Essay, Research Paper: Epic Hero

Literature: Beowulf

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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 follower. 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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