Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pondering The Origins Of Super-Teams In Fiction

Perhaps you are familiar with the character Baron Munchausen. Travels the world, meets a lot of people with strange abilities who join him in those travels. They have adventures together, I think he ends up riding a cannonball to the moon or something like that.

The idea of a story about a charismatic guy assembling a group of people with an array of skills is much older than that, obviously. Robin Hood leaps to my, probably Arthurian legends with all his Knights qualify as well. Jason and the Argonauts are another.

What I'm wondering is two things. One, what's the earliest story like that? The earliest we still have any records of, at any rate. Two, what prompted it as a storytelling engine? Giving characters specific cool abilities can give writers ideas for specific obstacles to place in their path, as well as being an easy way to distinguish characters, or serve as a basis for personalities. "Fast Guy" is impatient, impulsive, Strong Guy is maybe kind of dim, possibly short-tempered (or conversely, kind of sweet and gentle unless angered). Was it borne out of some memories of early bandit hordes, that terrorized settlements so effectively they were believed to be possessed of gifts beyond normal humans? Kind of an excuse for being ransacked by them, they were far too mighty for the ordinary villagers to defeat. Or to make your own people look better, by ascribing those same gifts to them.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Interesting question. The earliest one that I can think of is the Iliad.