Beowulf the Hero
?INDEX 1. Introduction: Beowulf is perhaps the most important work from Anglo-Saxon literature. The poem tells the story of Beowulf, a warrior from Geatland, which is now present-day Sweden. Beowulf exemplifies the traits of the perfect hero. The poem explores his heroism in two separate phases—youth and age—and through three separate and increasingly difficult conflicts—with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. Although we can view these three encounters as expressions of the heroic code, there is perhaps a clearer division between Beowulf’s youthful heroism as an unfettered warrior and his mature heroism as a reliable king.
These two phases of his life, separated by fifty years, correspond to two different models of virtue, and much of the moral reflection in the story centers on differentiating these two models and on showing how Beowulf makes the transition from one to the other. The definition of a hero is always made and changed by the society and culture in which that hero resides. These ideas also change with generation and cultural gaps. This is clearly shown in the case of Beowulf and its main character.
Although not all of Beowulf’s thoughts and actions are worthy of hero status in our culture, they were seen as acts of great heroism in the Anglo-Saxon culture. The contrast of these aspects of heroism in a more modern culture can be seen when the same heroic characters are looked upon in a different light in John Gardner‘s “Grendel”. Many of the qualities of an Anglo-Saxon hero were possessed by Beowulf. One of Beowulf’s largest and most noticeable qualities is his strength. It is clear that he would have never been able to be in the position that he was, if it wasn’t for his extraordinary gift of strength.
This was shown all throughout the epic such as him being the only one to defeat Grendel. Beowulf’s bravery was also another quality possessed only by heroes. He and the future leader, Wiglaf are the only ones brave enough withstand the Dragon. His bravery, when coupled with his strength, made him a perfect candidate for hero status. Other characteristics that allowed Beowulf to rise to the top were, his gender as well as being ambitious, a natural leader, and eager for fame almost to the point of stupidity (in our eyes of course). 2.
Heroes in Anglo-Saxon literature: In Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, to be a hero was to be a warrior. A hero had to be strong, intelligent, and courageous. Warriors had to be willing to face any odds, and fight to the death for their glory and people. The Anglo-Saxon hero was able to be all of these and still be humble and kind. In literature Beowulf is, perhaps, the perfect example of an Anglo-Saxon hero. In The 13th Warrior, Ibn Fadlan (played by Antonio Banderas) also shows many of the characteristics that distinguish an Anglo-Saxon hero.
At the same time, Fadlan and those around him display many of the traits which define today’s heroes. The Anglo-Saxon hero is clearly shown and defined in Beowulf, “The Wanderer,” “The Dream of The Rood,” and even Crichton’s The 13th Warrior. In Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon hero is well defined by the actions of Beowulf. It is obvious that Beowulf is the quintessential hero. His strength and courage are unparalleled, and he is much more humble (and honorable) than many of the corrupt warriors around him. Beowulf displays his great strength time after time.
Whether he is fighting sea monsters, Grendel’s mother, or a horrible fire-breathing dragon, Beowulf shows that his courage and strength should be an inspiration to all heroes. Strength and physical appearance are essential to the Anglo-Saxon warrior. Beowulf is described as having the strength of “thirty men” in just one of his arms, and when he first arrives in the land of the Danes, the coastguard sees the mighty hero and says, “I have never seen a mightier warrior on earth than is one of you, a man in battle-dress” (Beowulf, 7).
Strength is clearly an important characteristic of heroes in Anglo-Saxon culture, but strength alone is not enough to define a hero. Beowulf shows that every hero must have courage. In an argument with Unferth, Beowulf says, “Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good” (Beowulf , 12). This quotation shows the importance of courage in the Anglo-Saxon culture. Fate, which was thought to be unchangeable, seems to bend for a hero who has enough courage.
Beowulf tells Hrothgar and the Danes that he will kill Grendel (which would on its own be a great feat of strength), but he says he will do this without his sword, and this shows his courage and honor. Beowulf then speaks inspiringly to the thanes in the mead-hall: I resolved when I set out on the sea, sat down in the sea-boat with my band of men, that I should altogether fulfill the will of your people or else fall in slaughter, fast in the foe’s grasp. I shall achieve a deed of manly courage or else have lived to see in this mead-hall my ending day. Beowulf, 13) When Beowulf speaks these words, he shows his great courage, and displays the proper attitude of the Anglo-Saxon warrior. Death for a warrior is honorable, and courage must be shown through deeds, even if it means death. A hero must be willing to die to achieve glory. He must display courage in the face of overwhelming or impossible odds, and he must have the strength to back his courage. Beowulf also shows that a hero must be humble. When he is exalted by the Danes after his victories against Grendel, and Grendel’s mother, he refuses kingship, humbly returns to Hygelac, and gives away all of his hard earned treasures.
Beowulf constantly refers to his loyalty to his lord, Hygelac. Beowulf is the perfect example of an Anglo-Saxon hero. Beowulf has all the characteristics of a warrior and is still noted as being “The mildest of men and the gentlest, kindest to his people, and most eager for fame” (Beowulf, 52). Like Beowulf, Ibn Fadlan shows many honorable characteristics in The 13th Warrior. Ibn displays many of the distinguishing traits of Anglo-Saxon heroes; however, there are also a few characteristics that define today’s heroes present in the film.
Ibn Fadlan shows great intelligence by learning the Anglo-Saxon language in a short time. The extremely surprised Rus ask him how he learned their language and he tells them that he listened. Even Buliwyf shows intelligence by learning to write “sounds” in a relatively short time. Intelligence is important to the Anglo-Saxons, especially in leaders. Hrothgar is often described as being wise, and this shows that wisdom is also an important character trait. Though Ibn Fadlan isn’t trained as a warrior, he displays admirable courage in battle.
The other warriors in the troop show many courageous characteristics including the will to fight to the death. Buliwyf fights the primitive tribe and manages to kill the leader even though he is poisoned and dying. There are, however, some character traits that pertain more to today’s heroes in the movie. The romantic aspect of Ibn Fadlan does not correlate with the traits of heroes in Anglo-Saxon literature. The Anglo-Saxon hero didn’t need to have romantic relationships, and in fact probably didn’t have time for any. Many of the Anglo-Saxon heroic traits, however, are still heroic today.
Courage, strength, and intelligence are still very important characteristics of heroes; however, standing to fight even if it means death is not as important as it was in the Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, there is a saying today which explain, “Those who fight and run away, live to fight another day. ” The 13th Warrior shows many heroic characteristics, but not all of these were considered heroic in Anglo-Saxon culture and literature. The earth-walker of “The Wanderer” helps to further define the Anglo-Saxon warrior and hero.
The earth-walker says that “men eager for fame shut sorrowful thought up fast in their breast’s coffer” (Norton). This quotation adds another level to the definition of a hero. A hero in Anglo-Saxon culture had to be strong, brave, intelligent, and humble, but he must at all times keep his sorrows and fears to himself. Heroes couldn’t complain about their problems, or appear weak. Anglo-Saxon warriors had to be stoic, and they had to appear fearless at all times. This relates to both Beowulf and Buliwyf because both of these heroes show no fear or sorrow.
These two heroes keep their word and do not complain, no matter how impossible their tasks seem. This is one of the true marks of the Anglo-Saxon hero, and one of the places that Ibn Fadlan (Of The 13th Warrior) could be said to fall short of the Anglo-Saxon hero definition. Ibn tends to voice his worries and let his fear of death be shown, especially when the warriors are waiting for the Wendel. The earth-walker speaks of wise men; again this shows how important wisdom is for Anglo-Saxon warriors. The portrayal of Christ as a warrior fighting for his people in “Dream of the Rood” is a very powerful picture of a hero and savior.
The talking tree (clearly a pagan influence in the poem) tells the reader how he has had to stand strong for “the young hero/strong and stouthearted” (Norton). Christ is described here as a young hero, a warrior fighting to save his people. Christ and the tree are drenched in blood, covered with markings, and yet they stand strong and have courage. This is truly the mark of a hero in Anglo-Saxon culture and literature. In the poem Christ “climbed on the high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free mankind” (Norton). These actions distinguish the young hero as proud, strong, and very brave.
His strength is emphasized when the tree says that it “trembled” when the warrior embraced it. “The Dream of the Rood” offers a powerful description of a hero, and savior. The hero in Anglo-Saxon culture and literature is best defined as an honorable warrior. The Anglo-Saxon hero possessed many traits which heroes today possess. They were strong, intelligent, tactful, courageous, and willing to sacrifice all for glory and their people. The heroic traits of the literary characters in Beowulf, “The Wanderer,” “Dream of the Rood,” and The 13th Warrior both define and set the standard for the Anglo-Saxon hero. . Definition of a Hero The ‘American Heritage High-school’ dictionary defines a hero as a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength. Is that what a hero truly is? Does he need only strength and courage? Does a hero not need a mind? Any man can be strong and brave, but dose that mean he is a hero? Nay, a hero must have more. He must be quick-witted and always think with his head and never his fear. A man must be clever (mentally bright, superficially skillful or witty) to be considered a hero.
A hero has many characteristics but one of the most important is to be able to think his way out of trouble. Not that a hero shouldn’t be physically strong, that’s always good, but sometimes you can’t fight your way out things without getting yourself. 4. Qualities of a Hero Who is a hero? What are the qualities of a hero? Are there any heroes left? These Questions are actually the basis for this essay. Even though most of them can be answered by you, the reader, I shall try to incorporate fact and personal opinion in order to give a Better understanding of the qualities a hero possesses.
Now let’s talk about who is a hero. In my Opinion, a hero is a person, who possesses three main qualities: compassion, courage, and Compassion, a word with only one definition, but so much meaning. The quality,which makes a hero who he is. It’s not just courage and intelligence that define a hero, but also compassion. Compassion for life – a trait that is very important, a trait that stands out the most. First, let me give you the meaning of this word: sympathetic feeling. Sympathy and compassion are the same things, and both of these should not just exist in a hero, but also in every one of us.
Some especial qualities of Hero are mentioned in below. Sacrifice: Sacrifice is the forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered having a greater value or claiming. Determination: Determination is a fixed intention or resolution; a firmness of purpose or resolve. Loyalty: Loyalty is the feeling of allegiance or the act of binding oneself to a course of action. Courage: Courage is that firmness of spirit and swell of soul which meets danger without fear. Dedication: Dedication is a selfless devotion; complete and whole hearted fidelity or the act of binding oneself to a course of action.
Intrepidity: Intrepidity is firm, unshaken courage. Valor: Valor is courage exhibited in war, and cannot be applied to single combats. Selfless: Selfless is the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others and acting with less concern for yourself. Conviction: Conviction is a fixed or strong belief; a necessity of the mind or an unshakable belief. Focused: Focused is the ability to direct one’s energy toward a particular point or purpose; to concentrate one’s energy. Gallantry: Gallantry is adventurous courage, which courts danger with a high and cheerful spirit.
Perseverance: Perseverance is a persistent determination. Fortitude: Fortitude has often been styled “passive courage,” and consists in the habit of encountering danger and enduring pain with a steadfast and unbroken spirit. Bravery: Bravery is daring and impetuous courage, like that of one who has the reward continually in view, and displays his courage in daring acts. 5. Beowulf the Hero 5. 1 History of character Beowulf Beowulf is a legendary Geatish hero and later turned king in the epic poem named after him, one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature in the English language.
Etymology and origins of the character A number of origins have been proposed for the name Beowulf. Bee-Wolf Henry Sweet, a philologist and early linguist specializing in Germanic languages, proposed that the name Beowulf literally means in Old English “bee-wolf” or “bee-hunter” and that it is a kenning for “bear”.  This etymology is mirrored in recorded instances of similar names. Biuuuwulf is recorded as a name in the AD 1031 Liber Vitae. The name is attested to a monk from Durham and literally means bee wolf in Northumbrian. 2] The 11th century English Domesday Book contains a recorded instance of the name Beulf.  Bo? varr Bjarki In Norse legendary accounts, there is a hero named Bo? varr Bjarki whose identity with Beowulf has been the matter of much debate.  According to Saxo Grammaticus the hero slew a bear, but according to Hrolfs saga kraka, he slew a dragon, whereas in Bjarkarimur, Bo? varr Bjarki killed two beasts like Grendel and Grendel’s mother.  A scholar named Sarrazin also suggested that the name Beowulf was derived from a mistranslation of Bo? varr where -varr was interpreted as vargr meaning “wolf”. 3] However, this etymology was questioned by Sophus Bugge, who instead suggested that the personage Bo? varr Bjarki was derived from Beowulf.  Beow-Wolf In 2005, Andy Orchard theorized an etymology on the basis of the common Old Norse name ? orolfr (which literally translates to “Thor Wolf”), stating in parallel that a “more likely” meaning for the name would be the “wolf” of the Germanic god Beow.  Biewolf English philologist Walter William Skeat proposed an etymological origin in a term for “Woodpecker” citing the Old Dutch term biewolf for the bird.
Skeat states that the black woodpecker is common in Norway and Sweden and further reasons that the “indominatable nature” and that the “bird fights to the death” could have potentially influenced the choice of the name.  This etymological origin has been criticized as not being in accordance to Grimm’s law and Skeat may have recanted the proposal at a later date.  Beado-Wulf (war wolf) The editors of Bosworth’s monumental dictionary of Anglo-Saxon propose that Beowulf is a variant of beado-wulf meaning “war wolf” and that it is cognate with the Icelandic Bodulfr which also means “war wolf”. 7] Origins in Geatland As told in the surviving epic poem, Beowulf was the son of Ecgtheow, a warrior of the Swedish W? gmundings. Ecg? eow had slain Hea? olaf, a man from another clan named the Wulfings (according to Scandinavian sources, they were the ruling dynasty of the Geatish petty kingdom of Ostergotland). Apparently, because the victim was from a prominent family the weregild was set too high, and so Ecg? eow was banished and had to seek refuge among the Danes. The Danish king Hro? gar generously paid the weregild, and had Ecg? eow swear an oath. Ecg? eow was in the service of the Geatish king Hre? l, whose daughter he married. They had Beowulf, who grew up with the Geats. Beowulf’s childhood friend was Breca the Bronding “supposed to be the inhabitants of the island Branno, lying off the coast of West Gothland in the Cattegat”.  This would be a realistic location for a childhood friend of Beowulf, and the poem describes a swimming contest between them. Zealand and Grendel When king Hro? gar, his wife Wealh? eow, and his court were terrorized by the monstrous Grendel, Beowulf left Geatland (West Gotaland) and sailed to Zealand with fourteen warriors in order to pay his father’s debt.
During the night, Grendel arrived to attack the sleeping men. Beowulf attacked him without his sword and tore the arm off the beast. Grendel returned to the bog to die and his arm was attached to the wall of Heorot. The next day, Beowulf was lauded and a skald (scop) sang and compared Beowulf with the hero Sigmund. However, during the following night Grendel’s Mother arrived to avenge the death of Grendel and collect weregild. As Beowulf slept in a different building he could not stop her. He resolved to descend into the bog in order to kill her.
They fought beside Grendel’s corpse, and Beowulf finally won with the aid of an enchanted giant sword stolen from the lair’s plunder. Beowulf was recompensed with gold and horses by queen Wealh? eow, and they returned to Geatland. Return to Geatland, Kingdom, and Death Having returned, Beowulf took part in a historic raid against the Franks with his king Hygelac. Hygelac died during the raid, and Beowulf swam home in full armour. Back in Geatland, queen Hygd offered Beowulf the throne but Beowulf declined in favour of the young prince Heardred.
However, Heardred received two Swedish princes, Eadgils and Eanmund who reported that they had fled their uncle Onela who had usurped the Swedish throne. This led to a Swedish invasion in which Heardred was killed. Beowulf was proclaimed king and decided to avenge Heardred and to help Eadgils become king of Sweden. The event when Onela was slain was probably a historic event. Even though it is only briefly mentioned in Beowulf, it occurs extensively in several Scandinavian sources where it is called the Battle on the Ice of Lake Vanern.
For example, Snorri Sturluson wrote: Onela rode Raven, as they rode to the ice, but a second one, a grey one, hastened, wounded by spears, eastwards under Eadgils. [… ] In this fight Onela died and a great many of his people. Then king Eadgils took from him his helmet Battle-boar and his horse Raven. (Although, in Snorri’s text the names are in their corresponding Old Norse forms). Beowulf ruled the Geats for 51 years, until his realm was terrorized by a dragon whose treasure had been stolen from his hoard in a burial mound.
He attacked the dragon with his thegns, but they did not succeed. Beowulf decided to follow the dragon into its lair, at Earnan? s, but only his young Swedish relative Wiglaf dared join him. Beowulf finally slew the dragon by cutting him in half with a seax, but was mortally wounded by being stabbed with the poisonous horn of the dragon and was carried out by Wiglaf. He was buried in a barrow by the sea. 5. 2 Beowulf the Hero: analyzing Definition Beowulf Is a Hero By definition, a hero is a man of exceptional quality. Exceptional quality does not begin to describe the hero that is Beowulf.
Of the tale of the same name, Beowulf could be described well as a saint, or a savior. His self-imposed purpose in life is to help others, and eventually sacrifices his own life in doing so. In the short time period in which we have joined Beowulf, more heroic acts are presented 5. 3 Beowulf the Hero: analyzing Poems Event Beowulf exemplifies the traits of the perfect hero. The poem explores his heroism in two separate phases—youth and age—and through three separate and increasingly difficult conflicts—with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.
Although we can view these three encounters as expressions of the heroic code, there is perhaps a clearer division between Beowulf’s youthful heroism as an unfettered warrior and his mature heroism as a reliable king. These two phases of his life, separated by fifty years, correspond to two different models of virtue, and much of the moral reflection in the story centers on differentiating these two models and on showing how Beowulf makes the transition from one to the other. In his youth, Beowulf is a great warrior, characterized predominantly by his feats of strength and courage, including his fabled swimming match against Breca.
He also perfectly embodies the manners and values dictated by the Germanic heroic code, including loyalty, courtesy, and pride. His defeat of Grendel and Grendel’s mother validates his reputation for bravery and establishes him fully as a hero. In first part of the poem, Beowulf matures little, as he possesses heroic qualities in abundance from the start. Having purged Denmark of its plagues and established himself as a hero, however, he is ready to enter into a new phase of his life. Hrothgar, who becomes a mentor and father figure to the young warrior, begins to deliver advice about how to act as a wise ruler.
Though Beowulf does not become king for many years, his exemplary career as a warrior has served in part to prepare him for his ascension to the throne. The second part of the story, set in Geatland, skips over the middle of Beowulf’s career and focuses on the very end of his life. Through a series of retrospectives, however, we recover much of what happens during this gap and therefore are able to see how Beowulf comports himself as both a warrior and a king. The period following Hygelac’s death is an important transitional moment for Beowulf.
Instead of rushing for the throne himself, as Hrothulf does in Denmark, he supports Hygelac’s son, the rightful heir. With this gesture of loyalty and respect for the throne, he proves himself worthy of kingship. In the final episode—the encounter with the dragon—the poet reflects further on how the responsibilities of a king, who must act for the good of the people and not just for his own glory, differ from those of the heroic warrior. In light of these meditations, Beowulf’s moral status becomes somewhat ambiguous at the poem’s end.
Though he is deservedly celebrated as a great hero and leader, his last courageous fight is also somewhat rash. The poem suggests that, by sacrificing himself, Beowulf unnecessarily leaves his people without a king, exposing them to danger from other tribes. To understand Beowulf’s death strictly as a personal failure, however, is to neglect the overwhelming emphasis given to fate in this last portion of the poem. The conflict with the dragon has an aura of inevitability about it. Rather than a conscious choice, the battle an also be interpreted as a matter in which Beowulf has very little choice or free will at all. Additionally, it is hard to blame him for acting according to the dictates of his warrior culture. 5. 4 Beowulf the Hero: Analyzing quality of a Hero Courage: Beowulf the hero meets danger without fear. We see this in the poem. Some important line mentioned in below, Yet the prince of the rings was too proud to line up with a large army against the sky-plague. He had scant regard for the dragon as a threat, no dread at all of its courage or strength, for he had kept going ften in the past, through perils and ordeals of every sort, after he had purged Hrothgar’s hall, triumphed in Heorot and beaten Grendel. (2345-2353) Beowulf is completely unafraid of the dragon – so unafraid that he’s being a little bit dumb about how to fight it. Other kings might take an entire army to fight a dragon, but Beowulf is simply going to take it on one-on-one, the way he fought Grendel and Grendel’s mother when he was a young man. Perhaps, the poet hints to us, Beowulf is a little too courageous for a king, who needs to think about protecting his people.
And now the youth was to enter the line of battle with his lord, his first time to be tested as a fighter. His spirit did not break and the ancestral blade would keep its edge, as the dragon discovered as soon as they came together in the combat. (2625-2630) The battle with the dragon is Beowulf’s last courageous act, but for Wiglaf, it is only the first test of his courage. Unlike the other Geat warriors, who fled in fear when Beowulf needed them most, Wiglaf will pass this test. Inspired again by the thought of glory, the war-king threw is whole strength behind a sword-stroke and connected with the skull. (2677-2680) Beowulf is able to behave courageously by constantly keeping thoughts of his reputation and the possibility for fame and glory in mind. Bravery: The most obvious positive repercussion of bravery would be fame. Through Beowulf’s bravery and his ability to win battles he earned much fame. Soldiers and storytellers alike told tales of Beowulf’s brave deeds. On pg. 121 there are Geats speaking about Beowulf, and they basically sum up the fame of Beowulf’s among the average person. Telling their sorrow,telling stories of their dead king and his greatness, his glory, praising him for heroic deeds, for a life as noble as his name. ” Sacrifice: Beowulf sacrifice himself for the cares of people. Beowulf achieves victory against the dragon but is mortally wounded. Wiglaf unlooses his helmet and tends his dying master. Beowulf then tells Wiglaf “I have guarded this people for half a century; Not a single ruler of all the nations neighboring About has dared to affront me with his Friends in war, or threaten terrors. ” Loyalty: Beowulf was a loyal hero.
Loyalty was available in Beowulf characters. As Loyalty is the quality of a hero we better sat that Beowulf was a Hero. Conclusion: In the above discussion we see that Beowulf was a hero as result of analyzing definition of Hero, qualities of Hero and analyzing of poems event. Heroic qualities like Sacrifice, Determination, Loyalty, Courage, Dedication Intrepidity, Intrepidity is firm, unshaken courage, Valor, Selfless, Conviction, Focused, Gallantry, Perseverance, Fortitude and Bravery was mostly drawn in the life of Beowulf. So, finally we can say that Beowulf was a great Hero. THE END