What does it mean to be a hero? In definition, it is someone admired for courage and nobility, someone with idealistic qualities. James Sturges is the main protagonist in the fantasy novel written by Guillermo Del Toro. James demonstrates heroism in his transformation of himself and the town he lives in while exploring the unknown. Through the phases of a hero, he uncovers secrets of the worlds within worlds, all the while trying to survive high school as a sophomore student.
Firstly, in order to identify heroism, the understanding of a hero’s journey must be established, phase one being separation. This phase is the event in which the hero’s ‘ordinary life’ is disrupted with new found challenges or information. James Sturges initially lived an ordinary and rather pathetic life. His emotionally unstable father being his only guardian, his best friend an outcast, and a ruthless star basketball player as his daily tormentor, James soon comes to face to face with problems much wider and more sinister. Trolls that hide in the shadows of his eccentric town begin to kidnap young children for an unknown reason, causing panic among the people. Amidst this, James encounters two trolls who later become his companions in uncovering the secrets of the disappearances.
Next, a hero will endure the second phase of their journey, which is the challenges that they must face. The obstacles in the way of a hero’s goal can either be internal or external. In James’s case, he is battling conflicts within himself as well as those that affect the well-being of those around him. James and his father have a rigid relationship, since his father is still mourning the bizarre disappearance of his older brother. In result to this, his father has then projected his paranoia onto his only son, causing turmoil to erupt as well as hidden frustrations. Along with this, James soon learns that he is the descendant of a long family history of troll hunters, and that he must carry on this legacy in order to save his town from an evil much bigger than he anticipated. Following the strange disappearances in his neighborhood, he is forced to put aside his friendship and his father’s paranoia in order to retrieve the children alive. With a broken moral compass and immense fear, James is met with the uncle that disappeared many years ago, offering his guidance and assistance in hunting evil trolls. This is the point of the journey in which hidden archetypes of a hero are exposed. For example, Odysseus in the famous Greek poem The Odyssey, written by Homer. On Odysseus’s excursion back to Ithaca, he had to sail between two oceanic beasts. His leadership is tested when he must choose between losing six men or his entire crew, just as James’s courage is tested when he is battling dangerous trolls.
To add on, a hero’s journey comes across the phase of transformation. This is the part in which character development is present. Challenges that James had to face later affected the way he saw himself and the world around him. All of his problems shrunk in comparison to his new life, every dark corner became a hiding place, and the universe didn’t seem so black and white. Though James had fear due to his awareness, he was able to see himself as someone who is capable and courageous, thus prompting him to respect himself. When he returns home, all peace is restored in the town, his school, and even his own home. His friendship is patched up as well as his relationship with his father, and even his long lost uncle comes to terms with not being able to be with his now adult brother.
Villains are made, stories are told, and heroes are never forgotten. What is takes to be a hero has less to do with the jouney, but moreover how the hero and thw world are after the journey comes to an end. James was only a teenage boy trying to get through high school, but he soon realized that his purpose in life ran far deeper than a mere student. Just like other literary heroes, James was able to take on his external and internal demons and win, saving himself and the people he cared about. The journey of a hero isn’t easy, but once the wars are won, a diamond in the rough is made.