Christian Ethics and the Values of Being a Hero in the Epic of Beowulf

Categories: Beowulf The Dragon

A major theme in Beowulf is being a hero and providing shelter for all the people as a hero of the nation, and most of all as a king to the people. One of the most important things that are taken in the whole poem can be put into so called „heroic code“. Some things as strength, courage, honor and loyalty, are highly valued in the poem, which can be understood as a heroic code of men. As the poem is being told, Beowulf, as a character in the poem matures into a leader of his people, from a little scared kid.

This can be also understood that a character as a person can be in a conflict with the heroic code, and that every value in the code, is pursued with every role of the character differently. At the time of Beowulf, and at the time of Germanic society, there was the major importance of heroic values. Those values defined one person as a noble one or a peasant one in the whole society.

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Not only that heroic values were in just loyalty, courage, honor or strength, but also on values as generosity or hospitality. For one man to have heroic values for himself first then for everyone else, was of great importance in warrior recognition. Of course, the heroic values had a lot of contradictory statements in the whole poem.

In the poem, a warrior tradition of not forgiving can be seen as animalistic to Christian beliefs, to kill those who did a harm deed on ones family or honour.

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Now, all of this contradicts with Christian teachings and beliefs, where it is strictly said to forgive and not claim revenge to those who did one harm. Loyalty as a pat of heroic values can be seen when Beowulf takes the right for the throne, after his father dies. Even though Beowulf as a character, wanted all the glory and all of his pride for himself, but there can be seen also a transition in personality, where he takes the throne with loyatly and respect. He didnt just act as a king on the throne, but as the protector of his people. And it can be recognized in the end. Where he fights the dragon, and takes a responsibility of death in order to save his people. Beowulf as a center character of the poem, is a person of high heroic values, but is also a person of rightful mind.

A lot of Christian ethical elements can be also found in the story of Beowulf. From a philosophy that a man can and needs to have a better living with the trusting in God, that all living beings on Earth are given by God, and that one should keep hinself unselfish of his actions in life. However, a lot of pride can be seen in Beowulf, and that can be a strong attack on Christianity, because pride in Christian beliefs is one of the major seven sins for a person to do. Also, as Beowulf takes over the throne he needs to lose that pride, and take sacrifice and selfishness in order to serve his people, and so people will serve him, to gain their trust as a king. Through his fights he states and acknowledges God as his protector and his helper in his struggles, but also there is this strong emotion of trying to be true to God in order to earn Gods respect, that one warrior needs to take his moral values and earn them for himself and just then he can ask a help from God. Beowulf may be the first literary work that is this important to be seen from historical, religious or philosophical point of view.

Updated: Nov 16, 2022
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Christian Ethics and the Values of Being a Hero in the Epic of Beowulf. (2022, Sep 18). Retrieved from

Christian Ethics and the Values of Being a Hero in the Epic of Beowulf essay
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