Hero Boy is the main protagonist of the 2004 film, The Polar Express. He, as a grown-up, is the narrator of the story.
Role in the film
One Christmas Eve, Hero Boy was sleeping quietly in his bed listening for the ringing bells from Santa's sleigh. He suddenly hears some noises and goes downstairs where he sees Santa's shadow, but it turns out to really be his sister Sarah and his father. He goes back to his room and watches Sarah get tucked into bed by his parents in which she was telling them about a story a friend told her about Santa not existing, but her parents assure her that he was only teasing. Afterwards, Hero Boy looks into an encyclopedia which says that the North Pole is devoid of life before going back to bed. However, his sleep is cut short when his room begins to shake and bright lights shine through the windows. He puts on his slippers and robe and goes outside to see what is going on.
Outside, Hero Boy sees a train, which has stopped right in front of his house. A Conductor steps out of one of the coaches and tells Hero Boy that the train, called the Polar Express, will take him to the North Pole in order to restore his belief in the Christmas spirit. Hero Boy initially declines the trip, but changes his mind and jumps on the train just as it leaves. On the train, Hero Boy meets other children, including a Know-It-All kid and the Hero Girl. Later, the Conductor comes by and punches everyone's tickets. Hero Boy was initially nervous because he thought he did not have a ticket until the Conductor advises him to check his pockets and indeed, he finds a golden ticket, which the Conductor punches out the letters, "BE."
The train then stops at 11344 Edbrooke Avenue to let Billy the Lonely Boy on. Billy also declines and changes his mind at the last minute like Hero Boy, but the train was already going too fast for him to catch up this time. Hero Boy, under a suggestion by Know-It-all, pulls the emergency brake, which stops the train and allows Billy to get on, but the Conductor was angry until Hero Girl explains the reason for Hero Boy's actions.
After that, Hero Boy is served hot chocolate along with all the other children. However, Billy, who was in a different coach, was not served any, so Hero Girl saves a cup and goes to give it to Billy. Hero Boy notices that she left her ticket, which the Conductor forgot to punch, on her seat and goes to return it, but the wind blows it out of his hand just as he was trying to cross over to the other car. Later, the Conductor realizes he forgot to punch Hero Girl's ticket and goes to punch it, but she could not find it. Hero Boy owes up to being responsible for it disappearing and offers to gives his ticket to her, but the tickets were not transferable and the Conductor takes her to the back of the train. Hero Boy and Know-It-All think she is going to get thrown off the train, so Hero Boy goes to pull the emergency brake again, but stops after he finds the ticket stuck on the air vent, grabs it and goes after Hero Girl and the Conductor.
Hero Boy sees the shadow of Hero Girl and the Conductor on the roof of the train and climbs to the roof himself where he meets a Hobo preparing coffee over a fire and explains the situation to him. Hero Boy is offered a cup of coffee, but he spits it out after realizing the Hobo washes his socks in it. The Hobo also suggests he puts the ticket into his slipper. When asked why he is going to see Santa, Hero Boy claims that he wants to believe. The Hobo then hints that the events are just a dream, leading to Hero Boy trying to wake himself up, but to no avail. The Hobo then puts Hero Boy onto his shoulders, saying that they need to get to the locomotive before the train goes through Flat Top Tunnel, which has only one inch of clearance between its roof and the train's. They ski down the coaches and Hero Boy lands in the tender just in time, but the Hobo disappears.
Hero Boy gets out of the tender and finds Hero Girl, who was put in charge of driving the train while Smokey and Steamer, the fireman and driver, went to check the light. Hero Boy also gets a chance to blow the whistle. Suddenly, Smokey and Steamer catch sight of something ahead on the tracks and call out to Hero Girl to stop the train. However, Hero Boy questioned if she was sure she knew where the brakes were, but then trusts her and manages to stop the train right before it crashes into a heard of caribou. The Conductor shows up and was angry with Hero Boy again until he sees the caribou and they all head to the front of the locomotive to try to solve the problem. Suddenly, Hero Boy slips, but he breaks his fall by grabbing onto Smokey's beard, causing him to scream in pain. Everyone realizes that the caribou can understand Smokey's screams, so the Conductor continues to pull on Smokey's beard to communicate with them. They eventually convince the caribou to clear the tracks and the train is on its way again.
Suddenly, Hero Boy realizes that the train is going too fast, so Hero Girl calls out to Smokey and Steamer to slow down, but they were too busy trying to fix the jammed throttle to pay attention, so the Conductor uses the ropes from Hero Boy's robe to tie them all to the safety bar in preparation for Glacier Gulch, the steepest downhill grade in the world. After Glacier Gulch, the train ends up on the Ice Lake where it hits an iceberg, causing it to tilt to one side and Hero Girl to almost fall off. The Conductor and Hero Boy catch her, but they are unable to pull her to safety until the Hobo appears and helps them, but disappears before anyone other than Hero Boy could see him. The train stops after Smokey uses the pin from his hair to fix the throttle, but Hero Boy catches site of the ice breaking, prompting the Conductor to order Smokey and Steamer to get the train off the lake. Along the way, the wind blows Hero Girl's ticket out of Hero Boy's slipper and he and Hero Girl both try to, and successfully, catch it. The Conductor punches the ticket right after the train gets back on the rails.
Hero Boy, Hero Girl and the Conductor head back to the coaches. Along the way, they pass through a car full of abandoned and mistreated toys. There, Hero Boy gets frightened by an Ebenezer Scrooge puppet, operated by the Hobo from the car's roof, and runs back to the coaches where Know-It-All tries explaining the recent events to him, but he does not listen and goes to the observation car where he and Hero Girl see Billy singing "When Christmas Comes to Town." Hero Girl joins in before the Northern Lights appear in the sky and the Conductor shows up to inform them that they have crossed the Arctic Circle. He then points to some bright lights in the distance, which he says is the North Pole.
The train arrives at the North Pole and Hero Boy, along with the Conductor and the other children, get off. However, he and Hero Girl notice Billy staying behind and tells the Conductor, but the Conductor says that he is not required to come. The two children, however, go back and try to convince him, but Hero Boy accidentally steps on a lever which uncouples the coach from the rest of the train, causing it to roll away and go down a hill. Luckily, the Hobo shows up and taps on the brake wheel, which Hero Boy uses to stop the coach right before it crashes. The children find themselves on a turntable and, after it stops spinning, get off to try to find their way back to the center by listening for the silver bells. However, Hero Boy could not hear them. Along the way, they arrive at a communications room where they find a few elves doing some last minute work before using the pneumatic to get to the center. The children decide to use the pneumatic too, but they end up in a wrapping room instead. There, they find one last present, which is going to Billy, and follow it. They end up on top of a big pile of presents. Billy is excited to find out what his present is, but Hero Boy and Hero Girl points out the note on the present which says, "Do not open until Christmas." Suddenly, the pile of presents gets enclosed in a big red bag, which is carried outside by a pair of zeppelins and taken to the center. Then something begins pulling on Billy's leg, so Hero Boy and Hero Girl help pull him out. It turns out to be Know-It-All, who was in the pile of presents to find out what he was getting for Christmas.
When the bag arrives at the center, a few of the elves help the children out of the bag. After that, Santa Claus shows up and everyone cheers, including the reindeer. However, this causes one of the silver bells to fall off and land in front of Hero Boy, who picks it up and initially has trouble hearing it until he says to himself that he believes, in which he hears such a beautiful sound. Santa approaches him and asks what he was saying, to which Hero Boy responds by saying, "I believe... this is yours," and gives the bell to him. After that, Santa speaks with the children and chooses Hero Boy as the one to receive the first gift of Christmas. Hero Boy is helped onto Santa's lap and, after being asked what he wants for Christmas, whispers into Santa's ear that he would like one of the silver bells from his sleigh. Santa holds up the bell, declaring it the first gift of Christmas, and hands it to Hero Boy, who puts it in his pocket. Suddenly, the clock strikes midnight, so Hero Boy gets off the sleigh and everyone watches Santa take off into the sky to make his annual deliveries.
After Santa leaves, a few of the elves re-couple the observation car and the children get back onto the train for the return journey. The Conductor punches Hero Boy's ticket again to make it say, "BELIEVE," but interrupts him before he can read it out loud, claiming he does not need to know. On the train, the other children want to see Hero Boy's bell, but when he reaches into his pocket, he can only feel a hole. The children decide to go outside and help look for it, but the train was already leaving before they could do so, leaving Hero Boy saddened. He feels better, however, when the train stops to drop off Billy and finds out that Santa already came to his house. Later, the train drops off Hero Boy, who says goodbye to Hero Girl and Know-It-All. Hero Girl feels bad that he lost the bell, but Know-It-All points out a popular saying, "It's the thought that counts." Hero Boy gets off the train and back to his house. Just as the train was leaving, the Conductor wishes him a Merry Christmas, but Hero Boy could not hear, so the Conductor puts his hands around his mouth and shouts it. The Hobo, who was on the train's roof, also waves goodbye before vanishing one last time. As Hero Boy walks back to his room, he sees that Santa has not arrived at his house yet.
The next morning, Sarah excitedly wakes up Hero Boy and they both go downstairs to open their presents. After opening most of them, Sarah finds one last present behind the tree, which is for Hero Boy. He opens the present to find the silver bell he lost along with a note from Santa explaining that the bell landed in his sleigh and that he should fix the hole in his pocket. Hero Boy rings the bell, which makes a sound both he and Sarah enjoy. However, when their parents ring it, they cannot hear it and assume that it is broken.
A lot of Hero Boy's other friends could also hear the bell, but over the years, they lost their belief in the Christmas spirit and their ability to hear it, including Sarah. However, Hero Boy, even though he has grown old, can still hear it as well as he did then.
Billy the Lonely Boy
Hero Boy's Parents