Epic Heroes: Archetypes throughout History Essay
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After Athena tricked Hector into facing Achilles, their sparring battle resulted in Achilles as the winner. His rage and strength was so prominent that the God of Fire touched his spear tip just as he attacked, “Brightest star that rides the heavens, so fire flared from the sharp point of spear Achilles brandished high in his right hand. ” As Hector lay dying, Homer, the author, describes him as, “Godlike Achilles gloried over him. ” Gilgamesh too had god-like strength that helped him succeed.
Gilgamesh’s adventures were based on the god-like strength he had.
He had fought and won every battle he’d been in and soon became bored. The Gods sensed this and sent Enkidu, a stronger, better version of Gilgamesh, to fight and entertain the bored king. They fought for a while, but after neither could one up the other, they decided to become best friends. To put their strengths to the test, and to also entertain themselves, Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to defeat Humbaba, a monster from the forest. Humbaba almost got the better of Enkidu, but Gilgamesh used his god-like strength to cut off his head. Besides strength, all three epic heroes shared the trait of bravery as well.
The thing about superheroes isn’t just that they tend to have amazing superpowers. It’s that they have the bravery to risk their lives for the benefit of others. Beowulf’s main fight was to save a kingdom that he was not apart of. Herot’s king was a friend of his father, so Beowulf courageously took it upon himself to help them out. He succeeded too, taking Herot out of harm’s way. Then, when Grendel’s mother came for revenge, Beowulf once again decided to risk his like to protect the kingdom. He nearly lost it too, if not for his chain mail and a sword. Then, during his last battle, Beowulf and a group of knights went to fight a dragon.
Though he did not succeed on his own, and lost his life after the dragon was dead, he bravely faced the beast in hopes of protecting his kingdom. But bravery doesn’t just have to do with fighting monsters, it also has to do with facing your mortal enemies. Achilles’ bravery was fueled by his desire to avenge his dead friend. He chased Hector, the murderer, for a long time, never faltering but never catching up either. When Athena helped him out, he bravely stood his ground against Hector. When the two came face to face, Hector offerened him a pact, return the body of the one who is killed.
Knowing there was a chance he might not win, Achilles turned down the offer so he could get his full vengence. Achilles’ first strike missed Hector, he taunted him for it afterwards. But he kept a cool head and continued fight his hardest, thus coming out on top as the victor. Sometimes bravery isn’t always shown at first, especially when Gilgamesh and Enkidu face Humababa. Gligamesh fought many battles with his friend Enkidu, defeating many monsters along the way. But their biggest battle tested their bravery the most. Not only was Humbaba the most fearsome monster in the land, but his forest that he lived in was almost just as dangerous.
During the night, Enkidu and Gilgamesh both had nightmares of the fight to come. Enkidu tried to calm Gilgamesh by turning all of his bad dreams into good signs, such as, “’What does that mean, Enkidu? ‘That you will be victorious against Humbaba’ Enkidu said. ” He proved right too. In the morning Humbaba came barreling through the forest, his sights set on attacking the duo. Gilgamesh stood paralyzed with fear as Humbaba started beating Enkidu to a pulp, but bravery flooded back into him when he realized he wanted Enkidu to live more than he was afraid.
After saving him and decapitating the head, Gilgamesh and Enkidu head home to plan for more adventures. All of these epic heroes seem perfect, but they each have their flaws that give them a weakness. Beowulf was perfect in everyone’s eyes, including his own but he also had small but crucial flaws that made him not so perfect. For one, he had a mortal’s body. Though he was god-like strong and extremely brave, when he went to fight Grendel’s mother she almost got the best of him. If not for his chain mail and the beast’s sword, Beowulf would have been another snack in her stomach.
He was also cocky, which he had every right to be since he won all of his battles. But as old age dawned upon him and he took a group to fight a dragon, Beowulf’s mortal body couldn’t finish off the beast by himself. His sword, which he used in every battle, was apart of his downfall, “infallible before that day, failed when he unsheathed it, as it never should have. ” After the dragon was dead, and Beowulf lay dying, he passed his throne onto Wiglaf, who reminded Beowulf of himself when he was younger.
Achilles’ downfall also had to do with his body, but their were other factors in it. When his mother dipped him into the River Styx and gave him his god-like strength, she submerged everything but his ankle. Though it was not in the passage of him killing Hector, that was the ultimate downfall of Achilles. Shot in the ankle with an arrow was the death of him. But he also had other weaknesses too. For one, he was not nearly as god-like as everyone thought, for if he was then there should have been no reason why couldn’t he catch up to Hector as he was chasing him.
The only way that he did finally manage to reach Hector was with the help of his ally Athena, who tricked Hector into turning around and facing him. So though Achilles was a very powerful individual, he couldn’t have gotten anywhere without the help of others. Gilgamesh was a strong, brave individual with an insecurity issue. As he and Enkidu sleep in the forest before the battle with Humbaba, both are whimpering in fear. Enkidu has to calm Gilgamesh’s nerves by telling him that all his dreams mean good omens. And when the battle finally did come, Gilgamesh was frozen in fear and Humbaba beat Enkidu.
It wasn’t until Enkidu was crying for help and he realized he didn’t want his friend dead that he finally stepped up and helped him out. So though he was strong and adventurous, he wasn’t sure in himself enough to go fight out on his own. Archetypes throughout history have shaped the modern day superhero. Strength, bravery, and a potential weakness are all things many epic heroes have in common. Beowulf, Achilles, and Gilgamesh are three different heroes that find common ground in their character traits. So if becoming a superhero is in anyone’s future plans, they can look to epic poems for the aspects they’ll need.