After marking Owain ap Urien as a superhero of Rheged it made be think about what makes a superhero and who else of the early medieval/late antique period would I consider a superhero.
So characteristics of a superhero?
- Exists in more than one piece of literature, including allusions that hint at larger stories. No one-hit-wonders.
- Found in stories outside of their original context.
- Found in stories that transcend their time or their historic timeline.
- They are not the personification or historification of a god, but they could be compared to one.
So how many early medieval superheroes can I list?
- Owain ap Urien Rheged
- Cadwalaldr ap Cadwallon
- Hengest (Bede, Historia Brittonum, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Beowulf, Flight of Finnsburg)
- Offa of Angln (Widsith, Beowulf, and Tale of Two Offas)
- Finn of Ireland
- Oswald (Bede, various hagiography, romance Oswallt, and included in one Irish saga).
Each of these men have traditional followers and opponents.
You’ll notice that there is one hero who is missing… Beowulf. He is mentioned in just one manuscript and therefore for all we know, he could be a one-hit-wonder — maybe, maybe not. There is not so much as a single vague allusion to Beowulf in any other manuscript in any language.
For there supposedly being so little English heroic literature, you should notice that three of the superheroes listed above are English. Interesting that Oswald became a superhero outside of England….
So are there any superheroes that I have missed? Or any that you think should be removed?