Heroes And BEOWULF Essay, Research Paper
Webster?s dictionary defines a hero as one greatly regarded for his achievements or
qualities. This is only a rough definition, and applies only somewhat to Beowulf. A hero is
usually the main character; he is, according to Mr. Renn, a man who fights for the right
reasons, usually confident and possessed of superhuman abilities, at least as it applies to
Beowulf?s time period. Less common in that period in time is the idea of hubris, a fatal
weakness on the part of every hero. Beowulf exhibits all of these characteristics
throughout the play.
Beowulf fights for the right reasons at the beginning, or at least the right reasons
as 6th century Norse warriors would?ve reckoned the term. He defeats Grendel for several
good reasons, but primarily to repay a debt of honor owed to Hrothgar because of his
father Ecgtheow. The text brings up in lines 406-407 ?So you have come here, because of
past favors, to fight on our behalf!…? and continues into the section left out of the
He then proceeded to kill Grendel?s Dam in vengeance for the death of Aeschere.
In this, he acts as a champion for a friend of his new kinsman, Hrothgar. This is slightly
less honorable, yet enough so that he wins; after all, Grendel?s Dam was only avenging her
son, as stated in lines 975-976: ?mournful and ravenous, she resolved to go on a grievous
journey to avenge her son?s death.?
In the final battle, he is still fighting for mostly the right reasons: gold for his
people, as depicted in lines 1916-1920: ?With these words, I thank the King of Glory, the
Eternal Lord, the Ruler, for all these treasures here before me, that I have been able to
gain them for the Geats,? and a sense of destiny, that it was the ?fated hour.? His reward
for this battle was an honorable death in battle, and, in essence, immortality.
He is also supremely confident throughout the text, from the very first time he
meets Hrothgar, where he declared ?And now, I shall crush the giant Grendel in single
combat? (lines 375-376), to the final battle with the dragon, where he announced ?I will
fight again, the old guardian of my people, and achieve a mighty exploit if the evil
dragon dares confront me, dares come out of it?s earth-cave!? (lines 1725-1728). In any
other situation, with any other man, this would?ve been egotism, bordering on pure
insanity, but since it?s a hero, this is normal confidence; he does, after all, have the ability
to back up his boasts and threats.
This leads me to my next point; Beowulf is exceptionally powerful. It is related in
by Hrothgar that ?in the grasp of his hand that man renowned in battle has the might of
thirty men.? (lines 333-335). He has exceptional abilities, just as every classic hero
Finally, there is the idea of hubris, or a fatal flaw; in this case, it is his pride.
Hrothgar recognized this early in the play and warned Beowulf of it in lines 1386-1429.
Part of this speech is exceptionally important: ?He suffers no setbacks until the seed of
arrogance is sown and grows within him, while still the watchman slumbers; how deeply
the soul?s guardian sleeps when a man is enmeshed in matters of this world? (lines
1399-1403) and ?Arm yourself, dear Beowulf, best of men, against such diseased
thinking; always swallow pride.? This is part of the pedagogical part of this myth, but
many see it as a foreshadowing of Beowulf?s death, and see pride as one of the reasons
that Beowulf battled the dragon.