Odysseus. Robinson Crusoe. Harry Potter. What do these memorable characters have in common? Why do we turn to certain stories again and again? And what impact have they made on world history? These 24 eye-opening episodes give fresh insight into some of the greatest heroes in world literature, from warriors such as Beowulf and Odysseus to unexpected heroes such as Uncle Tom and Sancho Panza.Professor Shippey gives you an inside glimpse into the writer's process. Learn how authors "write into the gap" to flesh out--or, in some cases, reimagine altogether--old stories, making them new for new readerships with different values. By examining what makes these heroes such compelling characters, you'll see how they provide a window to better understand ourselves.From the beginnings of world literature through today's bestsellers, look at what makes characters successful--and how they reflect our changing cultural mores. For instance, after the horrors of global war in the 20th century, the world was waiting for a hero like Frodo Baggins, J.R.R. Tolkien's meek hobbit hero, someone called to duty rather than born strong and fearless.You'll also examine ways that great heroes have changed the course of history, defining nations and redefining our sense of self and our relationships. From the mythical journey of Aeneas to Jane Austen's country dances, you'll survey a wealth of memorable stories and consider why such heroes were necessary--and how they continue to influence our lives today.