Frodo Baggins--A Reluctant Hero
Episode 1 of Heroes and Legends

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The Real Middle Earth
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is the most popular work of fiction ever created. It is a tale of epic proportions held together by its unforgettable setting, Middle Earth. The great trilogy introduced the world to Gandalf, Frodo and Aragorn, but arguably the book's true star does not…
Harry Potter--Whistle-Blower Hero
Episode 24 of Heroes and Legends
Finish your course with one of the most unexpected hits of our time--and a smash hit at that. What can the surprising success of Harry Potter teach us about successful heroes? And what do his battles against Lord Voldemort tell us about our world today and the need for love,…
Heroes and Legends - The Most Influential Characters of Literature Series
Heroes hold a special place in our imagination. Names such as Odysseus, Beowulf, and Queen Guinevere summon up mythic legends, while Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, and Huckleberry Finn are some of the most recognizable figures in world literature. Study some of the most memorable and important characters ever created and gain…
Winston Smith--The Hero We Never Want to Be
Episode 20 of Heroes and Legends
Winston Smith, the central figure in George Orwell's nightmare scenario, 1984, is fearful, undernourished, and oppressed by the state--not exactly the image we conjure up when we think of the word "hero." Dive into the dystopia of Big Brother and Ingsoc and find out what makes Winston worthy of being…
Uncle Tom--The Hero as Martyr
Episode 14 of Heroes and Legends
The name "Uncle Tom" has complex associations today, but Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel had a truly powerful impact when it was published in 1852. Explore the historical circumstances of slavery that inspired Stowe's novel, and then consider the fortitude that makes this meek, long-suffering character a hero.
Drama/Tragedy
After discussing the meaning of tragedy and tragic conflict, this program explores the major aspects of character and structure in tragic drama. The tragic world, tragic conflict and the tragic hero are illustrated and explored through selections from such great dramatists as Tennessee Williams, Chekhov, Ibsen, Shakespeare, O'Neill, Sophocles and…
Hammers, Rings, and Other Norse Magic
Skidbladnir, the ship of the gods that can also fit in your pocket. Andvarinaut, a powerful ring that inspired a cycle of mythological stories. These and other magical items are the prized possessions of Norse kings, warriors, and heroes. And their importance--and legacies--are the subject of this final lecture.
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Nineteenth-century Romanticism--with its escape from an increasingly complex and industrialized world to the simplicity and purity of nature--is experienced through the literature of Hugo, Bronte, Shelley and Byron. In a scene from Les Miserables, Victor Hugo sees society as the force that makes men evil. Attitudes toward passions are typified…
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An altogether different--and darker--mythological adventure story is Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece. In pondering the best-known versions of both Jason's story and his wife, Medea's, you'll begin to see Jason as a failed hero and Medea as more than just the woman who murdered her own children.
Othello
Iago (Frank Finlay), an officer in the Venetian army and ensign to the Moorish general Othello (Laurence Olivier), bitterly resents the appointment of a younger soldier Cassio (Derek Jacobi) as Othello's lieutenant. He and his friend Roderigo (Robert Lang) maliciously bait Brabantio (Anthony Nicholls), an old senator, with the news…
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Episode 16 of Heroes and Legends
We are familiar with Sherlock Holmes's methodology--using clues, facts, evidence, and reason to solve the case. Here, go inside the world of the 19th century and see what circumstances paved the way for such a hero. Then, turn to some of Sherlock's most exciting cases.
Beowulf--A Hero with Hidden Depths
Episode 7 of Heroes and Legends
Beowulf is not an easy poem to understand, but Beowulf is not an easy character to understand. Here, analyze how this classic male hero--a big, strong, monster killer--may have a hidden vulnerability. Then, look at what insights Beowulf's story offers about life and death, the limits of self-reliance, and the…