A few days ago, I was listening to the song “Hail the Hero” by Celtic Thunder, and something in the lyrics struck me:
“Hail the hero, strong and true,
Who fought the fight, and saw it through,
Who swore he ne’er would be a slave
And gave his life our land to save.”
Do you see it? No? Look at this line then:
“And gave his life our land to save.”
There’s been a subtle shift in the focus of what is being protected in a story. It used to be that the hero was trying to save a land, a world, or a people as a whole rather than being devoted to an individual. They gave everything “for the land.” Often, rulers were tied to the land in some way, either through mystical means (having a literal bond with the earth) or through responsibility as a prince or princess, a king or queen.