Mythological Modern-Day Hero: Sam and Dean Winchester
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Classic Mythology Heroes and the Heroes We Know
A hero by classical myth definition is generally categorized by possessing specific characteristics and embarking on a supernatural quest or journey. There are many different examples of heroes defined by classical myth terms throughout modern pop culture and literature today. Two brothers come to mind as a first thought of a hero who leaves the world we know for a quest amongst the supernatural: Sam and Dean from “Supernatural,” a television series that first aired in 2005. The entire family resembles the mythological definition of a hero, but the focus is on the brothers Sam and Dean Winchester. Modern-day television and cinema utilize the stories and definitions found in classical mythology in order to develop a plot or create depth. The classical hero myth is a common tool in present day entertainment. There are many ways the Winchester brothers exemplify heroism.
Who is your favorite character out of the trio?
General Characteristics of Classic Mythological Heroes
In most classical myths, the hero is usually a male. Powell (2002) lists a few general characteristics of a classic mythological hero: a miraculous or unusual birth with little to no information on his childhood, possesses great strength and creates problems for his acquaintances, falls under an enemy’s power and compelled to perform impossible tasks, and faces the temptations of an irresistible femme fatale (pg. 124). A few other characteristics Powell (2002) reveals are that the hero breaks forbidden rules and pays a terrible price for doing so, his truest companion is typically another male and is responsible for his death, the hero embarks on a long journey to discover the secret of eternal life, and the hero is rewarded with something of great value at the end of his journey (pg. 125). These two brothers hold almost each and every one of these traits.
The Winchester's Correlating Characteristics
When their father, John Winchester, goes missing, Dean recruits Sam back into the family business. A famous quote used throughout the entire show that Dean utilizes often is, “Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.” The Winchester family business is to hunt down supernatural things, such as ghosts, banshees, demons, angels (who are not all good as the general public portrays them to be), Pagan gods and goddesses, Greek gods and goddesses and various other paranormal phenomena attempting to harm humanity. With every season the Winchesters embark on a new quest to fight the next “big bad” along with hunting less powerful supernatural beings.
The miraculous or unusual birth portrayed in this show can considerably be the fact that Cupid, an angel from heaven with a list of couples that he must pair together, paired their parents together himself. On both their mother’s side and father’s side, the Winchester brothers come from a strong lineage. The Campbell’s from their mother’s side are very well-known hunters, while the Winchester’s from their father’s side are Men of Letters, select individuals who gain knowledge on how to defeat supernatural beings and often relay the information to specific hunters. While both Sam and Dean possess well-taught combative skills, they are still a danger to their loved ones and acquaintances. In “Let It Bleed” (ep. 21, Season 6), the woman Dean loves and her son, Lisa and Ben, are kidnapped by demons and almost killed. Dean rushes Lisa to the hospital, but it is basically too late. Castiel, a rebellious angel who has been on their side, comes to cure Lisa, but Dean asks for one extra thing. Castiel erases every memory of Dean from Lisa and Ben’s minds in order to protect them. In “Pilot” (ep. 1, Season 1), the woman Sam loves dies by the hands of the same demon that killed his mother when he was six months old. Throughout seasons one and two, Sam seeks to avenge both Jess and his mother with his brother Dean.
Speaking of women, the two brothers often fall under the spell of a beautiful temptress more than once throughout the series. One of the most significant femme fatale is the demon Ruby who does more damage to Sam than expected throughout season 3. Ruby entices Sam to stray from what he knows to be right and just in order to kill a very powerful demon they have been hunting named Lilith. Ruby neglected to inform Sam that killing Lilith was the final seal of a number of seals that bound Lucifer’s cage. Releasing Lucifer consequently started the apocalypse. The angels and the demons want to wage war against each other, but the demons need Sam and the angels need Dean as vessels in order to have their best warriors (Lucifer and Michael) battle one another. Throughout season 4, the brothers constantly evade their tormentors and attempt to save the world on their own. At the end, Sam lets Lucifer take over his body in order to trick him back into his cage, which ultimately kills him and sends his soul to hell.
Don't lie, you've done this once or twice before!
How Many Times Have You Guys Died Anyway?
It would not be the first time one of these brothers went to heaven or hell. Both Sam and Dean paid their fair share in Hell or Heaven. Every single time either of them were sent to Hell or Heaven, they are pulled right back to Earth to ensure the survival of humanity. In “Dark Side of the Moon” (ep. 16, season 5), Sam and Dean are ambushed by fellow hunters who are angry at Sam for starting the apocalypse. Both are shot and sent to heaven, but not before Dean warns, “Go ahead, Roy, do it. But I’m going to warn you—when I come back, I’m gonna be pissed.” In heaven an old friend that died in a fire named Ash tells Sam and Dean that they have died and gone to heaven so many times, but they can’t remember because the angels keep erasing their memories and sending them back. Dean visits hell and eventually forced to become a torturer at the end of season 3 until he is pulled out by Castiel in the beginning of season 4. Sam gets sent to hell where the angels Michael and Lucifer fillet his soul and cut it over and over again until he is finally pulled out of Lucifer’s cage. Usually Dean dies in order to save Sam or vice versa. Unfortunately, Sam and Dean Winchester’s journey has not ended, so the audience does not know what great reward the two will receive or if either of them will survive their everlasting battle with the paranormal.
Cain and Abel or Mayan Twin Heroes?
Sam and Dean are constantly compared to the first sons Cain and Abel throughout the entire series; however, the two brothers that are much more similar to Sam and Dean are the Mayan twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque found in the Popol Vuh. The Mayan twins’ father and uncle were killed by the gods of the underworld during a ball game, and the two eventually took on the same path as their father and uncle who were sacrificed by the gods of the underworld (NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com, 2010). The Winchester boys have a non-blood related “Uncle” Bobby who is another skilled hunter and eventually sacrificed in order to close the gates of hell. Their father was sacrificed in order to take the demon that killed their mother through a hell gate and enact their revenge. The Mayan twin brothers travel to Xibalba in order to enact revenge on the underworld gods that killed their father and uncle. According to Encyclopedia (2010), “In the mythology of the Maya of Middle America, Xibalba (place of fright) was an underground realm of the dead” (para. 1). The hero twins eventually tricked and killed the underworld gods after undergoing a series of nearly impossible tasks. The Winchester brothers continuously trick and kill every “big bad” they fight at the end of every season no matter how improbable the odds are for their win.
The Mayan Twins
A Happy Ending for the Winchesters?
Sam and Dean Winchester’s journey hasn’t ended yet, but they leave the mark of true heroes just as Hunahpu and Xbalanque. Each season there is a new quest. Just when they think they’re finally done and can win some peace of mind, a new “big bad” comes into play. In “Exile on Main St.,” Dean had a taste of happiness and a family to take care of before finding out that the supernatural world and Sam still needed him (ep. 1, season 6). Sam experiences his own taste of happiness and the beginnings of a family seen in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and various other episodes throughout season 8 before Dean escapes from Purgatory and searches for Sam to start up the family business again (ep. 1, season 8). While the classic mythological heroes and heroine’s stories have all ended, the Winchesters are still thriving and continuing with the audience waiting at the edge of their seats for the brother’s happy ending.
I'm not crazy. Here is where I found all of my information! ^.^
Encyclopedia. (2014). Xibalba. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/
Kripke, E. (Writer), & Singer, R. (Director). (First aired in 2005). In J. Carver (Executive producer),Supernatural. Los Angeles, CA: McG.
NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com. (2010). Maya Hero Twins. Retrieved from http://nativeamericanencyclopedia.com/maya-hero-twins/
Powell, B. (2002). A short introduction to classical myth. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection.
© 2014 Grace Peterson