Sir Gawain and the Iron Man

2009 March 2
by Stupid Ranger

The “arming of the hero” scene is a classic literary element that allows us as readers (or viewers) to experience those moments when the hero is preparing for battle.  It allows us a brief look into the hero’s mind and a glimpse of the hero’s character independent of his actions.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”
I was first introduced to the “arming of the hero” scene in college as I was studying “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”  We see a change in Gawain throughout the story; this is highlighted with the differences between the two arming scenes.  In the first, as Gawain sets out on his quest, the arming scene focuses on his shield, a symbol of his faith and belief in the Code of Chivalry.  In the second, when he is facing certain death, the arming scene changes focus to the green girdle; with it, Gawain hopes to avoid death, and in doing so, he has turned away from his Code.  We see Gawain’s focus change from faith to fear as he trying to reconcile his mortality.
Iron Man
A couple of weeks ago, Dante & I were watching Iron Man.  We saw the movie a couple of times in the theatre, but at home, I had that light bulb moment as I watched Tony Stark’s two arming scenes.
The first, when Tony is escaping from the cave, the cumbersome nature of the suit means Tony must rely on a computer activation sequence as well as Yinsen’s assistance; this arming scene ends with Tony witnessing Yinsen’s sacrifice as Tony waits for the suit to reach its full power.  The second, Tony has automated the entire arming scene, replacing Yinsen and the computer loading bar with JARVIS.  The first arming of Iron Man preceeded a selfless sacrifice and a dramatic escape; the second begins without a feeling of humanity as Iron Man strives to free an entire village from tyrants.
Arming Your Hero
The arming of the hero is a classic element, and for the storytellers out there, it can be an interesting element to add to your hero.  Your first arming scene will likely occur in the early days of the campaign; at some point — during your initial character description or in one of your early encounters — you will likely describe your weaponry, your armor, your spells, your holy symbol… something specific that helps define your character.  But characters change, whether through organic personal growth or story-driven character development.  If your character has undergone a signficant change, you can help showcase this change through a second arming scene.
For instance, my current character, Eaerenel, is an Eladrin Wizard who loves to use fire spells.  I have described several of her early attacks with firey details.  In the event that something causes her to re-define the nature of her attacks (ie. seeing an entire village and its population destroyed by another wizard’s massive fire attacks), Eaerenel might begin to study icy attacks; I could introduce this change by describing specific icy details of her attacks… where once there was fire, there would be ice instead.
As a storytelling element, you can easily craft arming scenes to help detail your character’s development.  It’s one more creative trick to enhance your roleplaying experience.
2 Responses leave one →
  1. Todd Bradley permalink
    March 4, 2009

    How does this “Arming the Hero” scene fit in with the classic “Training Montage” of action movies? And where does sit in Joseph Campbell’s monomyth (“the hero’s journey”)?

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