The Warrior Poet/M&M Hero

Susan here – in last week’s blog on the topic of grumpy heroes, I mentioned the Warrior Poet heroic type. Plain-M&Ms-Pile Years ago, Mary Jo and I, along with friend and writer Eileen Charbonneau, did workshop panels that explored the Warrior Poet hero—we also called him the M&M hero. Our multi-media presentation included a panel discussion, images, music, gift baskets—and chocolate, of course! 

GF Watts Galahad 1862The term “Warrior Poet” originates with an archetypal hero found in ancient Irish society and literature. Traditionally the Fianna, the elite warrior heroes of Irish legend, were trained as both warriors and poets. Poets as well as warriors went through rigorous training and discipline, building power and skill and knowledge. The warrior-poet who combined strength of body and mind was a powerful hero indeed.

The Warrior Poet has a long tradition, from ancient through medieval to modern. Odysseus, Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad, so many more–they are part of the DNA of storytelling, and have helped form our fascination and love for complex, challenging, ultimately rewarding heroes.

In romance fiction the term “Warrior Poet” describes the range of this hero’s qualities, and M&M helps clarify him further – he’s not Grumpy, Alpha, or Beta, but like an M&M, he has a hard shell wrapped around a rich, delicious interior, full of substance and love. He can be crusty on the outside, but he’s not grumpy all the way through. Beneath the hardened emotional shell, he can be a soft-hearted guy with a deep capacity to love. His redeeming qualities soon become evident. As a hero and a match for the heroine, he has huge potential.


Alma tadema silent greeting

His innate capacity to love is part of him from the start – which he may show in small ways until he lets down his guard. 

The circumstances of his life are often tragic or challenging; he has learned to suppress and protect himself, hide his caring nature behind a challenging exterior. He might be overly reserved or gruff, but at his core, he is capable as well as caring.

This guy might be a titled wealthy peer, a soldier, a knight or warrior, or in a contemporary, an executive; he can take almost any role, but that reserve is key to his nature. That’s his protection. Something in the WP/MM craves expression and intellectual activity too, so he might be drawn to music, art, writing, anonymous charity, healing, and so on.

ColBrandon_Sense SensibilityWarrior Poets can be found everywhere in literature, in art, in movies and TV too. Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (movie version, Alan Rickman is -the best-) is at his core a warrior hero, reserved, contained, yet capable of love and greatness. Another is Kevin Costner’s character in the movie The Bodyguard. Yet another warrior poet is the powerful character of the knight Navarre in Ladyhawke. I know you can all think of great examples in your own favorite books and movies!

Some examples in my own writing are an elite knight with the gift of hands-on healing; a tough outlaw who Laird of rogues_Kim cover plays the fiddle and wants to be a farmer; a blacksmith damaged by life and war, yet when he smiths a sword he has the freedom of true artistry. In my newest release, Laird of Rogues, the warrior-poet hero, Ronan MacGregor, is a whisky smuggler with the hard shell of a rogue—though secretly a lawyer working to protect his family and his tenants.

Ladyhawke IsabeauIn today’s historical romances (our usual focus here at Word Wenches) a Warrior Poet hero may be a tough warrior, a hardened rake, or a bitter earl—but he is never intentionally cruel, never just grumpy or irredeemable. A WP doesn’t need redemption. He has it all inside—he gets it, he loves, he is emotionally capable as well as physically skilled. He just needs to unlock it—not learn it.

Love transforms the Warrior Poet hero by freeing him to be himself.

Alma-Tadema__Promise_of_SpringThe heroine taps his emotional potential—until he meets her, he keeps it under wraps. She may challenge him, fascinate, frustrate, puzzle him. She is key to his shift toward stability and trust. Yet he is complete on his own, never dependent on her–though he realizes that he is a better man with her than without her, which helps to compel him.

In his best form, the Warrior Poet hero is intriguing, sexy, strong and underplayed, an agile balance of contrasts.

This dual nature creates a fascinating tension. He might need some nurturing, and he is capable of nurturing the heroine as well—this adds to the relationship dynamic and reward. 

He’s my favorite sort of hero. I've written many variations on this fascinating guy, and I've just finished a new medieval, The Scottish Bride, to be released next spring, featuring a fabulous M&M hero and the perfect heroine to draw him out — just as he helps her unlock innate courage and love as well. 

Does this guy appeal to you too? What examples come to mind of Warrior Poet and M&M heroes in novels, movies or TV?

 

50 thoughts on “The Warrior Poet/M&M Hero”

  1. Mary Jo, we had such fun presenting our workshop! Discussing what makes a romance hero wonderful, and a wonderful challenge was a great experience. Remember tossing M&M bags out to the audience? LOL
    Happy sighs indeed. I’m thinking up another WP/MM guy for my next book. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Mary Jo, we had such fun presenting our workshop! Discussing what makes a romance hero wonderful, and a wonderful challenge was a great experience. Remember tossing M&M bags out to the audience? LOL
    Happy sighs indeed. I’m thinking up another WP/MM guy for my next book. 🙂

    Reply
  3. You have beautifully explained the difference in the “hero” from the books by Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss, et al, and books by the Wenches and others. Yes, I read all of Rodgers and Woodiwiss’ books but did not keep them whereas I’ve kept most of the books by the Wenches, Georgette Heyer, SEP, and others because your hero’s are Warrior-Poets and not Alpha-Asses.

    Reply
  4. You have beautifully explained the difference in the “hero” from the books by Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss, et al, and books by the Wenches and others. Yes, I read all of Rodgers and Woodiwiss’ books but did not keep them whereas I’ve kept most of the books by the Wenches, Georgette Heyer, SEP, and others because your hero’s are Warrior-Poets and not Alpha-Asses.

    Reply
  5. Not novel, movie, or tv, but the poem/song by Thomas Moore:
    The Minstrel-boy to the war is gone,
    In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
    His father’s sword he has girded on,
    And his wild harp slung behind him—
    “Land of song!” said the warrior-bard,
    “Though all the world betrays thee,
    One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
    One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
    The Minstrel fell!—but the foeman’s chain
    Could not bring his proud soul under;
    The harp he loved ne’er spoke again,
    For he tore its cords asunder;
    And said, “No chains shall gully thee,
    Thou soul of love and bravery!
    Thy songs were made for the brave and free,
    They shall never sound in slavery!”

    Reply
  6. Not novel, movie, or tv, but the poem/song by Thomas Moore:
    The Minstrel-boy to the war is gone,
    In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
    His father’s sword he has girded on,
    And his wild harp slung behind him—
    “Land of song!” said the warrior-bard,
    “Though all the world betrays thee,
    One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
    One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
    The Minstrel fell!—but the foeman’s chain
    Could not bring his proud soul under;
    The harp he loved ne’er spoke again,
    For he tore its cords asunder;
    And said, “No chains shall gully thee,
    Thou soul of love and bravery!
    Thy songs were made for the brave and free,
    They shall never sound in slavery!”

    Reply
  7. Definitely Alan Rickman’s Brandon for me. He’s a lovely character and perfectly brought to life by Rickman. There’ll never be another to play that part as well!
    Of course now you’ve asked the question, I can’t think of one solitary hero like this only maybe, just coming to mind, Wrexford from Andrea’s books.

    Reply
  8. Definitely Alan Rickman’s Brandon for me. He’s a lovely character and perfectly brought to life by Rickman. There’ll never be another to play that part as well!
    Of course now you’ve asked the question, I can’t think of one solitary hero like this only maybe, just coming to mind, Wrexford from Andrea’s books.

    Reply
  9. “He just needs to unlock it—not learn it.” Good point, Susan.
    Lucky the lady who gets one to unlock! Pity the lady who thinks she has, only to find out he’s less than a slow learner (“Is never good enough for you?”). Bless the tension as we read on to confirm he’s an M&M rather than a total .

    Reply
  10. “He just needs to unlock it—not learn it.” Good point, Susan.
    Lucky the lady who gets one to unlock! Pity the lady who thinks she has, only to find out he’s less than a slow learner (“Is never good enough for you?”). Bless the tension as we read on to confirm he’s an M&M rather than a total .

    Reply
  11. Lovely post, lovely heroes! Definitely Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon in film, and, for me, Francis Crawford in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are true Warrior Poets.

    Reply
  12. Lovely post, lovely heroes! Definitely Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon in film, and, for me, Francis Crawford in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are true Warrior Poets.

    Reply
  13. I too love Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon. I’m reading Patricia Rice’s new book & Hunt definitely fits the category!

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  14. I too love Alan Rickman’s Colonel Brandon. I’m reading Patricia Rice’s new book & Hunt definitely fits the category!

    Reply
  15. Thanks for the lovely post and the wonderful pictures. I too love Alan Rickman as Col Brandon, and LadyHawke makes me swoon. I have some very strange ideas about that Warrior-Poet. Travis McGee, in the series by John McDonald. Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca. Tough guys who have soft spots for ideals and women, not necessarily in that order.
    I love the post and the reminders of heroic tender hearted heroes.

    Reply
  16. Thanks for the lovely post and the wonderful pictures. I too love Alan Rickman as Col Brandon, and LadyHawke makes me swoon. I have some very strange ideas about that Warrior-Poet. Travis McGee, in the series by John McDonald. Humphrey Bogart as Rick in Casablanca. Tough guys who have soft spots for ideals and women, not necessarily in that order.
    I love the post and the reminders of heroic tender hearted heroes.

    Reply
  17. That’s a perfect definition of the warrior poet! Has all the attributes of a hero and a gentleman but needs the right one to push past his reserve. I know I’ve read books featuring just such a person, but I am blanking out on names. I would think Andrea’s Sandro (Earl of Saybrooke) would fill the bill.

    Reply
  18. That’s a perfect definition of the warrior poet! Has all the attributes of a hero and a gentleman but needs the right one to push past his reserve. I know I’ve read books featuring just such a person, but I am blanking out on names. I would think Andrea’s Sandro (Earl of Saybrooke) would fill the bill.

    Reply
  19. This made me think of Thomas Jefferson as portrayed in the musical 1776 — especially the song his wife sings: “He Plays the Violin.”

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  20. This made me think of Thomas Jefferson as portrayed in the musical 1776 — especially the song his wife sings: “He Plays the Violin.”

    Reply
  21. Now I hear it being sung as they do in that one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Thank you, I never knew who it was by.

    Reply
  22. Now I hear it being sung as they do in that one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Thank you, I never knew who it was by.

    Reply

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