Beowulf as an Epic Hero

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Beowulf as an Epic Hero

An epic hero is a central figure who has superior qualities and risks personal danger to pursue a grand quest. Beowulf is a great epic hero because he performs many brave deeds such as risking his life for the greater good of society and is significant and glorified by all people. Beowulf displays all of these heroic characteristics in many situations throughout the poem. Beowulf boasts and boasts about all of his great doings, but in the end, he proves to everyone that he is as great as he claims to be. Most could say Beowulf is the perfect example of an Anglo-Saxon hero.

First, Beowulf shows that he will do anything for fame, glory, and the greater good of society. He risks his life in many of his adventures in the poem to achieve these goals. An example of him risking his life for fame and society is shown whenever Beowulf decides he is going to kill the fire-breathing dragon for the people.

Beowulf shows his will to fight for what he desires whenever he says, “This is not your, nor is it up to any man except me to measure his strength against the monster or to prove his worth. I shall win the gold by my courage, or else mortal combat, the doom of battle, will bear your lord away ”(ll.682-687).

Beowulf’s great courage and will to fight help him to take down the dragon. Since Beowulf was so willing to risk his life for others, he gained much glory. People felt that all of the great deeds that he had done made him deserve glorification.

Another example of Beowulf risking death to fight for people who needed his help is whenever “In his far-off home, Beowulf, Higlac’s follower, and Hickman 2 the strongest of the Geats—greater and stronger than anyone ever in this world—heard how Grendel filled nights with horror and quickly commanded a boat fitted out, proclaiming that he’d go to that famous king, would sail across the sea to Hrothgar, now when help was needed” (ll.109-116).

In this situation, Beowulf shows he cares about the greater good of society and will be there whenever help is needed. There are many other situations throughout this epic poem, that show Beowulf’s courage to risk his life for society and fame. Beowulf was always one to volunteer for risky situations in life.

A second heroic quality that Beowulf possesses is that he performs many brave deeds. An example of these brave deeds is whenever he boasts about killing sea monsters in the ocean. Beowulf says, “A monster seized me, drew me swiftly toward the bottom, swimming with its claws tight in my flesh. But fate let me find its heart with my sword, hack myself free; I fought that beast’s last battle, left it floating lifeless in the sea” (ll.286-291). Beowulf seizing the sea monster is only one of many brave deeds that he accomplishes throughout this epic poem.

Beowulf performs many brave deeds that no normal human being would dare try. Beowulf is a strong believer in his own personal strength. Beowulf says, “My lord, Higlac might think less of me if I let my sword go where my feet were afraid to if I hid behind some broad linden shield: my hands alone shall fight for me, struggle for life against the monster” (ll.169-174). Beowulf shows his bravery and courage by refusing to use weapons against Grendel. In this epic poem, Beowulf performs these many brave deeds because he has so much courage. He also has so much desire to conquer any challenge that comes his way.

Thirdly, Beowulf is very significant and glorified. All of the brave deeds he accomplishes, and the strength that he possesses, gain him much respect and glorification from people. After Beowulf had defeated Grendel “The old and young rejoiced, turned back from that happy pilgrimage, mounted their hard-hooved horses, high-spirited stallions, and rode them slowly toward Herot again, retelling Hickman 3 Beowulf’s bravery as they jogged along” (ll.534-538).

People had a great love for Beowulf’s bravery and looked up to him. Beowulf’s accomplishments were talked about by all people. He was a hero to many people. Beowulf was respected by all “and over and over they swore that nowhere on Earth or under the spreading sky or between the seas, neither south nor north, was there a warrior worthier to rule over men” (ll.539-542). People looked up to Beowulf because he accomplished many things that they had never seen anyone do before. People glorified his name because of his bravery to stand up for them. Beowulf is very significant and glorified throughout this epic poem.

In conclusion, Beowulf had all of the great qualities of an epic hero. Beowulf performed many brave deeds, risks his life for the greater good of society, and is very significant and glorified by all people. Beowulf never had a problem with putting himself in danger for the good of others. Through all of his grand quests, he did nothing but prove to others that he truly is an epic hero. Beowulf was a great Anglo-Saxon hero and is still read and taught about today.

Most Common Questions:

Beowulf is the protagonist of the poem, Beowulf is a hedge hero who fights with the monster Grendel, the mother of Grendel, and the fire of the dragon. Beowulf’s praises and encounters reveal him as the strongest and most powerful warrior around. In his youth, he personifies all the best values ?? of a heroic culture.

Beowulf’s personal qualities include heroic traits of loyalty, honor, courage, faith, and superhuman strength. He voluntarily demonstrates a sense of honor and devotion to Hrothgar to kill Grrosel and then Grendel’s mother.

Beowulf’s only weaknesses are his ego and pride, which make him unwisely accept challenges alone. This distinguishes it from the Greek and Roman heroes, who always have a tragic defect that leads to their destruction.

In the poem Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, Beowulf is the ultimate hero who places himself at great risk to perform multiple acts of courage. Beowulf is the typical heroic story of good verse evil. He has great amounts of physical strength which he uses to put his life on the line for the entire kingdom. Beowulf’s pursuit moves him from Geatland to Denmark on a quest to help Hrothgar’s kingdom which had been plagued by attacks by an evil monster named Grendel. He also goes on to defeat Grendel’s mother and battles a fire-breathing dragon.

Eradicating Grendel and Grendel’s mother bring Justice and peace to the Scandinavian society, while Beowulf receives much fame. The story goes on to define his pursuit of fame through his three main battles, moving from a warrior perspective to one of a king. Beowulf’s quest brings him to change his responsibilities. The ideals of a once young warrior develop into a more experienced man that comes to rule the community of Geatland. A warrior trying to establish himself in the world ultimately has a goal of striving for fame.

One seeks fame through bravery in the face of danger, having much strength, despising death, and boasting about their accomplishments (SparkNotes Editors). Beowulf searched for individual fame and glory for his entire life. His pursuit to become a hero was strong enough to take on the evils of the world. He was able to achieve individual fame upon hearing of Hrothgar’s troubles with Grendel. He set sail to gain personal fame and to help the community of Heorot. The people of Hrothgar’s land found Beowulf to be a hero for he was about to rid them of their enemy.

But Unferth thinks differently and challenges Beowulf’s stating “no matter, therefore, how you may have fared in every bout and battle until now, this time you’ll be worsted; no one has ever outlasted an entire night against Grendel” (37). Unferth challenges Beowulf’s heroic character. Unferth bitterly attacks Beowulf, which clearly reveals Unferth’s jealousy towards him. Unferth feels below Beowulf. He cannot protect his own land because he is afraid of Grendel. Unferth will not be a warrior who obtains fame nor will he be a heroic warrior.

No one will remember Unferth as a great legend; rather he falls into the category of one who is bitter (SparkNotes Editors). This goes to show that the quest for fame can lead to harm. In Unferth’s case, the quest for fame led to pride, which involved a desire to be great no matter what. Beowulf desired to be great but his desire for fame was associated with the desire to bring strength and power to one’s people. Beowulf connected fame with generosity and community while Unferth mixed pride up with greed and selfishness, for he wanted to succeed.

Beowulf ultimately succeeds in killing Grendel and Grendel’s mother in two heroic battles in which he used his bare hand strength to defeat the two monsters. Beowulf is ultimately a great example of what a hero is. A hero will always fight to win a battle but does so in a fair manner. Beowulf, for example, does not use a sword in the midst of the battle between Grendel and him. “He began to remove his iron breast-mail, took off the helmet, and handed his attendant the patterned sword, a smith’s masterpiece, ordering him to keep the equipment guarded.

And before he bedded down, Beowulf, the prince of goodness, proudly asserted: ‘when it comes to fighting, I count myself as dangerous any day as Grendel. So it won’t be a cutting edge I’ll wield. He has no idea of the arts of war, of shield or sword-play, although he does possess a wild strength. No weapons, therefore for either night; unarmed he shall face me if face me he dares’” (47). Instead, he uses his very own strength, courage, and ability to kill the enemy. Beowulf is so strong, courageous, faithful, and loyal that it can be questioned whether he is truly a man or a myth.

He posse’s hero-like strength that is superior to the normal human man. He truly did do whatever he needed to save and protect the people (Beowulf Papers). Death was not a fear that crossed his mind for he was not afraid of it! A hero is one who is not seen very often and there are only a few great heroes that come about in time (Beowulf Papers). They are a step above the average. A hero brought peace to situations that were before seen as impossible and bring joy to many people. A task such as defeating Grendel’s mom’s grip in battle is one that only a hero could perform for it was impossible for others (SparkNotes Editors).

What others deem impossible, a hero makes possible (Beowulf Papers)! Beowulf can ultimately be defined as a hero. Can the reward of fame for being a brave warrior only be achieved through worldly success? It seems that this is true but Hrothgar tries to advise Beowulf of eternal rewards. “O flower of warriors, beware of the trap. Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part, eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride. For a brief, while your strength is in bloom but I fade quickly, and soon there will follow illness or the sword to lay you low, or a sudden fire or surge of water or jabbing blade or javelin from the air or repellent age.

Your piercing eye will dim and darken; and death will arrive, dear warrior, to sweep you away”(121). Hrothgar becomes a father figure to the young Beowulf. He does not want to see Beowulf give way to pride. This piece of advice is jarring with the culture of boasts and reputation that other parts of the poem emphasize (SparkNotes Editors). Life is also brief and he should look towards those rewards that may be eternal rather than the reward of fame. This passage portrays a fragile outlook on Beowulf’s delicate life that can be taken away at any time and the fact that his youth will indeed fade quickly (SparkNotes Editors).

He may not only be stabbed which will wound him, but he will also lose his youth as time goes on. Beowulf needs to focus on honor, nobility, and leadership, not just on his physical skill and strength (SparkNotes Editors). Beowulf had no fear, and desired personal praise, while Hrothgar had much to lose and valued protecting his people. Each of these two roles filled two different sets of shoes, and each character acted as society expected. With that said, over the course of the poem, Beowulf does grow from a courageous warrior to a wise leader.

Hrothgar’s speeches emphasized stability and security for his people and this was shown through his building of the mead hall for the people to gather. He also demonstrates loyal service to his warriors by giving them lavish gifts and much praise. Beowulf transitions from a young warrior into the King of the Geats and he does exemplify much of the characteristics and values of Hrothgar. At the end of the story though, after fifty years of serving his people, Beowulf encounters a battle with a dragon, and this battle conflicts with his warrior and king duties for he was a king and the state needed him.

Beowulf, old and tired, defeats the dragon that was frightening all the people, but he does lose his life, leaving the Geats open for attack. Was this the wrong act? It is hard to decipher between the two roles for they were conflicting and the tension between the two was inevitable. Even near death, Beowulf did wish for a lighthouse that is built so people could find their way back from the sea showing his never-ending concern for the Geats. Beowulf was not afraid of death and before any battle, he made a wish that his assets be given to the people. In life or death, Beowulf will be glorified.

Epic battles, terrifying monsters, extraordinary strength, and great leadership; these characteristics and encounters are what make up the epic hero that is Beowulf (Definition Of Hero On The Web). The heroism exemplified by Beowulf is defined by many different qualities. A hero is again defined by his willingness to put himself at great risk for the greater good. The monsters that invaded the Heorot land were all outsiders that existed beyond the boundaries of human realms. Beowulf was forced to kill the two beasts in order to restore order because Grendel and his mother had infringed upon human society.

Fame was a theme touched based on throughout the poem. Fame was part of Beowulf’s quest, but Hrothgar left an impression on Beowulf’s values. He reminded him that his fame and strength are not always going to be available to him. His life is fragile and he could not only be killed, but his youth clock is ticking. Beowulf is painted as a perfect hero in the form of the protagonist in the poem. The poem consists of three central conflicts, which include Grendel’s rage of Heorot Hal, Grendel’s mother becoming vengeful because of her son’s death, and the dragon’s rage over Geatland.

The difference between a good warrior and a good king was also a theme in which was observed throughout the poem. What others deem impossible, Beowulf made possible! References Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: a New Verse Translation. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000. Print. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Beowulf. ” SparkNotes. com. SparkNotes LLC. 2003. Web 22 Apr. 2010. Definition Of Hero On The Web. Google Search. Web. 20 Apr. 2010. Paradine, Gerald. “Hero Paper. ” Beowulf Papers. Web. 19 Apr.

Beowulf is one of the oldest and most extensive poems in the history of the literature today. It is also considered to be one of the pioneers of the “good versus evil” theme. While the poem revolves around the adventures and battles of Beowulf, the message of the story consistently conveys the concept that good would always defeat evil. The plot itself is already evidenced enough of the theme of the poem. As a warrior, Beowulf helps fight the evil Grendel, his mother, and the dragon to save the people of Heorot.

Even his friend Hrothgar illuminates this goodness in character when he warns Beowulf about the moral dangers caused by pride. “O flower of warriors, beware of that trap. / eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride” (1758-1759). On the other hand, evil rests on the characters of Grendel and his mother—the villains of the story. Grendel is introduced in a much darker tone, “until finally one, a fiend out of hell, / began to work his evil in the world. / Grendel was the name of this grim demon” (100-102).

He is also described in the story to be a descendant of Cain which further highlights the evil in his character, as Cain is widely known to be the biblical character who has slain his brother Abel out of jealousy. The story of Beowulf may seem to be just an extensive poem that tackles the never-ending issue of good versus evil. It is like a prolonged epic fairytale of defeating evil amidst hardships. Yet, it is a unique literary piece that deserves its length in further reminding people that good really does conquer evil.

Heroes come in many forms, yet traits such as courage, honor, and loyalty, reappear as themes throughout the personality of a hero. The characters of Beowulf and Sir Gawain each represent a version of a hero, yet each comes across quite differently in their respective story. A hero can be said to truly win if he remains constant to his noble values when put in any situation that crosses his way. When measured by that criteria, Sir Gawain stands out above Beowulf as a true hero, due to his command of both personal and spiritual power through the use of thought, as well as valiant deeds.

Gawain embodies many of the characteristics of the chivalric knight and hero, among them, modesty, honesty, commitment, loyalty, and courage. Although he is almost beyond reproach, he does commit a single error, accepting the lady’s green girdle. This sets him apart from Beowulf. Distraught with his sin, Sir Gawain, concerned with maintaining his reputation and image as a chivalrous knight, admits he accepted the lady’s green girdle to the host. This lie, once it is revealed, becomes the means by which the mild hubris that afflicts Gawain is exposed and also the means by which the hubris can be corrected.

This flaw completes the character of Sir Gawain, for in his humility he becomes a lasting hero. Beowulf, is quite different in this respect, written in a perfect light in the absence of any flaw. This exemplifies the superior honor of Sir Gawain over Beowulf, because he is able to confront his sin and gain virtue, while Beowulf is portrayed as void of any wrongdoing, unable to denounce any defect in his person for lack of its existence. Beowulf is indeed an epic hero and king.

What is especially interesting is that the way in which the tale is structured and narrated permits the reader to observe two different types of heroism: the heroism of youth and the heroism of an older, wiser, and more mature warrior. In his youth, the physical characteristics of heroism are emphasized. Beowulf is recalled as having performed physical feats that no other man was capable of doing, and such feats required immense reserves of courage, such as his battle with Grendel in the hall, Herot, and his journey to Grendel’s mother’s lair in

the glimmering pool where he fought and defeated her. In his older age the feats of heroism are more subtle, more abstract, and one might question his decision to battle the dragon, which would ultimately result in his death. However, the code of the hero compelled Beowulf to defend his people one final time; he seemed to trust that a younger hero-warrior would rise to the occasion should death befall him, as it did. In “Beowulf,” the hero-king is faced with challenges that are both physical and moral, both threatening his life.

Like Sir Gawain, Beowulf has all the requisite characteristics of a hero and like Sir Gawain, he is invested in protecting his reputation, yet in this respect, Beowulf chose pride over being humble, which Sir Gawain emanates. Beowulf does not know when to stop fighting; even in old age he is still waging war against evil forces, this is a prime example of his selflessness, sacrificial, yet boastful personality. Sir Gawain, was also selfless when he volunteered to behead the Green Knight, sacrificial when he chose to approach the Green Knight at the end of the tale, yet he never boasted or praised himself for these accomplishments.

Sir Gawain was virtuous in his deeds, adhering to the chivalric code of earning the praise of God rather than the praise of fellow peers and subjects. Surely Beowulf and Sir Gawain are heroes. They hold heroic qualities such as bravery, valor and chivalry. But it is interesting to note that there greatest qualities are often their downfall. Beowulf, void of any downfall, was a great king and warrior, dying in his last feat of slaying a dragon.

To the contrary, Sir Gawain fell to the sway’s of women by accepting the lady’s green girdle, yet after he had heroically faced the Green Knight, he continued to wear the girdle to display his shame. However, In considering heroes it is important to remember that for as strong as the values are, if they are to be considered true heroes, they must have their faults. This should not discount from their achievements, but serve to enhance them. For this reason, Sir Gawain is more honorable than Beowulf.

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