“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
His words summarise the essence of an obscure essay from Chesterton called The Red Angel, written in defence of the ordinary hero, who is set against extraordinary odds.
‘Fairy tales don’t give the child his first idea of a monster. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the monster’s possible defeat…’ Chesterton asserted.
To this, he added,
‘The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.’
Father and Protector
Chesterton’s defence of the ordinary hero extends to fatherhood, and the man for woman, woman for man married life.
An extraordinary hero is the ordinary man who is set upon by extraordinary circumstances.
To win, he renounces any quest for glory, seeking instead to slay the serpent and save the girl.
British homeschooling advocate Matt Bianco agrees, writing, “Dads play a crucial role in training our youngsters to be dragon slayers.”
While mums have an equally valid role as “intercessor, protector, and comforter”, when danger comes close, mum deploys dad first.
He’s first into the fight, preserving, vanquishing, and defending the well-being of her family.
Bianco’s prescription for dads is to ‘build up their child’s spiritual and physical strength by wrestling with them, building motor skills, teaching them sports’, and training them to identify, then resist evil, through their own faith and spiritual life.
‘As a husband and father, I feel it is my duty to guard and protect my family from [threats] and obstacles. I want to not only teach my children that dragons are indeed real (they already know that, as G.K. Chesterton implied), but that they can be slain.’
‘J.R.R. Tolkien, another great evangelist of the 20th Century, was a master at “fairy-tales” because his stories bring out the battle of light versus dark, good versus evil, and the unmistakable hope that even us ordinary little “hobbits” can become extraordinary,’ heroes.
The only people who object to Chesterton’s metaphor for masculinity as toxic are the enemies of faith, family and freedom, whose weapons are formed against heart, hearth, health, and home.
Enter Roy Benavidez.
Known as The Lazarus Soldier, Benavidez was a medal of honour recipient and Vietnam vet. He was also a dedicated dad of three.
Benavidez grew up in rural Texas and lost his mother and father at a young age. He later joined the military where he earned the call sign Tango Mike/Mike (an affectionate code word for “Mean Mexican”).
During his tenure in Vietnam, Benavidez was ‘so badly wounded, doctors said he’d never walk again.’ He recovered and returned to Vietnam as a Green Beret.
On May 2, 1968, Benavidez was returning from a church service when he heard that 12 special recon. soldiers from his unit were pinned down by a North Vietnamese regiment.
Enemy fire was so intense, it stopped three helicopters sent to evacuate them.
Benavidez volunteered, and with a small crew, jumped onto a helicopter and into the fight.
He was shot five times, was pierced by shrapnel, bayoneted, fought hand-to-hand in combat. Benavidez saved 8 men, retrieved the bodies of those they’d lost, and is said to have recovered classified documents before returning to the helicopter for the ride home.
“I couldn’t always see what I was doing because I was bleeding profusely, and the blood obscured my vision. After the shot up helicopter returned to base, all I can remember was lying on the ground, not being able to speak or move. I was deep in shock, and the medics were placing me in a body bag.”
He then wrote,
“They thought I was dead. My eyes were blinded. My jaws were broken. I had over thirty-seven puncture wounds. My intestines were exposed. When a doctor came over to check for a heartbeat, I spat into his face. He quickly reversed my condition from dead to “he won’t make it, but we’ll try.”
“I was,” Benavidez noted, “truly once again totally in God’s hands.”
When recounting their memories of him, Benavidez’s daughters described the wounded war-fighter as ‘the biggest teddy bear in life’, whose sense of humour often left people stunned, because ‘everyone thought he was mean.’
Lending his medals and story to a local museum exhibition, his three children expressed fond memories of getting to travel with their dad, in his post-war role as a motivational speaker.
One of his daughters said,
“I’m grateful they have it because it gives our children — his grandkids — the opportunity to learn more about him. We’re the generation responsible for his legacy now and we’re hoping the grandchildren will be ready to assume that trust when they come of age.”
Benavidez fought the dragon without becoming the dragon, as Teddy Roosevelt said in his famous speech, “The Man in the Arena”.
Benavidez was a father, an ordinary man, who became an extraordinary hero because of extraordinary circumstances.
Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.
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