“An Epic Hero”
The epic poem Beowulf describes the most heroic man of the Anglo-Saxon times. The
hero, Beowulf, is a seemingly invincible person with all the extraordinary traits required of a hero.
He is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself.
He encounters hideous monsters and the most ferocious of beasts but he never fears the threat of
death. His leadership skills are superb and he is even able to boast about all his achievements.
Beowulf is the ultimate epic hero who risks his life countless times for immortal glory and for the
good of others.
Beowulf is a hero in the eyes of his fellow men through his amazing physical strength. He
fought in numerous battles and returned victorious from all but his last. In his argument with
Unferth, Beowulf explains the reason he "lost" a simple swimming match with his youthful
opponent Brecca. Not only had Beowulf been swimming for seven nights, he had also stopped to
kill nine sea creatures in the depths of the ocean. Beowulf is also strong enough to kill the
monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the Danes for twelve years, with his bare hands by
ripping off his arm. When Beowulf is fighting Grendel's mother, who is seeking revenge on her
son's death, he is able to slay her by slashing the monster's neck with a Giant's sword that can
only be lifted by a person as strong as Beowulf. When he chops off her head, he carries it from
the ocean with ease, but it takes four men to lift and carry it back to Herot mead-hall. This
strength is a key trait of Beowulf's heroism.
Another heroic trait of Beowulf is his ability to put his peoples welfare before his own.
Beowulf's uncle is king of the Geats so he is sent as an emissary to help rid the Danes of the evil
Grendel. Beowulf risks his own life for the Danes, asking help from no one. He realizes
the dangers but fears nothing for his own life. After Beowulf had served his people as King of
the Geats for fifty years, he goes to battle one last time to fight a horrible dragon who is
frightening all of his people. Beowulf is old and tired but he defeats the dragon in order to protect
his people. Even in death he wished so secure safety for the Geats by appointing Wiglaf to be his
The most heroic of traits within Beowulf is that he is not afraid to die. He always explains
his death wishes before going into battle and requests to have any assets delivered to his people.
"And if death does take me, send the hammered mail of my armor to Higlac, return the inheritance
I had from Hrethel, and from Wayland. Fate will unwind as it must!” (p.70) He is aware of the
heroic paradox; he will be glorified in life or death for his actions. He knows that when he fights
an enemy like Grendel or Grendel's mother he will achieve immortality as the victor or the loser.
"When we crossed the sea, my comrades and I, I already knew that all my purpose was this: to
win the good will of your people or die in battle, pressed in Grendel's fierce grip. Let me live in
greatness and courage, or here in this hall welcome my death!” (p. 43) Even with the enormous
amount of confidence Beowulf possesses, he understands that Fate will work its magic no matter
what and he could be killed at any point in his life. He faces that reality by showing no fear and
preparing for a positive or a fatal outcome.
Beowulf is the prime example of an epic hero. His bravery and strength surpass all mortal
men; loyalty and the ability to think of himself last makes him loved by all. Beowulf came openly
and wholeheartedly to help the Danes which was an unusual occurrence in a time of war and
wide-spread fear. He set a noble example for all human beings relaying the necessity of
brotherhood and friendship. Beowulf is most definitely an epic hero of epic proportions.
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