Epics have been written and told orally for hundreds of years. A typical epic usually contains challenges, journeys, adventures and most importantly, a hero. An epic hero has several characteristics that make him unique. First of all, he or she usually comes from a noble family, which means, a noble birth. Also, they tend to have superhuman strength and accomplish beyond human deeds. A must in all Epic stories is that this hero must go on a quest in search of something. This quest, also known as a journey, holds several challenges and unexpected turns that the hero must overcome.
Beowulf, an epic hero, is a fantastic example and fits the standards perfectly of an epic hero. He is noble, brave, and has superhuman strength, not only in his body but also in his heart. This strength is one that makes him thing of himself as immortal and invincible. What Beowulf lacks despite of this is a sense of self-knowledge, something learned about oneself through experiences, but he gains this characteristic through his epic quest in which he will realize that in fact, he is not immortal. Beowulf does not simply gain self-knowledge; in fact there are a series of events which lead up to his inner realization.
Grendel is a powerful monster who terrorizes the Danes. He is feared of immensely by all of the people and nobody who has the courage to withstand him survives the attempt. “He was spawned in that slime, conceived by a pair of these monsters born of Cain, punished forever for the crime of Abel’s death. ” (Line 19-23)Grendel is such a bad figure that he is known to be the reincarnation of the devil. When terrorizing all of the people at Herot, Hrothgar calls for Prince Beowulf’s assistance, knowing that he is powerful and brave.
Beowulf sleeps at Herot and during the night confronts Grendel in a bloody and intense battle. Beowulf manages to kill Grendel and is therefore recognized and worshiped by all of the Danes. This is one of the first contributors to Beowulf’s belief of immortality in himself and a clear example to him that death in fact is possible. After having slayed Grendel, Beowulf is encountered in another situation in which he must, once again fight for Hrothgar. Hrothgar informs Beowulf that Grendel’s Mom hast taken and killed his best and only friend.
He in turn asks Beowulf for help once again and Beowulf gladly accepts the task. “Grendel’s Mom is hidden in a terrible home, in a place you have not seen. Seek it if you dare! Save us once more, and again twisted gold, heaped up ancient treasure, will reward you. ” (Line 444-449) He begins his journey to Grendel’s Mom’s lair, a deep dark lake in the mountains to which nobody ever wants to go. When he gets there, Beowulf is attacked by several creatures other than Grendel’s Mom herself, but manages to kill them all and finally encounter himself in a battle with fearless Grendel’s Mom.
After the long battle, Beowulf manages to kill this creature and again feels overly triumphant and immortal, but is yet another example of mortality shown clear to Beowulf, because everything, even the most dark and feared creatures can die. Fifty years later, Beowulf finds himself being king of the Geats and being greatly loved by everyone in his realm. One day, Beowulf is informed that a dragon is terrorizing his people and is killing them, a fire breathing dragon. “I’ve never known fear, as a youth I fought in endless battles.
I am old now, But I will fight again, seek fame still, if the dragon hiding in his tower dares to face me. ” (Line 607-610). Despite his old age, Beowulf, still courageous, wants to fight and slay the dragon which terrorizes his people. Once he gets there and the battle begins, he realizes that it is not the same as before, that he is in fact weaker and now vulnerable. He struggles greatly, his sword breaks, and the dragon melts his shield and armor with his fiery breath, but now his army helps him and together they slay the dragon.
Unfortunately, Beowulf is greatly wounded and for the first time, realizes he is going to die and that he is in fact, mortal. When he dies, Beowulf asks for a statue of him to be built, he is in this way seeking eternal immortality. His self-realization mainly comes across to him when he is dying in the arms of his people after his harsh fight with the dragon. He was a strong hearted and strong-minded warrior, because it was not until the last moment that he learns about his own vulnerabilities, he lives thinking he is invincible, until fate plays a trick on his belief.