Heroism in Beowulf
A hero is one who is not only strong, but one who uses his strength to uphold others. A hero is humble, philanthropic, magnanimous and selfless, a humanitarian at best. In the unprecedented epic Beowulf, the tale’s namesake exemplifies every characteristic befitting an Anglo-Saxon hero. He is honest, loyal, and courageous. He portrays these characteristics in the battle against Grendel, the affray with Grendel’s mother, and the fight against the dragon that inevitably ended his life. Beowulf was a man of admirable exploits.
He had the strength of thirty men in his arms, and would use this strength to aid anyone in need. Upon hearing of the plight of Grendel and the ill happenings in Hrothgar’s kingdom, Beowulf immediately gathered his entourage to help the king and defend Heorot. When Beowulf encountered the beast that had terrorized for 12 years, he single-handedly ripped off Grendel’s arm, an act ultimately killing the creature. To further delineate his heroism, Beowulf kept the arm as a trophy of his victory. Upon learning of her son’s death, Grendel’s mother was infuriated. She made a personal vow to vindicate Grendel’s life.
By killing one of Hrothgar’s most trusted advisors, she presented Beowulf with an “invitation” to her underwater lair in order to avenge her son. Beowulf, being a man of distinguished valor, accepted the challenge whole-heartedly and made his way through the murky, dismal swamp waters and into the underwater cave. Though the jaunt was difficult, Beowulf was relentless in his pursuit. When he reached Grendel’s mother, the battle was long and hard, but the hero refused to surrender. He fought until the disconcerted mother gave up and died. As a token of his feat, Beowulf took a jewel-studded sword from the cave.
To further celebrate his heroic feat, he decapitated Grendel and kept his head as a souvenir of his triumph. The last battle that Beowulf partook in was perhaps the most heroic of all. Although the battle ended his life, it proved that of all the men in the story, Beowulf was the only true Anglo-Saxon hero. All of his troops proved to be fickle. They abandoned him in a time when they were needed the most. Though his men lived, they lived as cowards, yielding to the dragon apprehended by all the Geats. Never the less, Beowulf’s strength of heart and mind gave him the will to fight the dragon, although none of his men were there to help him.
In this part of the tale, Beowulf was older and his physical strength had dwindled. But despite this, his tremendous heroism remained. He fought the dragon to his death and died with a pride, gallantry and chivalry that no man at the time had known. Beowulf’s strength, courage and sense of self-worth are all traits that gained him recognition as a hero. He stood up for his fellow man, even if the good deed wasn’t always returned. His humble pride and selfless attitude are virtues associated with very few men. In the distinguished epic Beowulf, the main character elucidates the true meaning of an Anglo-Saxon hero.