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Part I:

The Western Novel:

The Legendary Western Hero

Rosalie More


Howdy Pilgrims! Pull up your bedroll next to the campfire and set a spell. Here y'are -- have a cup of steaming coffee while I tell you about the Wild, Wild West and the Legendary Western Heroes who tamed it.

Grant you, women are feisty, bold, and independent enough to qualify as heroines, and if it's all right with you, I'll mix males and females together in this piece and call them all Heroes. Don't take this as an insult to the fair sex, because I myself am a wild woman of the west. I make my living writing westerns.

I'm no youngster anymore. I cut my teeth on stories about The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Red Rider and Lash Larue. I recall that last one tamed the west with an 8 foot rawhide whip--he didn't need a six shooter. As a kid, I ate up stories about Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, and Miss Kitty, owner of the Long Branch Saloon.

I sure do miss those knights of the range galloping across the western frontier on their trusty steeds crusading to save the last watering hole, the vanishing herd, and the beleaguered homesteaders.

Lately, you don't see too many shoot-em-up westerns on TV. Those were real popular when I was young, and I hurried home from school every day to watch Western Theater. I paid a quarter at the movies to watch Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans round up outlaws and rescue the underdogs from a terrible fate.

Oh, the western legend isn't dead. No siree, not by a long shot. Why, my 4-year old grandson clearly understands the importance of the legends of the west. He plays the role of a hero every day, and encourages me to do the same. He says, "Wear your cowboy hat, grandma. And wear your neckerchief." He corrects my style, insisting that the knot should go at the back of my neck. He approves of my cowboy boots and loves to snap grandpa's 8-foot bullwhip. At least he tries.

Even though he can't exactly put it into words yet, my grandson knows about myths and legends and recognizes a hero as a man endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and noted for his noble deeds, especially if he risks his or her life in order to uphold moral principles.

 The "Western" hero, in particular, is a protagonist in a novel set in the American frontier. A hero or heroine is morally responsible and lives by a Code of Ethics. He is compassionate toward the downtrodden and takes their side in a fight for survival. Hes loyal to his friends and to his leader, whether it be his Country, his President, the Texas Rangers, or the riders of the Bar Eight Ranch. Above all, hes Idealistic. He knows the difference between right and wrong, and strongly believes that Good should triumph over Evil. In fact, he will take the initiative to see that Good triumphs. He'll go out of his way and make incredible sacrifices to do so. He will risk his own best interests to shift the balance toward Good, even in situations which are none of his business.  Next part....

Part I: The Legendary Western Hero
Part II: Why Americans Love Westerns

Part III: Western Heroes in American Literature
Part IV: Dime Novels and Early Westerns
Part V: Authors of Popular Western Fiction
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