What makes a great story? What makes a legendary story be told over centuries? It usually involves a hero, an eEpic hHero. An Epic Hero demonstrates four dominant character traits. These traits include, embody and protect the values of the time, possess supernatural traits, have a need to go on a quest, and they carry themselves with an air of pride and pomposity. Beowulf is unquestionably an Epic Hero and it is shown throughout the legendary and oldest surviving epic poem in English writing.
One of the more important parts of the Beowulf story is the way he acts and his behavior. He gains respect through his honor and dependability. His honor drives him to put his own life at risk to defeat Grendel and Grendel’s mother. He would rather have that respect than to live another day. Beowulf demonstrates honor by leaving all the gold and riches after he defeated Grendel’s mother, as the poem states “The monsters hall was full of rich treasures but all Beowulf took was Grendel’s head and the hilt of the giants” (pg.
60) (lines 567-570). It shows that Beowulf is only here for fame and nothing else. The poem also describes him as “that noble protector of all seamen Swam to land,” (pg. 60) (lines 578-579). Beowulf’s strong values are evident throughout the poem and even at the end when he faces the dragon, “Beowulf rose, still brave, still strong, And with his shield at his side, and a mail shirt on his breast, Strode calmly, confidently, toward the tower, under The rocky cliffs: no coward could have walked there!”
The next trait of an epic hero is possessing the supernatural ability.
This is shown when Beowulf sees the heavy sword hanging on the wall and was hammered by giants, “so massive that no ordinary man could lift Its carved and decorated length. He drew it From its scabbard, broke the chain on its hilt, And then, savage, now, angry And desperate, lifted it high over his head and struck with all the strength he had left”. (pg. 59) (line 516) Another example of how Beowulf shows his supernatural strength is when he faces the dragon, “No one else could do what I mean to, here, no man but me Could hope to defeat this monster. No-one could try.”
The next trait of an epic hero reflects a need to go on a quest. Beowulf clearly shows this quality in the first and last part of the poem. He shows it when he goes to Hrothgar and tells him he will fight Grendel, “Now Grendel and I are called together, and I’ve come. Grant me, then, Lord and protector of this noble place, A single request! I have come so far,” (pg 48) (lines 159-162) Then Beowulf states, as an old man, he will still fight the 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.” (pg. 62) (lines 607-611)
The next trait of an epic hero story is that he carries himself with an air of pride and pomposity. This is a huge part of any epic hero poem/story, especially with Beowulf.
In the story, Beowulf is facing against a dragon but now as an old man, with that pride, he states that, as seen in the text “I’d use no sword no weapon if this beast could be killed without it crushed to death like Grendel” (pg.63) (lines 613-619) Beowulf is so confident in his abilities that he believes that he can kill the dragon just by tearing it apart.
The story Beowulf has been read by generations and generations of families it applies to our everyday lives when people take on our own hypothetical monsters. When a person see a need to go on a quest and, people face challenges from our day to day lives. These challenges have the same characteristics of any Epic Poem.
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