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Why Beowulf a hero?

Updated on August 24, 2012

Beowulf, the most famous epic poem

Check the link below for a study of Beowulf as an epic poem

Why Beowulf is considered as the epic poem of all ages?


 Beowulf, the synonym of heroism
Beowulf, the synonym of heroism

Bravery of Beowulf (heroism in Beowulf poem)

Beowulf is a great hero for different reasons. The most notable character of Beowulf is nothing but his bravery. His journey was indeed a chapter of bravado. Moreover, he was a great warrior. Beowulf's heroism is quite notable. Even though his boasting about his prowess and actions makes him less admirable, his heroism is extraordinary. He says to Unferth that “I count it true that I had more courage, More strength in swimming than any other man” (Beowulf, p. 514-15 (41)). Even though what he says here is true, it is interpreted in a different way. Moreover, according to him, he needs to orally deliver his history and personal information for succeeding. Even though he was over-boastful, he was a brave man, no doubt. But in spite of all this, nobody can challenge the fact that he was a man of valor. The way he attained the popularity was by fighting valiantly against the threats of the society. His conquests were really in truth and bravery. He uses his bravery and heroism to achieve, and has never attempted to lie or influence anybody to acquire fame. The bravery of Beowulf is the aspect that makes the entire story proceeds. The typical aspect made him ascend to the throne of fame and also prepared the path of his downfall. Beowulf is a tragic hero; he is described as very powerful and quite unbeatable. However, he is illustrated as a person without much self-character. His identity and characters are frequently mentioned by others in their actions and words. Nothing undermines the bravery of Beowulf. Beowulf did not learn from the experience. For example, he battled with a dragon in his advanced age. Gawain, however, learned from his experience. Beowulf is indeed a classical hero. He exhibited great heroic characters like bravery, gallantry and chivalry. However, the most notable fact of the story is that their mostly valued qualities or skills resulted into their downfall. It was nothing but the bravery of Beowulf that compelled him to fight with the dragon, being an elderly person. These are all the special features of characters in great epics.

Pagan elements in Beowulf; the poem, an integration of Christianity and Paganism

Beowulf reveals the way through which Christian heroism evolved perfectly from the exterior-self to the interior-self. Beowulf was written in such a period during which the people ofEnglandwere increasingly getting converted to Christianity (high influence period of Christianity in the eighth century). People who converted to Christianity those days however maintained all the stories, practices, customs and policies of their old religion and linked them to Christianity. Beowulf is the best example of that notion. This story is truly an incorporation of pagan elements into Christianity (a combination of both paganism and Christianity). The pagan elements belonging to Beowulf are evident in the expression of the self-glory of Beowulf and the illustration of supernatural figures. This makes it a great epic.

Beowulf analysis: Christianity and Christian theme in Beowulf poetry

Beowulf gives importance only to his personal interest. For example, in the last sentence of the story, it is mentioned that Beowulf is "keenest to win fame." (ln.3182). Beowulf includes several supernatural figures like Grendel (the progeny of Cain) who consumes human flesh and blood, Grendel's mother, living in the deep sea; and the dreadful dragon, that demolish Beowulf's property and people. We can see that Beowulf enters into fight with these supernatural figures and attains victory. Careful observation will reveal that Christianity is very much evident in these pagan ideas (‘Cain’ may not sound ‘pagan’ and early stories of Bible contain monsters). We can also find Beowulf mentioning God as the only power and Almighty (he is more or less illustrated as Christ and the entire story being testimony to the Sacred Writings). The story includes Christian themes and illustrates the heroes as tragic in distinct ways. As far as Beowulf is concerned his physical existence is destroyed and his legacy, character and excellence live through the words and hearts of other characters in the story. During the last moments of Beowulf's death (on his fight with the dragon) a Wiglaf try to persuade other warriors to extend helping hand to Beowulf and also speak highly about the valor of Beowulf and hid giant attempt. Beowulf, even though he physically perished, lived though the words of others and is indeed a hero. The tales of Beowulf is a tale of heroism, bravery and strengths.

The poem Beowulf, the poem of heroism

The poem Beowulf is all about heroism. Beowulf is a man of extraordinary traits that makes him a real hero. We find him making use of his super-human strength and bravery to work for his people. He encounters cruel beasts and hideous monsters and is not at all afraid of death. He is ready to face anything in his adventurous life. He has got great leadership skills that made him the great hero of the epic. Beowulf can be considered as the ultimate epic hero who is always ready to sacrifice his life for the good of others and immortal glory. We find him risking his life several times in the story.

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