Courage conjures up images of soldiers marching into battle facing death and defending those weaker than them from tyranny, harm, or death.
On an individual basis Courage could be symbolized as someone walking into a dark cave to face the monster within. The individuals Courage is celebrated when they return - head of the defeated monster in hand.
Some believe that Courage only can be achieved through the sword (or any combat or physical altercations where one must overpower another). In this belief someone can only be Courageous if they take up a weapon and fight against an overt evil. This [u]is[/u] Courage, but it is only a part and not the whole.
With this mindset of Courage being physical, I felt I was the least prepared to explore the Virtue of Courage. I dislike combat and avoid it unless necessary. Some would call me a coward as I flee from bandits and the like quite often. I hunt animals, mostly deer, rabbit and the occasional wolf and crocodile. I will defend myself and have slain a fair number of aggressive bandits who have tried to kill me. If I had a choice, however, I would very much like to ignore them.
Since I have embarked on research into Courage I do believe that Courage is more than combat and overcoming foes in physical contest. I hope to share a deeper understanding of Courage in this treatise.
The Oracle defines Courage as that "without which we fall to our own devices of those who seek to take all that we value." The implication of the Oracle's definition is that Courage must be put against another. Some may read into it differently, but I feel the Oracle believes that interpersonal conflict is integral to showing Courage.
Indeed some of the greatest feats of Courage were when individuals stood up for what they believed in and fought to the death to defend them. I look to those who fought the undead at Solace Bridge, the humans of High Vale and the elves of Blood River.
I was at the Battle of Solace Bridge and saw first hand the devastation the undead left. I have since travelled to Highvale and Blood River and witnessed the devastation that their battles have left as well.
It takes Courage to stand before any enemy and fight to defend home, family, friends and life. In this, the Oracle is correct. Much more would have been lost of there was no defence or Courageous people willing to defend their homes. I know in the case of Solace Bridge the refugees now living in Soltown would not be alive if their escape was not assured by the selfless defence and sacrifice of the soldiers of Solace Bridge.
This is the common Courage that exists and is what I described at the beginning of this volume. I would go so far as to say that this idea of Courage is so profound and pervasive that many believe this is the only Courage that exists.
Martin of Ardoris, who I spend many evenings in conversation with, does not have his students research this idea of extra-personal active Courage. He believes, as I do, that Courage is much deeper. His student, Daria, believes that Courage is action. All one needs to do is act, to go out and do something. The example of Courageous Action she gives is to go out and fight the undead who have been harassing the Perennial Coast. She believes that Courage is action before talk - even if it means having people die.
Many people believe that Courage is running blindly into battle, to face death and to act before thought. I am not saying that this idea of Courage is wrong, but not the whole of Courage. Before exploring the deeper meaning of Courage, I wish to first explore this more prominent understanding of Courage.
The reason why we equate Courage with combat is fundamental. As fundamental as life itself. As physical combat can end in death and death is something we all innately fear, facing death and surpassing it is seen as a very great act of Courage.
The fables Martin has his students study all share the common thread of facing fear. "The Fearful Rabbit" shows how a rabbit learns to use their ability to hide to escape death. He must learn this himself as he has relied on his powerful friends to protect him in the past. He faces death and survives, becoming a more Courageous rabbit in the process.
"The Lion Tattoo" describes a man who cannot bear the pain of getting a tattoo and shows that he has no Courage. He falters in the face of his own fear. What is interesting about this story is that it shows a failure of Courage and is not imbedded in a life or death scenario. More on that later.
"The Mouse and the Camel" tells of a mouse who shows pride and ability as a leader, but is unable to follow through. He fails as a leader because he cannot face what he fears or guide those following him.
The most poignant and interesting book Martin has his students look at is a very short book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, an Outlander from my own Earth. The paragraph within explains that to be Courageous one must "map out a course of action and follow it to an end." Emerson says that doing this will show one has the same "courage that a soldier has."
This is the core of my belief about Courage. Soldiers have courage, there is no doubt in that, but others do as well in equal measure. A young trader who may wish to bring his goods to all corners of Novia might be afraid to leave the only home he ever knew. Only when he follows through with his plan to be a trader and leaves his home can he be called Courageous. This is beginning to show the full score of Courage.
Going back to "The Lion Tattoo" and "The Mouse and the Camel" both tales have characters who do not follow through with their plans. They allow their fear to overcome them and leave the path, showing cowardice.
Being able to face what it is that brings fear into your heart is difficult regardless of what the fear is. How you face it - the plan you put together- is how you become Courageous.
The rabbit of "The Fearful Rabbit" faces his fear as Emerson describes, by following a plan. He survives because he didn't run and used his natural abilities to survive.
This is personal Courage. The ability to face and conquer our own fears. This happens quite regularly by everyone, young, old and pacifist. It is very often unsung because small fears are easily conquered by some, but they are just as important.
There are many small fears that can exist. A small fear would be, as I said, something that causes fear in someone, but not another. A fine example would be spiders, a fear of my own. For some, spiders are not something to fear. Some even hunt them for their precious silk. I would rather not hunt spiders and actively avoid spiders at all costs. I get my spider silk from vendors and generous friends who are not afraid of spiders. Another example of a small fear would be the fear of heights, closed spaces, water, or dragons.
A Courageous person is someone who faces their fear, no matter what it is.