The Seven Wandering Heroes

The incredible Department of Nerdly Affairs Podcast recently had an episode about the concept of Murder Hobos. I don’t normally like these kinds of terms because they originate from something I’m going to call Cynical Tropism. I was struggling with entitling this new form of criticism because while it is certainly a modern phenomenon, it’s not the same as Modern criticism. Nor is it in any way, Post-Modernist. Instead this most recent form of critical theory might best be seen as a kind of populism of critical analysis. As opposed to a single theory that grows within the academic world and seeps into common parlance, Cynical Tropism instead becomes a kind of hot-take meme that passes through social media. It comes across as intrinsically “true” somehow, but definitively is a shallow dive in a deeper subject. People all know the wandering character in a fantasy role-playing game that has no home but just murders for profit, so therefore it must be a common trope. But, if you thought about it, that’s the most simplistic understanding of character motivation. In fact, one could quite easily argue that all stories break down in those who go seeking adventure, and those who stay and let adventure come to them. Since that analysis dangerously comes close to Joseph Campbell’s first stage of The Hero’s Journey, it would be best if we just focused on some clearer “wandering” archetypes. So here’s my take on The Seven Wandering Heroes:

  1. The Outcast- This disgraced hero tries to redeem himself/herself. While they try to outdistance their past, always comes back to haunt them.
  2. The Band of Brothers- Much like the A-Team, these wandering heroes aren’t able to make life work on their own, but together they create a family that makes sense- as long as they keep roaming into new adventures. If they ever settled down together though, they would tear apart. They need the road to keep their edge.
  3. The Assassin- The wandering for this “hero” is simply a job. When they understand their internal motivations, they’ll want to stop leading their roaming life. Unfortunately, their murderous actions as a wanderer will catch up to them if they ever return to a “home”, be it metaphorical or real.
  4. The Runner- This hero blunders into a story more often than not. They don’t want to be the centre of the story. They try desperately to be unknown. Like David Bruce Banner or Jesse Pinkman, they can’t face the way they destroyed their previous lives. No matter what they do, they must constantly outrun the past that seeks them out.
  5. Fame and Fortune- This hero leaves the boredom of home to seek unique and exotic locales. Whether they rob an ancient Wizard’s Tower from Hyperborea or trade for spice in China, the goal of this hero is to gain renown and wealth to make their mark in the world.
  6. The Debt- This hero leaves everything behind to repay a debt. The last thing they want to do is leave their home, but they rank honour higher than self-interests. These heroes won’t stop until the debt is repaid- if it ever can be.
  7. The Hermit- This hero considers themselves to be outside of society and always wish to be. They interact only with people long enough to return to their self-imposed hermitage. Whether they need to make enough money to be left alone, or have to repair some critical piece of infrastructure for their sanctuary, they have no love for the world outside.

So, as a word of warning, be careful of those exciting new terms that come out of the herd. Cynical Tropism depends on a speedy transference of a very simple concept based on a shallow understanding of deeper concepts. Tropes and memes are fun brain candy, but they make poor analysis in the long run. With my luck, Cynical Tropism may just catch on… Wouldn’t that serve me right?

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