Beowulf Epic Hero
Every epic hero possesses certain heroic characteristics. Beowulf possesses many of these heroic qualities, which allows for him to be described as an epic hero. An epic hero is most commonly described as: possessing superhuman strength, performing brave or heroic acts, and involved with supernatural beings. Beowulf also has a reverence for God which aids in his ability to overcome his enemies, “And may the Divine Lord in His wisdom grant the glory of victory to whichever side He sees fit. (47) When Beowulf encounters all three of the monsters, the outcome of the battle will determine the fate of many lives, the compassion Beowulf feels for a kingdom that isn’t even further represents Beowulf as an epic hero. Examples of Beowulf’s superhuman feats of strength can be found almost every other page throughout the book, “…returned with marvelous tales about him: a thane, they declared, with the strength of thirty in the grip of each hand. ” (27) Perhaps Beowulf’s biggest demonstration of power occurs when he lopes off Grendel’s Mom’s head with gigantic sword that no mortal man could wield.
The Divine strength granted to him during these fights is what the Beowulf poet uses to describe where Beowulf draws his strength from. Various other epic heroes draw their strength from different sources; Beowulf drawing his strength from God is what makes him unique as an epic hero. An epic hero usually has a defining moment in which they change from just an ordinary person, to an epic hero. During the course of Beowulf’s lifetime this moment takes place at three different points in time when he defeats three separate monsters, Grendel, Grendel’s Mom, and the Dragon.
Wiglaf even doubts that anyone else could have ever accomplished what Beowulf had done in his fight against the dragon, “…few who would have held out if they had to face the outpourings of that poison-breather or gone foraging ion the ring-hall floor and found the deep barrow-dweller on guard and awake. ” (191) Although in the end Beowulf dies along with the Dragon, each three of these victories required courage, and was considered a brave and heroic act. The committing of a heroic act like Beowulf’s, is almost standard of an epic hero. All three of the monsters that Beowulf fights are some sort of supernatural eing. Grendel is considered to be a spawn of Cain, and the Pagan word for this kind of monster is a draugar. Aside from inhuman strength Grendel’s body was also made out of a steel like substance, which was impossible to penetrate, “…no blade on earth, no blacksmith’s art could ever damage their demon opponent. ” (53) Grendel’s Mom was considered to be even worse than Grendel, and the Pagans call this type of monster a Ketta. Lastly the Dragon whom Beowulf fights his final fight against is also another representation of a supernatural being.
The dragon is gigantic, and still is still able to fly. Aside from that the dragon also guards a barrow of treasure for its entire life. All three of these monsters point to the story dealing with supernatural beings. Beowulf exceeds the expectations of a typical epic hero; he vanquishes three different strong monsters, and dies defending his kingdom. A typical epic hero would perform courageous acts, journey to different lands, and be of noble or legendary birth. Beowulf fits all three of those descriptions easily which makes him a perfect example of an epic hero.