Heroic Spirit

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    He isn't just holding that rubble up. He eventually makes himself lift it.

    "I could break your body, but I could never destroy your spirit."
    The Champion to The Thing

    The spirit of a true hero is an awesome thing. The heroes can do anything if they are driven enough. They will not surrender, they will not stay down. Death, The Virus, Wangst, they are all to be shrugged off when the chips are down. No Despair Event Horizon for them.

    Now this seems to be strictly idealistic, but get an Anti-Hero against the ropes, and the same spirit will show up, even if manifested in different forms.

    A Super-Trope involving:

    Not to be confused with the Servants. Or literal Heroic Spirits.

    Examples of Heroic Spirit include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Rock Lee in Naruto is able to keep fighting after two limbs have been crushed by Gaara's sand coffin and he's been beaten into unconsciousness. On a lighter note, he also fights spectacularly well when he's drunk as a pirate. His mentor attributes both of these feats to his fighting spirit.
    • A major motif in most Super Robot mecha shows (with some exceptions). It's sometimes even the key to using what ever green rocks/applied phlebotinum powers the robot. Examples include:
    • One Piece has done this a number of times. Most notably with Usopp the Lovable Coward, since he pretty much needs Heroic Spirit to break through his fear. His fight with Mr. 4 and Miss Merry Christmas had him stand up after taking a four ton bat to the face. His battle with Perona did this more literally, with Usopp calling upon his alter ego Soge King to save him.
    • More literally so in Brook's case. His spirit was the only thing keeping him tethered to the mortal world after his death 52 years ago. His spirit also can be weaponized into ghostly ice.
    • Ichigo of Bleach tends to act like this. On at least one occasion he essentially comes back from the dead just because he's that bent on winning.
    • Jack Rakan. He's been known to bend the laws of physics outright ignore the laws of magic just because.
    • Tenma from Monster just won't break. Ever.
    • Endou from Inazuma Eleven has been knocked down so many times by powerful shoots, and even when other people wouldn't have been able to stand, he struggles to his feet so that his team can continue to play and win the match.
    • Both Mashima Sero and Haman Karn from Gundam ZZ are able to block beams with sheer willpower, and in Mashima's case, he was even able to reflect said beams, while enduring thousands of volts of electricity.
    • Goku, particularly in the Dragonball Z arcs could be said to be this.


    • Page quote comes from "Marvel Two in One Annual" #7. A cosmically-powered warrior called simply "The Champion" beams the strongest heroes of Earth up to his ship to box with him. The fate of the Earth is at stake, naturally. The Thing is the last hero into the ring (the others being mopped-up in short order by a bored champion or not really understanding boxing, and thus being 'disqualified' and punted back to wherever they were yanked from- there's an absolutely classic moment where Thor pops up, thoroughly confused, wearing boxing gloves and trunks... and his winged helmet and cape. Of course, since Norse gods don't box much, he proceeds to wing Mjolnir at the Champion and get kicked out.). The Thing gives a good account of himself before being savagely beaten down. He gets back up and attacks again, managing to injure the Champion before being beaten to an utter pulp. He gets up and manages to land a few more blows before being beaten through the floor. As the Champion goes into his spiel about the fate of the Earth, the Thing drags himself up and grabs him by the ankles (weakly). At which point the Champion declares "I could break your body, but I could never destroy your spirit" and leaves for other planets and other challenges. The story is based on a story in which Daredevil takes on the Hulk, which is itself based on a much earlier story involving Daredevil against the Sub-mariner. (Daredevil vs. either of these should be a hideously one-sided mismatch, seeing how they're superstrong and Nigh Invulnerable, and he's...not really blind.)
    • This is more or less what allows members of the Green Lantern Corps to use their rings.
      • Also sort of applies to the Blue Lantern Corps.
    • Amazing Spider-Man #33 was arguably the best issue of the original Stan Lee/Steve Ditko run. It is the third part of "If This Be My Destiny" three part arc. Spider-Man trapped under a huge piece of equipment after a fight with Doctor Octopus. His Aunt May is dying and needs a serum to cure her. Spidey thinks about giving up, but he's determined not to let Aunt May down. He uses every ounce of strength and will and finally lifts the wreckage off. The sequence was later adapted in the animated series The Spectacular Spider-Man in the episode "Shear Strength".
      • Spidey also fought off a broken neck. Of course, it wasn't really broken, but with the villain in question (Fusion) being a Master of Illusion, he didn't know that until he was clenching his fists and standing up for another go.


    • Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings.
      • This is a trait of many characters, including Frodo and Aragorn. Even Gollum shows this at times.
    • Egwene Al'Vere in The Wheel of Time.
    • Schererazde in the Arabian Nights in a weird but definite sort of way. Man, what kind of girl first volunteers for near certain death, then has the audacity and sheer nerve to tell stories while having sex with a pending execution hanging over her.
    • There's a reason Yoda is the Grandmaster of the Jedi Order. After Order 66, Obi-Wan despairs that they may be the last Jedi. Yoda responds,

    "If the last we are, unchanged our duty is. While one Jedi lives, survive the Order does. Resist the darkness with every breath, we must."


    Live Action TV

    • Worf made a fine showing of this trope on an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Detained in a Dominion prison camp, the Klingon was forced to fight a near continual series of one-on-one fights with progressively more skilled Jem'hadar and little time to rest with no medical attention between fights. Finally, he reaches the lead Jem'hadar, who beats the unholy hell out of him. However, Worf refuses to admit defeat, and rises to go another round. It's clear that the Jem'hadar could easily finish and kill him at this point, but instead...

    Ikat'ika: I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him. And that no longer holds my interest.


    "The War. The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. Where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In my life, I have never seen anything like it; They would weep, they would pray, they would say goodbye to their loved ones, and then throw themselves without fear or hesitation at the very face of death itself, never surrendering. No one who saw them fighting against the inevitable could help but be moved to tears by their courage. Their stubborn nobility. When they ran out of ships, they used guns; when they ran out of guns they used knives and sticks and bare hands. They were magnificent. I only hope that when it is my time, I may die with half as much dignity as I saw in their eyes in the end. They did this for two years. They never ran out of courage but in the end, they ran out of time."

    • Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly, starting with his very first scene in the pilot, showing his refusal to lay down arms when he's caught on the losing side of the battle of Serenity Valley, and reiterated often after that. Played up more than ever in the Big Damn Movie. Ditto Simon Tam- a mild-mannered Deadpan Snarker Fish Out of Water who isn't much good at fighting, but will go to any lengths to protect his baby sister. Including offering to be burned at the stake with her when their present company decides she's a witch. (Luckily for them, the rest of the crew arrived just in time to rescue them.).
    • Deconstructed in Stargate Atlantis. Most people can't survive the Wraith mind control and just get eaten. All the wraith worshipers were those strong enough to take it, and were often very heroic beforehand, making their fates kind of tragic.
    • This is actually canon in Super Sentai, normally refered to as the "Super Sentai Soul". Pretty much, it's the reason why if Sentai teams absolutely refuse to quit, they can manage to pull out an Eleventh-Hour Superpower. The team up specials normally result in the two teams invoking this together to power up the present team's mecha when they final battle is getting too rough. In the vs Super Sentai specials.

    Tabletop Games

    • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5's Iron Heart Surge is a manifestation of such, but due to poor wording it is able to stop the sun's heat (because it is an effect under the rules for a desert) or the sun's light (as it lowers the accuracy of some races) forever as they are effects effecting you that are not instantaneous. Conversely, it is useless against most incapacitating conditions - if you're mind-controlled, stunned or nauseated, you can't take the standard action to use the maneuver.
      • There's a lot of examples of this in the 4th edition of the game. As a side effect of the efforts to give healing abilities to more classes (and avoid the You gotta have a Cleric! problem of earlier editions), there's a lot of powers that allow characters to expend Healing Surges and regain lost Hit Points that are described as this trope at work.
      • Dark Sun dwarves have "focus", their current obsessively followed major goal. Game mechanics gives bonuses to save and skill checks while performing tasks leading directly toward this goal.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh has an equip magic card called "Fighting Spirit." A monster equipped with the card gets 300 attack points for every monster on the opposite side of the field. If that wasn't enough, when the equipped monster is supposed to be destroyed, the equip card is destroyed in its place. Pretty much wraps this trope in a nut shell.
    • Magic: The Gathering 's story arc of "Rise of the Eldrazi" depicted a horribly outclassed humanity fighting against plane eating elder gods called the Eldrazi. One card in particular, "Time Of Heroes", sums up this idea in its flavor text: "...The threat of the Eldrazi presented a simple choice: lay down your weapons and die for nothing, or hold them fast and die for something."
    • Exalted has Willpower, which can be spent to throw off mental influence, or to enhance ability rolls. Channel one of your Virtues for the latter use, and the action is all but guaranteed to succeed if that Virtue is high enough. So, basically, by being a heroic person, you can channel the raw Power of Love (Compassion), level-headedness and discipline (Temperance), Hot Bloodedness (Valor), or sheer determination (Conviction).
    • Spellbound Kingdoms combat system has motivation mechanics built in as "Inspirations". Once per battle per Inspiration, a character can have Heart roll along with normal attack, defence or other roll and use the best value. The strength of an Inspiration counts as a bonus to Heart roll if it can be hammed out—sorry, if the player narrates the character's inspiration and actions (e.g. a loyal guard swings at an intruder with "You Shall Not Pass!").


    • An abundance of this is about the only thing that stops Ajax from being a villain in Sophocles' Ajax.

    Video Games

    • Although the trope should not be confused with Fate/stay night's Heroic Spirits, the trope is quite an important part of the series. Shirou in particular practically lives and breathes this trope, especially in the "Fate" route.
    • Kingdom Hearts: Sora's heart is exceptionally strong, maybe even one of the strongest hearts in existence. Against all odds, he manages to regain his Keyblade from the Anti-Hero by merely reciting a quote pretty similar to the one on top of the page. He also managed to keep his free will in the form of a Heartless - something that is near impossible to do.
      • Terra may trump even Sora though. After spending his story trusting Obvious Villains, getting convinced his friends have betrayed him and causing the death of his surrogate father, he finally proves just why the Keyblade chose him: after Xehanort pulls a Grand Theft Me on Terra at the climax of his final bosses and takes complete control of Terra's body, Terra's armour rises up to confront Xehanort, who's theoretically at his prime at this point, and beats the hell out of, quite literally, himself. After that? He kneels down and waits for 11 years before Sora runs across him in Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+, where he's widely regarded as That One Boss of an entire series littered with them.
    • Final Fantasy VII Compilation, especially Crisis Core - Zack Fair, who will just NOT quit, even in the face of impossible odds. It takes an army to kill him, and even then, he kills most of them.
    • The cast of Sengoku Basara run on this like a car runs on petrol. Not only is it implied to be the source of their massive strength, most of them would probably be long dead without it.
    • In Sonic Unleashed, this was implied by Chip to be the reason behind Sonic being able to survive in his Werehog Form without being fully corrupted by Dark Gaia.
      • Of note is that he didn't even realize he was resisting it. His heroic spirit is so strong that it's practically subconscious.
    • In Halo, the Spartan-IIs live and breath this trope. No matter what the odds all of them will fight to the very last breath. They all realize that they will often need to sacrifice themselves for the future of humanity, but want to use their lives to kill as many of the enemy as possible.

    Western Animation

    • In the Futurama episode "A Taste Of Freedom", Old Man Waterfall says a similar line to the Decapodian invaders. They proceed to smash him into the ground, at which point he says, "Ow, my spirit!"
    • A Dial M for Monkey short on Dexter's Laboratory, is a Whole-Plot Reference to a comic book event mentioned above. Rasslor pummels the heroic primate senseless, but he just won't give up.
      • The fact that Monkey is so small compared the Thing (though no less super strong) makes it almost even more awesome.
        • For extra fun, we have the Casting Gag of Randy "Macho Man" Savage playing the cartoon's version of The Champion.

    Rasslor: "Incredible. I could crush your body, I could smash your bones, but I could NEVER break your spirit. You are a marvel, little Monkey! Any world that could spawn one as noble as you, is truly blessed! I SPARE YOUR EARTH!"


    Real Life

    • In psychology, this trait is called "resilience". People who are very resilient can come back from major losses and get through extremely tough times without permanent effects.
    • The Finnish concept of 'sisu' is pretty much this.
    • In World War 2, Tom Lea said of a young Marine at the Battle of Peleliu:

    "He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?"