Little people, against the odds have always defeated big opponents. The most popular stories, from any age, all agree. A Hero must defeat or outwit forces bigger than himself. Jack brought the giant crashing down the beanstalk. David slew the mighty Goliath. Odysseus, blinded the terrible Cyclops. Who hasn't felt tiny when faced with the challenges of life? Few people over 40 haven't been cut in two by betrayal. So often, the demands of work, marriage and friendship seem overwhelming. At times, even getting out of bed is heroic.
That's why, the hero facing impossible odds, speaks to the heart. Yes, says the heart. I know that feeling. Of not being good enough. Of being small and weak. The heart rejoices when it hears of somebody overcoming a massive obstacle.
Because of my wok as a storyteller, I'm fascinated by stories and films that speak to the heart. Who are the heroes of today? Who are the little people that defeat big opponents? When Game of Thrones came out I read them all, back to back. A small heroic feat? Last night I watched the last episode on the telly. Jon Snow is my favorite character. Like Jack, David, and Odysseus, he overcame huge obstacles.
Poor Jon had a rough start. As the bastard son of Ned Stark, nothing he did was good enough. He didn't fit in. He was never going to be a Lord: rich, powerful and respected. So he became an outsider: broody and silent, he practiced sword skills alone. This is the manure, from which he grew. His life was shit. But it got much better. When we first saw Jon Snow, he was at the bottom of the heap. A million miles from the Iron Throne. He was small in comparison to the mountain he climbed. When Jon eventually became 'King of the North', I rejoiced with him. I felt his triumph. Because I knew how far he had come. And secretly I hoped, maybe I too can overcome the challenges in my life. If Jon, why not me?
That's why these heroes are so popular. They let us hope. They let us hope, against the odds that we can do remarkable things. When we fail, and land on our asses, as we most certainly will, we can pick ourselves up, brush off the dust, and carry on.
Nobody wants to fail, obviously. No body wants to fall into difficulty. But we all know that the heroes and people we admire most, fail.
If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate. - Thomas J. Watson
When Jon joined the Nightswatch, the failures, and rejects of the world became his family. It was there, in the ashes of failure that Jon forged a deep friendship with Samwell Tarly. Sam's situation was even worse than Jon's. He was fat, clumsy and cowardly. Everybody picked on him. He was a hopeless soldier, doomed to failure. Jon became Sam's protector, and told the bullies of the Nightswatch:
Sam's no different from the rest of us. There was no place for him in the world, so he came here. We're not going to hurt him in the training yard anymore. Never again, no matter what Thorne says. He's our brother and we're going to protect him.
Jon is strong, good-looking, and broody. But these classic-Romantic qualities are outweighed by his humility. He is humble and he protects the weak. This is why we love him. Jon Snow gets to join the company of mythic heroes. He stands alongside Jack and the Beanstalk, David and Goliath and Odysseus. These heroes give us hope. Hope that we can rise from our own failures. Hope that it is never to late to start again.