Back in 2014, Nathan Barnhart created a weekly feature called ‘Tough Travels’, which he hosted over on Fantasy Review Barn. Inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones – a tongue-in-cheek parody of the fantasy genre – it would spotlight a different trope every week, and invite other bloggers to compile their own lists of examples. Despite being put to rest eighty-three (83!) weeks later, ‘Tough Travels’ was widely successful, with over fifty blogs participating at one time or another. On April 1, 2017, Fantasy-Faction received Nathan’s permission to revive Tough Travels once more…

This week the topic is Non-human heroes:

The Tough Guide assures us that HEROES are ‘mythical beings, often selected at birth, who perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against all odds.’ Furthermore, ‘if you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human, with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely)’.

HOWEVER. For good or for evil, some of fantasy’s most memorable Heroes are not human at all. Some look human, but aren’t. Others may look monstrous, but be ‘human’ on the inside. Others still never pretend to be anything other than what they are – and why should they? In nearly all cases, we are likely to Learn Something from them – usually that appearances can be deceiving, or that the concepts of both ‘Human’ and ‘Hero’ are entirely subjective.

I love non-human main characters. Some of my favorites are, of course, elves:
Shadow by Anne Logston
Logston wrote three very upbeat and delightful fantasy books where the MC is an elf thief who loves life and dangers. The books are “Shadow”, “Shadow Hunt”, and “Shadow Dance”.

October Daye by Seanan McGuirse
Toby is a half-fae who is turned into a fish for fourteen years. She deals with the fallout of that misadventure in the first book. In the human world she’s a private investigator and in the fae realm she’s a knight in the service of Count Sylvester Torquill. The first book: “Rosemary and Rue”.

Raine Benares by Lisa Shearin
Raine is the one honest person in her family full of criminals. She’s a Seeker who finds lost items. The first book: “Magic lost, trouble found”.

Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salvatore
He’s the only good dark elf in the underground city of Menzonberranzan. Not surprisingly, he leaves the city and his evil family to escape to the world above.

A few MCs are actually gods:
Selene DiSilva by Jordanna Max Brodsky
Selene is Artemis, the Greek maiden goddess of hunt and the moon. She’s lived thousands of years from Ancient Greece to modern day USA. She’s a private investigator but mostly she protects women. The first book is “The Immortals” and the second book “Winter of the Gods” is out and I need to get it.

Loki by Joanna M. Harris (also by Marvel comics)
Harris’ “Gospel of Loki” tells the Norse tales from Loki’s point of view. He’s abrasive, insulting, and very funny.

Vampires are quite common these days as MCs:
Lestat by Anne Rice
Louis and Lestat are the iconic vampire MCs from Rice’s books.

Mira by Jocelynne Drake
Mira is a six hundred years old vampire. She’s very protective of her small circle of people and an oddity even among vampires because she can create and control fire. The first book is “Nightwalker”.

Last but not least:
Corwin (and his family) by Roger Zelazny
Amber’s ruling family are immortal and eternally bickering with each other. When the patriarch Oberon vanishes, his sons fight viciously for the throne. The first book: “Nine Princes in Amber”.

Superhero comics, a bit surpisingly, don’t seem to have many strickly non-humans. Many Marvel characters are mutants but they’re human just with a different gene set. However, there are many who started out humans but were later changed, one way or another such as Victor Stone (Cyborg) and Carol Danvers (Ms. Marvel/Binary/Captain Marvel). A case could be made for Inhumans being non-humans and the original Captain Marvel was a Kree man. But there are a couple of very prominent non-humans:

Superman
is from Krypton, of course, and therefore alien.

Wonder Woman
is an immortal Amazon. The other Amazons started as humans (at least depending on the current origin story) but Diana was created an immortal.

the Vision
is an android, although his brain patterns come from a human, Simon Williams.

Edit: I managed to leave out two of my favorite comics!
Cutter by Wendy and Richard Pini
and the rest of the elves in the Elfquest comics.

Dream by Neil Gaiman
The immortal Endless siblings are embodiments of some idea: Dream, Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire Delight/Delirium, and Despair each have their own spheres of influence.

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