Being “manly” is defined by Merriam Webster as “having qualities generally associated with a man: STRONG, VIRILE” and “appropriate in character to a man.”
That’s pretty vague. How in today’s world, where stereotypical gender norms are being challenged and rewritten do we really define “manliness”?
One might look to the written word. All genres, from anime to fantasy and westerns — while they might not seem like manly books — have illustrated different versions of manliness over the centuries. Yes, movies do this too. But some might argue that the men of the silver screen like Captain America and Tony Montana were in some way inspired by the ideas we have of men from decades of literature.
Here are some of the manliest men from books.
The Man Who Was Actually A King: Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
What’s more manly than humility? A true manly man is confident and sure of himself, regardless of what titles he might have, or how much cash flow he’s experiencing. Aragorn doesn’t let the fact that he’s the rightful King of Gondor stain his outlook on himself and the world, pretending to be a ranger. The conflict has ruled his life, but he’s still found a way to come out disciplined and courageous. He has insecurities, but throughout the trilogy, he can overcome them and gain the assurance that’s needed for him to become king.
The Accidental Manly Man: Pierre Bezukhov, War and Peace
Books like Five Minutes Longer prove that war stories still captivate us. War and Peace, although a classic set during the French invasion of Russia, is a classic that’s still able to delight readers through its potent mix of characters. Pierre is your typical guy who’s thrown into a situation bigger than himself and figuring it out along the way. He is ends-up inserting a surprise fortune, which thrusts him into an elite social class. Pierre is smart but also guided by emotions. He truly “lives” but also seeks purpose. He’s the epitome of what is a literary figure: complex and imperfect.
The Supernatural-Fighting Anime Man: Sakata Gintoki, Gintama series
From scavenger to a legendary fighter, Sakata has earned nicknames like “Corpse-Eating Demon” and “White Demon.” Training since he was a child, he can destroy machinery with his bare hands. He’s a samurai with legendary permanence, sword fighting, and combat skills, but is also in tune with the supernatural, and often deals with non-human creatures. As a Joui War veteran, haunted by those who died, he has his faults: gambling, money problems, laziness, alcohol, and sweets. However, he’s endearing, charming and a vigilant friend who’s a fearless leader.
The Runaway Man: Huck Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huck Finn can be seen as the ultimate boy in ways. But he’s a character who grows with the changes of the book. He’s a runaway who fakes his own death. He can’t stand his alcoholic father or society’s skewed sense of rules. So he ventures out into the wilderness. For Huck Finn, being handy is essential to his survival. Nature quickly became his home and his workspace. He didn’t have tools, machinery, workbenches or the comforts of a healthy life at the time. He soon befriends a runaway slave who confirms Huck’s ideas that compassion and humanity are more important than any set of expectations or beliefs that might contradict those ideals. But if you’re a man who wants to bring out your inner Huck Finn, it’s easy to get more about this workbench and other solutions for craftsmen
The Ultimate Animal of Manly Books: Robert Baratheon, A Song of Ice and Fire
Robert is the ultimate guys-guy. Although it’s hard to choose just one of the manly characters from the unfinished fantasy series, Robert fits the stereotype the best. He loves war, blood, hunting, booze, and ladies. He led a rebellion — joined by some of the most magnificent houses in Westeros — overthrowing a 300-year Targaryen dynasty. Afterward, he became king of the seven kingdoms, but like a caged animal grew restless and fat. While he died before his time, he lived the real YOLO life so many guys desire.
The Western Anti-Hero Who Started It All: Lassiter, Riders of the Purple Sage
Zane Grey’s novel is said to be the western novel that laid the format for all westerns; it’s one of the manliest books of all-time. Lassiter comes to the aid of the main character of the story Jane Withersteen, who’s running away from a group of polygamists. All-black wearing Lassiter lives by his own code, no religion or borders hold him. He’s a famed gunman but also has a kindness about him. He’s spent a majority of his life searching for his sister in the Wild West, treats Jane fairly and is honest.
The Ultimate Spy Manly Man: James Bond Series
It can be hard to believe that James Bond actually started as a book series, and not a movie. James Bond isn’t a manly man in the sense that he’s chopping his own wood and eating whey protein shakes. He’s a different kind of man. He coined the “shaken, not stirred” phrase and is pretty much the guide to manliness for the modern, refined, smooth-talking men of today.
What Kind of Manly Man Are You?
Fiction or not, the men in this article demonstrate that the idea of manliness isn’t all-encompassing. A manly man can be athletic, be humble, be a builder or a fighter or just someone who lives completely free of other people’s expectations and ideas.
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