(urth) Why Wolfe's Protagonists are Supermen

Michael Straight mfstraight at gmail.com
Fri Dec 1 09:31:45 PST 2006

Re-reading Soldier of Arete, I came across a passage that I think
sheds light not only on Latro but also Able and some of Wolfe's other

Polos is shocked to see Latro cry, and is told, "You admire strength
because you are not strong, and that's fine.  But Latro is strong; for
him to admire strength would make him a monster."

In most adventure novels, the hero faces opponents who are stronger
than he, and he struggles to become strong enough to defeat them.  But
Wolfe's heroes often face opponents who are weaker than they are,
creating a very different set of conflicts.

I can think of many worthwhile reasons Wolfe might want to explore
such characters:  How might we live if we were not afraid?   Or if we
did not admire strength?   How might we treat others if we felt no
need to struggle to be stronger than they are?  How ought a rich
country, with the most powerful military in the world, behave if
attacked or threatened by a weaker neighbor?

Of course, there's also the fun of writing a hero who, when challenged
to a duel and warned that no quarter may be given, replies, "I'm not
sure I can kill a man who is begging for his life, but I'll try."


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