I would rather ask this if there was a Stacks site for Literature. But, I need to ask it here:

I am searching for a mythical or fictional (and if there is one, historical) figure (or tale, or animal, or object) whose tale is often cited when one needs to emphasize constant improvement or dogged persistence in doing your task (even at the cost of seeing it partially or totally undone and having to re-do it all-over again).

The closest I can think of is Sisyphus' punishment, but I am looking for something which is more positive and meaningful, and which gives a sense of accumulation of experience from this constantly repeating arduous activity.

Google searches for constant improvement often results in kaizen, Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. This is not bad, but it usually comes with a baggage of business model connotations and already has specific elements or references of implementation. Also, kaizen is often used as a team model, but I am looking for a solitary or individual example.

I would appreciate all your help and answers.

  • I wrote mythological, or fictional, or historical, but I am open to anything relevant religious or scientific tales, symbols or examples as well.
  • (Please ignore the tag, because I could not create new tags.)
  • Welcome to History SE! Per this meta discussion, this question is off-topic. This annoys me that the topics aren't explicitly defined in the FAQ. However, in this meta discussion is a proposed topic list. But, mythology is off-topic here. If you're wondering where the tag came from, it was a question about a symbol associated with a mythological character. That, while borderline off-topic, could be definitively answered.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 0:55
  • Probably better to try asking this in Sci-Fi/Fantasy SE. That is more the SE for Lit. Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


Maybe Stakhanov could be what you are looking for.

Persistence: He broke mining records several times.

Constent improvement: Even though his character might be mythical (probably forged by propaganda), he really improved mining techniques as an engineer, via the separation of tasks.

  • Along the same roads you also have American myths like Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed and John Henry where these figures persevered for something. Though I admit Bunyan had an edge being a giant and all...
    – MichaelF
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 12:28


Ekalavya - Indian mythical character whose hard work / persistence made him one of the best archer.

  • Welcome to History SE! Thanks for your input. Great to have you here.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 15:18

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