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Everybody wants to be a hero. Most people would be willing to put on a latex suit and accept the burden of having to save the Earth every day, as long as they get to have cool superpowers. There are different kinds of heroes: superheroes, epic heroes, doctors, parents, firefighters… Anyone can be a hero. Every kid grew up watching cartoons or reading comic books about superheroes, those extraordinary people that children look up to and admire. Growing up, that teenager who has a Spiderman poster on his bedroom wall, realizes that the real heroes are those people that get out of bed every morning and leave their house with the will to make the world a better place.
Children often take for granted how much the world can give to them, and they do not realize that some people out there are really trying to do the best they can. When one thinks of people with superpowers, epic heroes is not the first category that comes to mind; that is because most epic heroes do not, in fact, have superpowers.
People are mostly familiar with names like Odysseus, Hercules, Theseus, and Perseus. However, there is another epic hero whose name should be known: Beowulf. He is a strong and brave warrior, though sometimes overconfident; these characteristics can be found in other epic heroes as well, but Beowulf’s persona is quite unique. Epic heroes usually have seven distinctive characteristics. First of all, commoners do not usually become epic heroes; mainly because they are not believed to be capable of deeds of great strength and courage.
Epic heroes often take part in wars, both in their home country and in other areas; which is why they might travel a vast se tting. The farther away they go, the better, as their actions are greater because the heroes are helping other populations as well as their own. Even as the world loves and recognizes the great accomplishments of a hero, he never completes his quests for the purpose of being rewarded. Before a hero can be celebrated all over the world, he must first become a hero in his home country. Most epic heroes have to fight superhuman enemies, as those are the ones that mere humans cannot face. Beowulf, as a classic epic hero, has many qualities and skills; but certainly the one that helps him the most in his life is courage. Beowulf first shows courage when he is boasting about his achievements.
Beowulf says that he “chased… [the giants) from the earth… [hunted)… and skilled monsters] one by one”. Beowulf talks about having brought death to the entire race of the Giants, and to monsters that lived in the ocean; which are both great acts of bravery. Another time when Beowulf showcases his courage is when he says he will fight Grendel with no weapons. The Geat warrior tells Hrothgar that Beowulf “[has) heard… [Grendel] needs no weapons and fears none,” so neither will he. Beowulf shows great bravery when he decides to face the monster unarmed. Being an epic hero would not be easy without the quality of bravery, which Beowulf possesses in great quantity. Being a hero requires more than just courage, it is not courage itself that helps Beowulf win all of his battles, his great strength does.
Beowulf tells King Hrothgar that his men can vouch for his courage. Beowulf says his followers “have seen [his] strength for themselves”; they “have watched [Beowulf] rise from… war, dripping with his enemies’ blood” (247-248). Beowulf’s faithful companions have seen his strength as they watched him win every single war he took part in and defeat all of his enemies. During the battle with Grendel, Beowulf’s strength is shown again. Grendel, the evil monster that is terrorizing Hrothgar’s kingdom, “[realizes]… that nowhere on earth has he met a man whose hands were harder [than those of Beowulf)”. As Beowulf seizes Grendel’s vicious claw and holds on to it, the monster is confused and surprised by the extraordinary strength that Beowulf has. Finally, Beowulf embodies the perfect epic hero, with the essential traits of courage and strength. Although Beowulf is courageous and strong, these are not the only qualities he has; he is also confident in his capabilities, but this quality can sometimes be a flaw, even to an epic hero. Confidence is an essential trait for a person who has to rely solely on themselves to defeat evil; but if it turn into overconfidence, the so-admired hero becomes a flawed being, more similar to his simple companions. When Beowulf faces the dragon, he says “No one else… cold hope to defeat this monster. No one could try [but me)”.
This could be seen as simple confidence, but one needs to remember that Beowulf is an old man; his great strength is not the same as when he was younger; therefore there is no need for Beowulf to boast that much about himself. Beowulf is a great hero; he never surrenders – not even when there is no hope to win -, he is kind and generous to his followers, and he believes that he can do anything; but perhaps his overconfidence is also the reason for his death. Heroes are usually seen as flawless beings, but one needs to remember that they are, after all, still human. They still have feelings, they are tempted, and they are powerless against the inevitable flow of time. So what makes them worthy of being called heroes? Maybe it is their ability to know right from wrong, or maybe their selfless nature; maybe their will to sacrifice for the greater good, or maybe their uncommon characteristics are enough for them to be labeled as heroes.
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