What makes a hero? Are they brave because they feel no fear, or is courage derived from feeling the fear but embracing it? The following fictional characters have elements of both I think. Though only a couple could possibly be called "super" in a supernatural sense, they all display a certain selflessness that sets them apart from the crowd. I’ve focused the spotlight on those British few, who I hope may demonstrate that you don’t have to be able to fly, or even herald from this particular landmass, to be a hero.

I just reckon it helps.

1. The Highlander

Scotland, home to free range haggis, deep fried mars bars, and immortals. Unfortunately only two of these are a work of fiction. There can only be one, apparently, but with three films, two TV series, and an animated series…I forget my point. Connor MacLeod fights war after war on behalf of others with the constant threat of decapitation hanging over his own head (I know I see it). In the original movie Conner indeed becomes "The One." On achieving this he returns back to his native land where he started five centuries earlier.

On paper, Bond is an amoral, brutish, womanizing sociopath with few qualities you’d want children to emulate, but you forgive all that.Being the last immortal he gains "The Prize," a mystical ability to read the world’s minds. Lesser men would immediately use such a power to their own selfish ends, but not Macleod. His intentions? "I can use it to help them understand each other." What a legend.

2. Sam Gamgee

You’re already thinking of two objections to this inclusion I know. One, he’s not British, and two, he’s a Hobbit.

I’m going to ignore your second objection because it’s simply racist, and that’s your problem not mine. But onto the first one, from Tolkien himself:

"… If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence."

So there we go, some of the earliest recorded Brits, so just… drop it.

Sam is the typical true unsung hero: he wants nothing more than his own quiet slice of the Shire (itself based on England) to settle down in with the village barmaid. Sam’s dreams are stalled by his cock-blocking master who drags him on a dangerous journey of certain death (because the pots won’t wash themselves), and because Master Frodo’s accustomed to having his face stroked gently as he feigns sleep under a forest canopy.

Frodo Baggins and his pet/manservant Sam’s relationship can best be summarized by the old song, "You’ve got the brains, I’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of dead Orcs." I’ll leave you to decide who’s the brains and who’s the looks. The smart one isn’t missing a finger…and didn’t nearly screw the entire quest up by taking an ultimate warrior ego trip at the last second. So yeah, Frodo’s the incompetent ass.

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3. Bond… James Bond

You were expecting him, Mr. Reader.

On paper the man is an amoral, brutish, womanizing sociopath with few qualities you’d want children to emulate, but you forgive all that the moment you see this magnificent bastard in action. Seemingly motivated by a sense of deep unwavering patriotism combined with an innate obligation to serve his Country, 007 asks for no thanks, which is just as well because its rarely forthcoming and he nonchalantly struts into situations no sane man could reasonably expect to return from.

Yet he does. With nothing but an arsenal of dodgy puns, backed by his more vaunted, though much less effective, arsenal of gadgets.

Gadgets are more effective than puns you say? Seriously, if Bond’s making a pun at you you’re either about to die in a horrifically ironic fashion or you’re going to be dry humped until formal consent is given. Either way, the capabilities of his watch and pen will be the last things on your mind. Love or hate the guy it cannot be denied that he knows where his loyalties lie.

4. Robin Hood

He’s fictional. Get over it.

We’re all familiar with this guy’s modus operandi: he steals from the rich and gives to the poor, so he’s arguably the inventor of the first tax rebate. Ever polite and courteous, especially to the fairer sex, Sir Hood is a swashbuckling, quiver-carrying hero for the everyman; the only side he takes is the one he considers right. He had an undeniably British penchant for fair-play and fair Maidens, most notably Miss Marian who, if we’re honest about it, didn’t exactly make him work for it. Nice as he was, the guy still made her live in a forest with scores of other blokes. Seems good swordsmanship can actually get you pretty far…

Swiftly moving on.

5. Fireman Sam

Wales: where the men are men and the sheep are scared.

As far as I’m aware, "the hero next door" is Wales’ most recognized fictional hero. In the interests of fair representation I thought he should be included. Cool, calm, and unflappable in a crisis, Samuel "Great Fires of London!" Peyton-Jones is always there for a person in need, both on and off duty.

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When not putting out fire station fires initiated by his inept colleagues, Sam can be found tinkering in his shed making convoluted, though ultimately useless inventions. If that doesn’t scream British I don’t know what does. This fireman has time for everyone and everything and oozes civil responsibility. His one annoyance? Postman Pat. Apparently that guy can go fuck himself.

6. Sherlock Holmes

This coke addicted gentleman is in a league of his own. The archetypal detective has yet to be surpassed in his logic and reasoning skills. A genius surrounded by lesser men, Holmes is tenacious without condescension. Alright, that’s bollocks. The guy’s a bit of a pretentious wanker, but he’s allowed to be, he’s Sherlock Holmes.

Under his almost Asperger’s-like veneer, Holmes has shown himself to ultimately be a man of compassion, often waiving the fee for his services in the greater pursuit of justice.

Despite his faults (and there are plenty), he showed his true metal when he was temporarily killed off in a final confrontation with the equally gifted, but infinitely more insidious Professor Moriarty. Finding a note at the scene of Holmes’ demise, Watson finds out Holmes decided to take Moriarty down once and for all, showing a trait more valuable and worthy than all his intellectual gifts combined: self-sacrifice.

7. King Arthur Pendragon

Albion’s Finest. The man and his Knights are the epitome of chivalry, death before disservice, and honor above all.

King Arthur defined the Camelot he ruled over, had the roots of democracy with his round table, and treated his knights as brothers who, if he couldn’t save, would gladly die by their side. Arthurian legend would have us believe heroes are only born, not made; after all, it was "destiny" that led Arthur to pulling Excalibur from the stone.

Whether its nature or nurture in this King’s case is debatable; what isn’t debatable is that the finished product is a dragon-taming, wizard-bitchslapping badass with a heart of platinum. Platinum’s like super gold, so you know the guy’s ultra special.

The best bit? He isn’t dead. You see, awesomeness springs eternal. He’s currently sleeping off a sword to the heart inflicted by either his half-sister or nephew, depending on your story of preference. All the legends agree, however, that when he’s healed he will return from his peaceful rest on the mystical island of Avalon, when "Albion’s need is greatest."

How a sword can counteract nuclear Armageddon I have no idea. Then again, I don’t need to know—I’m not the once and future King.

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