No respectable writer dared for centuries to write a straightforward heroic narrative. If you wanted to, you had to show that your narrative had a purpose that was not heroic—either to strip the illusions from a naïve hero… or to make a moral and social point aside from the story… And the whole thing reached an apotheosis in a non-heroic non-story by James Joyce called, appropriately enough, Ulysses.
Diana Wynne Jones, in “The Heroic Ideal: A Personal Odyssey”
I wish I could reblog this whole essay, because it is a wonderful discussion of the heroic trope in literature as well as a superlative explanation of how and why DWJ wrote her book Fire and Hemlock, and she lays out all the references she made (some of which I hadn’t even picked up on, after about 10 years of rereading!). Instead, I will simply point out that you can read the essay in the back of the new Firebird reprint of Fire and Hemlock, as well as here at the bottom of the page.