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15 life lessons these fictional characters teach us

Fiction is not just a genre, but a world where anything is possible. It is a world where an ordinary human can become a hero; a monster can become a saviour; a peasant can become a king or a king can turn into a frog; where love can be found in the most unexpected places; and a dragon can become your best friend. We grew up watching, reading about these fictional characters, and sometimes subconsciously, even internalising what the characters stand for.

So, on our flights of fancy or when the chips are down, we too believe we can become a hero, succeed despite the odds, or find love in the most hopeless of situations. In such situations, our fictional heroes come to our rescue, telling us why giving up is not an option or why the darkest hour comes just before the dawn. They end up teaching us some of the most valuable lessons of life that no lecture or book can teach us.

Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones said, “There is nothing more powerful than a good story in the world,” as only those can inspire us to do great things in real life. We need good stories and good characters to see our own world in a new light. In this feature, Soulveda lists 15 fictional characters who inspired and moved us, who made us believe that anything is possible, even in our real world, if we dare to dream big and fight for it.

Forrest Gump

Possibly the most lovable character on screen, Forrest Gump doesn’t teach just life lessons but demonstrates the value of life altogether. He shows us, how, with honesty and kindness you can conquer any obstacle in life and turn foes into friends. A simple man, with a heart filled with love and care, Forrest does what is right—always, without giving any second thoughts. He doesn’t care if the world thinks he is different. All Forrest cares about is love, friendship, his mother, his country, and ping-pong, and he would go to any lengths to protect all of them, even if it means running through a rain of bullets or sailing in a raging tempest.

Maggie Fitzgerald

Maggie Fitzgerald from Million Dollar Baby, had no money, no opportunity, and no friends, and yet she rose above every challenge to become a world-champion boxer. Her life is the story of every underdog who dreams bigger than life itself; it is one of resilience and diligence, to embark on a journey from being a no one to someone, and finally, the next one. She demonstrates that passion is greater than knowledge, and dedication is more important than talent. But without Frankie Dunn, Maggie’s grizzled boxing trainer, she might have lost her way. We all need a Frankie, a mentor in life—someone who measures us by the size of our heart, who sees something inside us that others couldn’t, and who pushes us beyond our abilities. With his help, Maggie managed to get up every time she was knocked down, which eventually made her everyone’s Mo Cuichle.

Walter Mitty

Every time we think of Walter Mitty, his dedication towards his job and the grandeur of his adventures come to mind. To complete one simple task, he travels thousands of miles, swims with the sharks, survives a volcanic eruption, befriends bandits, and travels to the Himalayas. His character reveals that when you take ownership and responsibility at work; when you step out of your comfort zone for the call of duty, your life becomes an adventure.

Amelie Poulain

Amelie, a naïve, young woman who finds joy in putting her hand through a sack of grain, skipping rocks, and by looking at people’s faces in a theatre is the protagonist of the movie Amelie. She demonstrates that happiness lies in the smallest and simplest of things in life—be it in the murmur of the city, in helping a stranger, being empathetic with a withdrawn neighbour or compassionate with an estranged family member. It is from her that you can learn to enjoy the moment—one doesn’t have to wait for life to become grand to enjoy it nor people to love you so that you can love them back.

Winnie-the-Pooh

This friendly, eponymous bear from AA Milne’s collection of stories Winnie The Pooh is the epitome of loyalty in friendship. Loyal to his friends, Piglet and Eeyore, and friendly with the other animals of the forest, this fictional character has a special place in the hearts of millions. There are times when he prefers to remain lost in his own world, but every moment, he learns something new about life, existence, and the importance of living in the present.

Cinderella

The all-time favourite fairy tale princess, Cinderella instills in us the meaning of never losing hope. After all, every night has a dawn and darker the night, the brighter the dawn. All you need is to stay true to your word, have the courage to dream and take chances when they come your way and always be kind, no matter how you are treated by others.

Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore is the genial professor and principal of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. He proclaims that words are the “most inexhaustible source of magic”. They have the power to both hurt and heal. Hence, he always insists that his students use the power of magic responsibly. The veteran professor drills in that dreaming alone won’t take you to your goals, you need to go after your dreams, and make the right choices to achieve them.

Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth Bennett, the strong, discerning female protagonist from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice demonstrates the importance of independence. It is from her that women learnt that it’s perfectly fine for them to say ‘No’ if she so desires. Liz teaches that no woman should ever settle for anything less than what she believes she deserves nor should she give up her individuality or change the way she is to live up to other people’s or society’s expectations. Above all, she shows that to err is human but to accept one’s mistakes requires self-awareness and immense humility. In fact, it is her awareness that gives her the confidence and courage to be a non-conformist and boldly stand by her decisions.

Guido Orefice

He is the fiercely protective, incredibly witty and a loving father and husband from the Academy award-winning movie Life is Beautiful. Guido teaches us to love fearlessly, live zealously, and be an eternal optimist even in the midst of tragedy. The way he fabricates games out of the grimmest of situations, just to protect his young son from the horrifying Nazis shows just how caring a father he was. Above all, his character imparts the lesson of undying optimism as he insists that ‘Life is beautiful’ always—all it requires is the perspective to view it that way.

Hercule Poirot

The Belgian detective created by the queen of crime fiction Agatha Christie is the epitome of meticulousness. He believed curiosity feeds the intellect. Being a detective, his primary traits were to be curious, seeking and detail-oriented. From Poirot, you learn to be keenly observant, stay authentic, and be comfortable with who you are.

Robin Hood

The heroic, generous bandit from Howard Pyle’s classic illustrated book inspires everyone as a skilled and capable leader. His never-give-up attitude demonstrates how anyone can change their lives as long as they are willing to learn from their mistakes. Above all, Robin Hood teaches that sharing—wealth or happiness—creates a deeper human bond.

Naruto Uzumaki

If we have to ascribe two words to Naruto Uzumaki, they would be friendship and diligence. It is through his determination and never-say-die attitude that he carves out an identity for himself—from a friendless, supportless orphan to a friendly force to reckon with.

Jo March

Jo March, the independent tomboy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, teaches you that the present can’t impede your dreams of the future, as long as you never lose focus. Jo demonstrates that fierce determination and a strong personality eventually leads you to realise your dreams. However, you don’t need to sacrifice relationships to achieve those dreams. She demonstrates how to be deeply rooted in your family and invest in relationships with people who matter in your lives while pursuing your dreams. Above all, Jo teaches the importance of accepting that we are all “hopelessly flawed”, yet become strong, inspirational women, remaining true to ourselves.

Chuck Noland

What will you do if you found yourself stranded in a remote island for four years, with nothing but a volleyball as your friend? You survive, just like Chuck Noland did in the movie Cast Away. Of course, the chances of you getting stuck on an island are slim, but in our daily lives, we often find ourselves stuck in extreme situations. That’s when you fight battles within and without. Chuck’s story of survival and spiritual revolution teaches you how appreciating and conscientiously doing a few things every day can make a difference in your lives. For instance, holding your loved ones closely, supporting your friends in tough times, taking time off from work to appreciate life, and as Chuck said, by simply “breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise and you never know what the tide will bring.”

Max Horowitz

Max Horowitz is a 44-year-old autistic, reclusive, scared man from the movie Mary and Max. But an unlikely friendship between Max and the eight-year-old Mary heals the wounds of these incomplete souls, living thousands of miles away from each other.

Along the journey of their beautiful friendship, Max instills an important life-lesson that neither a shrink nor author of any self-help book can. He teaches you to accept what you don’t get to choose—your warts and everything about yourself—the good and the bad, because, “They are part of us and we have to live with them.” Max guides you to choose wisely in life, what you can choose, like your friends, for they have the power to heal you, in a way you never imagined you could be.

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