Stories of heroes undergoing significant transformations are as old as stories themselves. The first known mythical narrative in Western literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, tells the tale of Gilgamesh, the great demigod ruler of Uruk who revels in his invincibility. Gilgamesh terrorizes a city, kills the guardian of a forest, spurns the goddess of love, and slays the mighty bull of heaven. He is reckless, ruthless, and arrogant. Through his friendship with Enkidu and later by his recognition of his own mortality, Gilgamesh experiences loss, becomes humbled, and acquires wisdom about life and love. His personal growth as a hero establishes the precedent of transformation in hero stories, inspiring the development of hero characters in countless fictional tales for over 4,000 years. From Gilgamesh to Luke Skywalker, from Odysseus to Jane Eyre, heroes set out on a journey, transform into new and improved versions of themselves, and in the process encourage us all to follow in their footsteps.

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Copyright © 2017, Routledge . This book chapter first appeared in The Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership.

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