Is Beowulf a hero? Throughout history there have been many stories about men who were considered to be a “hero. ” The definition of a hero has changed throughout the evolution of society. In the days of Beowulf and the Vikings, a hero was a man who was strong, courageous, and willing to protect his land and provide for his people. In today’s world, a hero is someone who is known for their selflessness and bravery. Beowulf is described as an epic hero before he even speaks a word in the story. He is described as “mightiest man on earth”, “the noble warrior”, and “the man whose name was known for courage, the Great leader. These opening quotes about Beowulf alone make it seem like he was not only a great warrior and leader, but also a great hero. Beowulf displays the most common traits of a hero throughout his journeys. A hero needs to display bravery, courage, loyalty, dedication and determination to be considered a “hero”. According to www. dictionary. com the definition of loyalty is having a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. Throughout the entire story of Beowulf he stays loyal to the people of Geatland.
From the beginning of the story Beowulf showed loyalty when he sailed to Geatland for King Hrothgar just to repay the debt of Hrothgar saving his father in the earlier years. Beowulf pledged his allegiance to Hrothgar when he needed his most because he believes in the hero characteristic of loyalty to someone or something with importance to you. Even after Beowulf kills Grendel and has in some way repaid his debt to Hrothgar he still stays in Geatland and fights Grendel’s mother and at the end of the story he fights the dragon for the good of his people.
Beowulf remained loyal to Hrothgar until he became king and then he stayed loyal to his people for the remaining years of his life. Throughout all of Beowulf’s life he has been dedicated to being remembered and to live on even after he has died. Beowulf did not want any type of reward or prize for doing the things he does, all he wanted was to have fame and be remembered by people. This dedication lead him into many difficult battles that risked his livelihood. This dedication to fame leads him through the battle with Grendel, Grendel’s mom, and the dragon.
All of these battles were fought so Beowulf’s name would live on and he could die a “hero” to his people. The most important characteristic of a hero is bravery. Beowulf displays how much bravery he actually has in three different battles. The first battle was his main reason for going to Geatland, to stop the man eating monster Grendel. Grendel is feared by all of the Danes but Beowulf was eager to meet Grendel in battle. Grendel had killed many of Danes before Beowulf arrived yet still Beowulf shows no fear.
Also Beowulf tells the men in the mead hall how he will not fight Grendel with any type of sword or knife because the monster doesn’t use anything like that either. Even though Beowulf makes the fight an even one for his own personal reasons this action displays an immense amount of bravery. Beowulf kills the monster with his bare hands and restores peace to the Danes even if only for a little while. Courage also is an important characteristic of Beowulf. After killing Grendel with his bare hands this is a courageous act in itself, Beowulf is summoned to kill Grendel’s mothers.
It took courage just to be on the journey to get to Grendel’s mother. Beowulf ventures into her lake home eager to meet her in battle just as he was with Grendel. Despite the fact that the lake is filled with creatures and evil things Beowulf shows no hesitation in going straight in by himself to fight Grendel’s mother. Once inside Grendel’s mother senses Beowulf and immediately drags him into her home. It looks like Beowulf is about to be killed when he takes a sword and cuts the throat of Grendel’s mother, defeating her. Beowulf re-surfaces and is greeted by the remaining men outside the lake.
This journey into the lake and into Grendel’s Mother’s home was nothing short of courage. Even after Beowulf is king for many years he never loses his courage. When Beowulf is an old warrior his land is attacked by a sleeping dragon awoken by treasure being stolen from its cave. Beowulf immediately went on a journey to slay this dragon. It was said that no man had entered into the dragons cave and lived. Even with information known Beowulf still lead his followers into the cave to fight this dragon. Although the dragon takes Beowulf’s life, this journey is extremely courageous.
Beowulf helped in the killing of this dragon and in return gave his life just so his people would be safe. It could be argued that Beowulf is not hero because heroes don’t gloat about their fights or accomplishments. Although Beowulf tells people he is the strongest person alive and he bragged about his accomplishments, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he displayed more than one characteristic of a hero. His bravery and courageousness are more prominent in his life than his gloating. Also it could be argued that heroes don’t accept things such as money or gold in return for doing a heroic act.
Beowulf did accept gold from the Danes but during this time period it was a common gift for someone like Beowulf to receive gifts and gold. In some cases it might have even been seen as rude or disrespectful for Beowulf not to accept their gold. These two arguments have valid points but overall when you compare the heroic traits to the non-heroic traits of Beowulf the heroic traits outnumber the non-heroic traits. All in all Beowulf was a great man who led a great life full of accomplishments and accomplished missions.
Everything he did was for a purpose that benefitted not only himself but more importantly the people he was loyal to and that were loyal to him. Throughout the story of Beowulf he has proven himself to be not only a great man but also a hero. Beowulf fought three non-human opponents and still with no fear or doubt he rose above and defeated all three of his opponents. Beowulf is the definition of what a hero should be like and he does a great job of displaying the traits one needs to have in order to be considered a hero.