This year, we have two deserving Nobel Peace Prize winners, each of whom has an inspiring story of fighting against great odds for the humanity of others, and suffering great pain in the process.

They are the people we imagine when we think of the Nobel Peace Prize in our mind’s eye. Even if that mind’s eye doesn’t always meet reality.

Amy Davidson in The New Yorker has brief backgrounds on this year’s winners:

Malala Yousafzai, who is seventeen years old, and Kailash Satyarthi, who is sixty, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday morning—for, in the committee’s words, “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Satyarthi, who is Indian, is a man who has fought for children for decades; Malala, who is Pakistani, is a child, and a fighter herself.

There was some thought, ahead of the announcement, that Malala, as she is known, would be awarded the prize alone. She is more famous than Satyarthi. Two years ago, gunmen from the Taliban got on her school bus and shot her in the head, shattering her skull—an attack she answered by becoming one of the world’s clearest voices for girls’ education.

Satyarthi has survived physical attacks, too, and has led raids on factories that hold small children as bonded laborers…. ccording to press reports, he has worked directly with more than eighty thousand children, and has fought to change the conditions and chances of hundreds of thousands more.

And then there’s this:

…. Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

Oslo, October 9, 2009