Superheroes of the Middle Ages

Lee Falk’s The Phantom, a prototypal superhero who debuted in 1936, followed by Superman in 1938; what if I were to tell you stories of superheroes existed well before that? We are not talking about Greco-Roman gods, since they are well… just that, gods. What I am referring to are the stories and legends of people with extraordinary gifts. Here is a list of ten superheroes from the Middle Ages.


10. Saint George the Dragonslayer

Superpowers: (Debatable if one of these is a power, but more likely skill. Hence, why he’s placed at the bottom) Dragon-killing and surviving death.

Saint George is a third century Roman soldier who became a martyr after he rescued a princess who was about to be sacrificed to a dragon. George is condemned to death three times – chopped into small pieces, buried deep in the earth, and is consumed by fire – but each time he returns unscathed. (Fire cannot kill a dragon). Eventually, George is beheaded, and that’s the end of that.


9. The Golem of Prague

Superpowers: Made of stone, invisibility, and superb hearing.

In medieval Jewish folklore, the Golem was a stone creature that was animated via magic and prayers. The Golem of Prague was created by a rabbi in the 1500s. The golem, known as Joseph, could not speak but was able to hear from great distances and become invisible. Story has it that Joseph protected his community from anti-Semitic attacks, except on Saturdays, which were reserved for rest due to the Sabbath. Eventually, Joseph found himself deactivated and placed in the attic of Prague’s synagogue, where he still remains just in case he needs to be restored to life.


8. The Green Knight

Superpowers: Transformation, and surviving a beheading.

Morgan le Fay transforms the Green Knight, also known as Bercilak de Hautdesert to test the knights of King Arthur’s Court. When he first appears, Bercilak is dressed in green and has green skin, and challenges anyone to strike him down with an axe. Sir Gawain accepts the offer and beheads the Green Knight. However, the decapitated man retrieves his head and simply tells Gawain they will meet in a year’s time. During that time, Sir Gawain undertakes tests of his own, and in the end the Green Knight spares Gawain’s life. Pity.

Siegfried dragon slayer

7. Siegfried

Superpowers: Invincibility and invisibility.

Siegfried is based off a Norse mythological hero, no, sorry it is not Thor, but rather Sigurd. Siegfried kills a dragon and baths in its blood, thusly making his body invulnerable… except for a spot on his back where a leaf was covering his skin. During his other adventures, Siegfried obtains a cloak of invisibility, also helpful. However, the cloak was not of any use after an enemy of Siegfried’s figured out the secret of his invincibility and speared him in his weak spot while Siegfried was drinking from a stream during a hunting trip. Funny how many of the heroes based off gods have invulnerability as a power: Thor, Beta Ray Bill, Hercules.


6. Rostam

Superpowers: Long life, super strength, demon destroyer.

After killing a mad elephant as a child, Rostam undertook many adventures, killing dragons and demons along the way. I’m beginning to wonder what dragons ever did to these people? Isn’t there a magical society to protect them? After protecting Persia for 500 years, Rostam’s evil half-brother, Shaghad, throws him into a well filled with poisoned spears. But wait! There is more! The hero always seems to get his revenge, so before he dies, Rostam shoots an arrow that pierces through a tree trunk and strikes Shadhad, killing him.

St Patrick Drunk_Snakes

5. Saint Patrick

Superpowers: Snake-banishment.

Saint Patrick’s legend explains that he drove all the snakes of Ireland into the sea after they began attacking him during his forty-day fast on top of a hill. Other cool things he did was turning his staff into a tree and turned a lake red after killing the serpent swimming in it. The Serpent Squad really needs to watch out for Saint Patrick; it’s bad enough they attempted to tarnish Captain America’s reputation.


4. Roland

Superpowers: Warrior and enchanted sword.

Okay, so being a warrior is not really a superpower, but good warriors make good heroes and even better villains. Roland is the leading knight of Charlemagne’s forces. As the legend goes, an army of a hundred thousand Saracens surrounds Roland who brandishes his enchanted and unbreakable sword, Durendal, to fend off the Saracens, allowing the rest of Charlemagne’s forces to escape. As Roland is about to be overwhelmed, he blows his olifant (horn) to summon revenge, until his temples burst and he dies a very painful death. Roland has no powers of his own but rather his weapon has all the power, just like Ghost Rider.


3. William Tell

Superpowers: Extreme accuracy, strength.

The tale of the Swiss hero William Tell began in the 15th century. Legend states that one hundred years earlier that the malevolent Hapsburg official Albrecht Gessler forced William Tell to test his renowned marksmanship, Tell had to shoot an apple off his own son’s head. Despite succeeding, Tell was imprisoned by Glesser. Needless to say, Tell’s strength was tested during his imprisonment when a storm came to bash the boat he was on. The screw then pleaded for their safety, and Tell got down to business. After making it back to shore, Tell ran across the country and shot Glessler with a crossbow bolt, killing him. Super accuracy allows characters to never miss their target, obviously; clearly, they would be the best assassins-for-hire: Bullseye, Big Man, Hawkeye, Green Arrow, Red Arrow…there are numerous people with extreme accuracy skills.


2. King in the Mountain

Superpower: Extreme longevity.

Many of the legends developed in the Middle Ages state that a great legend had not died, but remains hidden and asleep, awaiting the time in which he will be needed once more to lead the people. King Arthur, Charelemagne, and Frederick Barbarossa are among those who follow this trope. But Constantine XI Palaiogolos, the last Byzantine Emperor, was said to have turned to marble and buried underground, waiting to reclaim the empire. Turning to marble? That really puts Stone Boy to shame, no wonder he was a substitute hero. Suspending animation for six-month-long nights is nothing compared to waiting centuries. Perhaps, The Golem of Prague and the King in the Mountain should team up.

AnimalMan-St Francis

1. Saint Francis of Assisi

Superpowers: Levitation and the ability to talk to animals.

In certain accounts Francis of Assisi could be “suspended above the earth, often to a height of three, and often to a height of four cubits,” and there are several stories in which he spoke with animals – even convincing a wolf to stop terrorizing a town. Not sure if Animal Man, Buddy Baker, should be impressed or not.

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