to get on immediately and Heck later invites Luce to join them for dinner. A good proportion of the film is spent on Heck unwittingly setting up Rachel and Luce, in the fine tradition of the British RomCom film, until Rachel, eventually, leaves him for Luce.
Now, the précis above really doesn’t do the film a great deal of justice as it makes no mention of the phenomenal and funny supporting cast such as; Celia Imrie and Antony Head as Rachel’s parents, Sue Johnston as Luce’s mother Ella, ‘H’ Rachel’s little sister and Edie, Luce’s friend. However, this isn’t a film review; I’m only focusing on why Heck is my hero. Actually he isn’t even my favourite character, but I do think he is awesome.
Heck: a brief introduction
Heck is in love with Rachel, they’ve been together for quite a while by the time the film opens and finally they marry. Ironically it seems to be this final level of commitment to each other that breaks them up. He works in a job he hates though it’s never quite clear what it is that he actually does, with a boss is an absolute, slimy bastard, if a bit 2-D, with seemingly minimal morals if indeed he has any.
He is funny, brave, loyal and true, much like Hector of Troy except perhaps the funny part, and would probably make bloody good jam that would rock your world… unlike Hector of Troy.
Basically he is simply put a really lovely realistic chap.
Why Heck is my hero
The second paragraph of the above point partially spells this out… let’s face it, it’s the jam making potential that really does it. Perhaps not, but it certainly greatly endeared me to him as a character.
‘My boss is a bastard’ theme mentioned previously is all the more impressive on Heck’s part, primarily because he never stoops to Rob’s level, he remains honourable and ethical and hates what his job has him do. I suspect Rob is irredeemable as he thinks nothing of his actions at all and never understands why Heck gets so frustrated with it all.
The final result of the film; Rachel leaving him for Luce comes about because of his thoughtful actions in encouraging the two women to be friends and for asking Luce to accompany Rachel when he isn’t able to. He must be monumentally kicking himself over that one.
Yet despite possible regret for his actions he is remarkable magnanimous, when Rachel tells him that she won’t leave him for Luce, he is the one who walks away all so she can be happy. He sacrifices his happiness with her for hers, despite how much it evidently breaks him to do so.
Ultimately his actions are not only ridiculously thoughtful and unselfish, they are also incredibly brave, for he has everything to lose; his wife, and potentially her family, though they seem to love him too and are as supportive of him as they are of her, perhaps even more so initially. More importantly he is losing that which he loves and his own happiness for the sake of hers. If that isn’t a heroic gesture I don’t know what is.
When I first started to consider this topic I initially wondered whether it was more that their names and traits that were similar. Maybe Heck is a modern day Hector; maybe he was named with such a thing in mind. To be realistic it doesn’t seem very likely but it certainly gave me pause for thought. Whether or not there was any intended relation to the naming of Heck I feel it was aptly if not faintly ironically chosen.
What these two men represent is that there so much more to life than honour and pride, as well there should be. It also goes to show that the underdog, and in the contexts within which their stories are being told, they are very much the underdogs, are nearly always audience winners, people may like the ‘story’ of the ‘heroes’ more, but it is the reflection of reality as seen through the underdog characters that they can empathise and see parts of themselves within.
Maybe all heroes are called Hector…or rather, maybe they should be, but then if you employed that level of conventionality everything would be far too predictable.
Hector/Heck is my hero!
 Timé: honour; also meaning value, attributed to a person (as Achilles’ time); public acknowledgement of one’s value/glory through awarding prizes; acclaim for achieving excellence (arete) in battle, sport or council; is often competitive; as in the Iliad, personal time can conflict with the time of one’s community.