What can be more heroic than the Knight in Shining Armor? Strong, courageous, he's the epitome of the hero in every way.
He's the warrior. He's the protector. He's a gentleman, in an age when the term had little to do with gentleness and a lot to do with privilege.
(In case it isn't really clear to you here, Sir Kay's in real trouble because his sword has just broken.)
He was the big achiever of his era- the super-hero of history. He began his career by being sent from his home as early as age five to be a page in another man's domain. And that alone was a great privilege, for only a knight's son could be chosen, and only some of the sons, at that. After rugged service as a page, if he succeeded, he became a squire, and became truly a knight in training.
By around age twenty, if he had proven himself, he was knighted. And at this point, he had to provide horses (usually several) battle gear, weapons, and the necessary servants to manage all of this. So he was not only a great achiever, he was pretty wealthy, too. That meant he not only had land and power, and vassals and villeins to serve him, but also to protect. And he could afford to take a wife and raise a family.
He's the idealist, visionary, the one who seeks the Holy Grail, and who is often seen as pure and saintly. Or, like Sir Lancelot, he's seen as a worthy man and knight, but one who is also deeply flawed. He must obey the Code of Chivalry, which controls his military life and his treatment of others. In addition, he is expected to live by the precepts of Courtly Love, which developed in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Well, that's how we see it today, anyway.
We all know our fantasy of the medieval knight isn't a lot like the reality. But most of us don't really mind. The fantasy knight represents to us the best there is to be had in the way of men. Well, Alpha males, that is. Yet our Knight in Shining Armor is a Beta male in our hearts, too. We see him as the perfect lover, the man who can be gentled by a woman's touch.
I think that's why our Knight in Shining Armor is so attractive as a hero. It doesn't matter to us that historically his armor didn't shine, or that in the earlier years he didn't actually have the plate armor we usually envision. We know that in the rough and tumble and savage times of the Middle Ages, the knight might have been brutal in his treatment of others. He certainly was no hero to the Saracens.
We know as well that the knights were vassals to their kings. And they were completely controlled by the powers and beliefs of their day. But we also know they lived in a different time, one in which the science and knowledge we have today was completely alien. They lived by faith and superstition, as all people did then, because they had no other explanations for the world in which they lived.
But this is no history lesson. If you want that, I'll give it some other time. This is about our fantasy. Why is the fantasy so important? Why so enduring?
Because our knight represents to us the best that can be found in men. He is the iconic male, possessing all the strengths of the Alpha male and Beta male, yet he has their flaws and weaknesses too. We have wrapped up all our ideals in this somewhat mythical, somewhat real character, and we've built in the flaws that make him human. Not only that, he has all the characteristics that make the traditional male sometimes inexplicable to us females.
He is above all- male. The kind of male we all want to love. But sometimes it's better to love him in our fantasies and keep the real, everyday male in our daily lives, knowing, after all, a fantasy is still a fantasy.
So I love writing Knights in Shining Armor. They are my true heroes. Sexy, too. What do you think about knights? Do you see them in today's men? Or are men too liberated these days to be like knights?