Beowulf: The Epic Hero | March 11, 2010

NOTE: The object of this essay was to illustrate qualities of “the epic hero”. and use examples from the story of Beowulf to do so. I wrote this a while ago, my senior year in high school.

          Heroes of Epic poems, or stories embody the values most prized by the culture that it circulates in. From Gilgamesh in Ancient Mesopotamia, King Arthur and his knights of England, and to Odysseus and Perseus in Greece. All these people are different, but also very the same in their own ways, and it’s because of their cultures. Each of the heroes showed similar qualities, like each showed leadership, but they each showed it in their own ways, same thing for courage, but that also was in their own way. The cultures were so different and that made it so their heroes had to fit their ideal, and that’s how they were shaped. All heroes of cultures had qualities that you expected from a hero, but each was different by how they exhibited them, which made them each very unique and diverse, but also at the same time, the same.

          In Anglo-Saxon culture, Beowulf exhibits a lot of the qualities that was praised by the culture, he was brave, he showed no fear or doubt of his ability in battle against even the most fearsome and unearthly creatures, in that way he was almost unhuman, he was above anyone else. Heroes have to be better than the rest, they have to be almost supernatural, but their mortality makes them even more heroic, if they can do what they do. If they were like any normal person, they wouldn’t be heroes.

          Beowulf’s courage, it had never diminished. He, as a young man, fought Grendel. In that battle he showed unrelenting vigor, and never backed down or had a doubt in his mind. He defeated Grendel, he even did it naked, to even out the odds, so people had no doubt who truly was the best, that took courage. Also, against Grendel’s mother, he went into her lair, where all these scary monsters were, and still defeated her. Finally, when he fought the Dragon, he was old, and a king. Any king I’ve heard of would’ve hired people and would stay in his castle, but he went out and fought it himself, that takes courage.

          Beowulf showed great leadership. He showed it as a king and he showed it as a warrior. He showed it going into the battle with Grendel, leading his Thanes; and as a leader, he can’t be flaky, or look weak, he has to know what to do, and have a mind of a leader, which he did. Also, he thought of the well-being of the people, he showed this by going to Hrothgar in the first place, which is needed to be a successful leader.

          He was compassionate. Even through his Brutal exterior, he thought not so much about himself, except to get glory, but to do that, he couldn’t be selfish, he had to think about and protect other people. He went to Hrothgar to slay Grendel, who was terrorizing the area. He did slay it, ridding the land from the evil. Even when he did the deed, he could’ve went home, but he went and kill the mother, in her own realm, and she was much more fatal than her son, but he didn’t back down, he helped the people and killed the she-wolf, same for the dragon.

         Another trait that Beowulf exhibits is that he is level-headed, he knows in battle when to do what, he never panics under pressure, he makes good decisions in battle, he never gets happy or cocky, and that is why he is victorious. He also never underestimates his opponents, or he never has a doubt of his skill against foes in battle. This is why he is victorious, because of that he beat Grendel with his bare hands, and also how he beat his mom, by staying level-headed when he got his sword melted, and he ended up getting the magic sword to defeat her. Also with the dragon, he had his shield melted, and the dragon was breathing fire, it seemed like there was no way to defeat it, but he stayed level-headed and prevailed.

          Beowulf shows many qualities of an epic hero. He is a prime example of one. He is someone from the Anglo-Saxon culture you can use as a hero or example for people to look up to, which is why he is an epic hero, someone who is borderline supernatural, which is what we would want to be, right? So his leadership, courage, his resourcefulness, compassion on his people, and his demeanor. He is the ultimateepic hero, and he is also the epitome of the Anglo-Saxon hero.


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