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211. Why Do Failed Heroes Feel So Frustrating?

Fans want to cheer our heroes despite their bad choices, including King David in history, King Arthur in mythology, and Paul Atreides in fiction.
Fantastical Truth on May 7, 2024 · No comments

King David was a man after God’s own heart. But he failed. King Arthur was the legendary ruler of Britain. But he also failed. And in newer fiction, Paul Atreides was the prophesied Lisan al Gaib. And, once again, he failed. Why is it so frustrating to watch all these real and fictional heroes keep failing?

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Mission update

Concession stand

  • Let’s skip to the end: human heroes fail, but Jesus never will. Roll theme.
  • Ah, but seriously, that’s the clear conclusion. But until then, we groan.
  • This episode is more about that frustration about failed human heroes.
  • We’ve selected three: historical, mythical, and fictional. You’ll have more.
  • Finally, there will be spoilers about King David, King Arthur, and Dune.

1. King David’s historic sins tarnished a Golden Age

  • Stephen recently re-read the David narratives in 1/2 Samuel/Chronicles.
  • This reading plan is chronological, with Psalms, which brings out a lot.
  • For instance, there’s a lot of “journalism” being done to defend David.
  • But also in-house accountability journalism to hold him to account.
  • “Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder” for both David and his son Solomon’s kingship (2 Sam. 8:16; cf. 2 Sam. 20:24 and 1 Kings 4:3).
  • If you use written records to exonerate kings, they must tell everything.
  • That includes David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam 11:3).
  • Later, David apparently mistrusts his God and instead trusts in his army, so he sinfully orders a national census (2 Sam. 24, cf. 1 Chron. 21).
  • Reading this at once, it’s almost painful how much things fall apart.
  • David’s power-abuse gets magnified by his Amnon’s assault (2 Sam. 13).
  • David’s other son, Absalom, is enraged, abuses power, turns rebel.
  • And ultimately David dies fairly faithful, yet unable to build God’s house.
  • His son Solomon also gets a golden age, plus wisdom, but also a harem.
  • After that, the kingdom falls apart, and nothing in Israel is ever the same.

2. King Arthur’s mythical reign ultimately ended

  • Stephen is still catching up to the various King Arthur legends.
  • Several versions exist, such as original(?) 1400s Sir Thomas Malory tales.
  • Newer versions include Terence Hanbury White’s The Sword in the Stone
  • Stephen R. Lawhead moved back the time period in his Pendragon Cycle.
  • Alas, our Stephen had to get spoilers to answer Arthur’s mythical fate.
  • There’s the whole infamous tale of Lancelot and Guinevere vs. Arthur.
  • And also Arthur’s son, Mordred, apparently fighting him in battle.
  • Arthur dies—or else he heals up in Avalon and will return to England.
  • Either way, Arthur’s reign did not work out. No descendants. No throne.
  • Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle echoes longing for a “kingdom of summer.”
  • Yet even in book 1 you get the idea this image is really about New Earth.

3. Paul Atreides falls into fictional ‘messiah’ complex

  • Dune: Part 2 has now famously made the first novel’s ending more tragic.
  • We enjoyed the film, but felt great frustration at Paul’s moral decay.
  • Before, Paul feared the notion of becoming a revolutionary messiah.
  • To save the Fremen, Paul must drink condensed spice and see the future.
  • That’s when he embraces this destiny and gives himself to vengeance.
  • We see less of his father’s nobility (though this ultimately got him killed).
  • And we see less of the honorable House Atreides, the total good guys.
  • Instead the story turns political. This is the only way to win, isn’t it?
  • So the film makes this even more clear, per Herbert’s original direction.
  • The book ends with Lady Jessica assuring Chani that Paul does love her, but for political reasons, he must ceremonially marry Princess Irulan.
  • The film ends with Paul doing this, and driving off Chani in anger.
  • It’s a big difference that makes Part 2’s finale feel a major bummer.
  • That would stay true even if Paul does stay faithful in a Part 3 film.
  • Either way, the story’s “rules” give us no honorable victory for Paul.
  • His life is mixed up in bloodshed, politics, and running a religious cult.

Com station

Top question for listeners

  • How do obviously flawed heroes or heroines make you feel?

Victor DiGiovanni also recalls the Christ Clone trilogy (ep. 209):

Hey! A Christ Clone Trilogy shout-out! When I’m recommending Endtimes sci-fi books, that’s the one I go with, not that anyone can find the version of the books I read. I’m someone who snarkily reviewed Left Behind, at least when it stretched out the series from 4-7 books to the (estimated) 36 books it ended up at. But I’m glad I had Christ Clone Trilogy as my go-to suggestion.

Side note: the author, James BeauSeigneur is the one author of the 21st century who has next to zero online presence. I’ve found a total of one interview with him since I first read the book in 2004. I just did a search and that’s still the only interview. So weird that someone who had a shiny trilogy of books that were available in Books-a-Million, but otherwise has no presence. It’s like the books just appeared out of the aether one day. Just saying that it’s worth an investigation to see if these are books that appeared divinely.

Stephen Rice appreciated Zack’s end-times “pessimism” in 209:

Responding to Episode 209 (or a comment made in it), I’d like to upvote Zack’s “pessimistic” eschatology. I hope he doesn’t get much pushback. Perhaps we’re just not excessively optimistic. Persecution has been the rule throughout our history, so the idea that one group would get airlifted out harm’s way seems odd.

Next on Fantastical Truth

It’s that time of year, when we start planning episodes three months at a time, lasting us through Realm Makers in July! Coming up: video game heroine appearances, galactic wonders, the future of Christian creators, plus star interviews with authors of new novelists, and a retrospective twenty years after the (temporary) conclusion of a classic evangelical thriller series.

Fantastical Truth
Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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