What is the definition of a true hero? Many people have been considered heroes for many different reasons. Both Hercules and Beowulf have both been regarded as heroes. Beowulf was a great warrior who lived in the time of the Vikings. Beowulf traveled the face of the earth fighting monsters and beasts in search of money and fame. Hercules was also a great warrior but he lived during the time of the Greek gods. Hercules was born a god but he was stolen as an infant and turned into a mortal by his fathers nemesis, Hades.
Hercules retained his godlike strength and now he must prove himself a hero. This is the only way he would be able to reunite with his family of gods. In the Disney animated film “Hercules” the character is a far greater hero than the character Beowulf from the epic poem “Beowulf” because he had more of a desire to be a hero, he fought his battles with better motives, and he had stronger friendships in his companions. Beowulf’s desire to be a hero had mostly selfish reasons. In one of Beowulf’s speaches he states, “Let me live in greatness and courage, or here in this hall, welcome my death.”
Although this might sound heroic, he shows how he wants to be a hero to gain fame. This shows that he is more worried about his personal image than the people he plans to protect. Beowulf also says, “My lord Higlac might think less of me if I let my sword go where my feet were afraid to.” Any warrior, no matter how noble, knows he must have advantages over their enemy to win and showing up to battle without proper equipment is a dumb thing to do. This shows how he is more worried about his personal image than the safety of the people. In Beowulf’s death speech he said, “I sold my life for this treasure, and sold it well.” He does not mention the people he saved, only the treasures he gained. This shows his goals in life are material. A persons desires to be a hero should have more meaning than a persons ego and material wealth.
Hercules’ desire to be a hero has much more meaning than Beowulf’s. For example, when he finds out he must prove himself a hero to be able to reunite with his family, he sings, “I will beat the odds, I can go the distance. I will face the world, fearless, proud and strong… til I find my heros welcome right where I belong.” This shows that he knows he will have to work hard to prove himself a hero but is willing to do whatever it takes. When Hercules is trying to persuade a great trainer to train him he asks, “Haven’t you ever had a dream, something you wanted so bad you would do anything.”
This shows that he is willing to do anything to become a hero and reunite with his family. He also explains, “I am different from the other guys, I can go the distance.” This shows how he is confident that, under the right training, has what it takes to become a hero. He knows that other people have let the trainer down before, and knows that he is different from all of them. Hercules’ desire to be a hero comes from within himself like the desire to reunite with his family and to prove to everybody, especially himself, that he is a true hero. Beowulf’s motives for fighting were mostly extrinsic and self centered. For Example, Beowulf is told “Purge Herot and your ship will sail home with its treasure-holds full.” This shows that Beowulf’s motivation for battle comes from the material reward of treasure. A person in the poem named Unforth argued about the motives of one of Beowulf’s previous battles and explained how “all older and wiser heads warned you not to do so, but no one could check such (Beowulf’s) pride.” This shows how Beowulf’s pride is so strong that it can pull him into battle. He felt he needed to prove to everyone how great of a warrior he was by fighting a pointless battle. A true hero should be motivated intrinsically by the self satisfaction of helping others and achieving personal goals.
Hercules’ motives for his battles are much more heroic than those of Beowulf’s. For instance, when he finds a damsel in distress, he put his life on the line to save her and ends up falling in love with her. This shows how he is not concerned with his own safety as long as he is out to protect another. Also, when the Titans are battling with the gods on Mt. Olympus, he goes to great lengths to save his father and fellow gods. He knows that if he does not fight this battle the world will be taken over by an evil god. This shows that he fights his battles for greater causes than material riches and to boost his ego. Friends are especially important in every bodies life, and especially one of a hero. In Beowulf’s quests he never saw the importance of friendship. This made him a weaker warrior and ultimately led to his death. For example, in one of his battles he watched as “Grendel snatched at the first Geat, he came to, ripped him apart…Drank the blood from his veins…Death and Grendel’s teeth came together.” This shows that Beowulf is willing to allow an enemy to slaughter one of his men just so he can make the battle easier for himself.
He does not value the life of anyone but his own. The strength of the bonds he had with his comrades showed when “None of his comrades came to him, helped him. His brave and noble followers ran for their lives. This shows that he never proved himself as enough of a companion to his comrades and they felt that their life was more important to save than Beowulf’s. If he had cared more about others, they might have cared more about him. Hercules cared for many, which led to many strong friendships. Building strong relationships with others was very important in Hercules’ quest to become a hero. For example, Hercules became good friends with his trainer. At one point when Hercules was down and felt like giving up, his trainer told him, “I’m willing to go the distance. How ’bout you.” This shows that his trainer cared about him and would not let Hercules give up on his goal. His trainer could have also just gave up then, but their friendship helped both of them achieve their goals. Another relationship Hercules had was with one of his enemies slaves named Meg. Meg gave her life to save Hercules and when asked why she did it, she responded, “People always do crazy things when they are in love.” Hercules’ friendship with Meg saved his life.
This shows that Hercules’ friends cared about him so much they would give their own life for his. Hercules also was willing to give his life to get Meg back. He found Meg in the Sea of the Dead in the underworld. He knew that to save her, he must get her out, and in doing so would kill himself. When he went in to get her, it proved he was a true hero and he became an immortal god. When he was asked why he did it, he responded, “People always do crazy things when they are in love.” This showed that their love was mutual, and they would do anything for each other. Even though he tried so to be a god, he decided to spend his life on earth as a mortal with Meg. At the end of the movie “Hercules”, Hercules’ father explained, “A true hero is not measured by the size of his strength, but the strength of his heart.”Although Beowulf showed that he was a powerful warrior he never proved himself a true hero. Hercules’ proved himself a true friend, fought for the right reasons, and had great desire to be a hero, which were all needed to prove himself a true hero. Many people today are regarded as a hero for simple things like being admired by many or being a great ball player. Being a true hero takes much more than these things, once again, “A true hero is not measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”