Is Beowulf a Hero?

What are the values and morals that make up a true hero? There are various ways in which a hero can be described according to their differentiation from others, including the types of qualities they bear and what they may accomplish. A hero can be recognized for his/her good deeds or influence on specific people in society. They may also be cherished for their contributions towards others and what they do to gain one’s attention through what they possess. Heroes can either serve as guides, helpers, or idols in one’s life. In relation to the meaning of a hero, there is one individual who really earns the right to be called a hero. The heroic narrative, Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, describes the struggles that a new hero had to face to become who he was. With his reputation at stake, Beowulf’s main priority was to prove himself, legitimately, as the true hero of his time.

Beowulf is the protagonist in the heroic narrative, Beowulf. He originated from a family that was known for its great reputation of helping others. Therefore, he had to withhold that reputation in order to derive respect from others who did not know him well. He came up with unique ways to do things that no one else could. Being aware of his superior strength, he was smart enough to use it in a way that everyone would never imagine. Beowulf was conscience that God was always going to be there to help him, whatever the cause. He considers himself to be dangerous and even gives out information regarding his past experiences. His family always demonstrated a positive attitude towards the community. Hrothgar, the builder of Heorot Hall, was a close friend to that of Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow, and recognized Beowulf’s entrance for that reason. Since Beowulf had numerous past experiences, he sometimes shared them with the people in his surroundings. He was known for his successfulness when it came to battles due to his planning ahead, which he always thought would lead him to victory. Overall, Beowulf’s appearance and physical structure gives everyone an outstanding glance of what he is made of. The quote, “There was no one else like him alive. In this day, he was the mightiest man on earth, high-born and powerful,” (p.15) explains that Beowulf was in fact a powerful individual with outstanding ways.

Beowulf bears many qualities and characteristics that stand out to the people in his surroundings. Through his physical strength, loyalty, and courage, the powerful hero was able to defeat evil and malicious monsters in his path. Beowulf sometimes chose to fight without armor to indicate that he was up to his will when it came to fighting. This showed that he was a strong leader and idol amongst others. Being the leader of the Geats, he tried his best to defend his community. He was very caring for the people around him who supported him and even fought for them whenever possible. The quote, “Now Holy God has in his goodness, guided him here to the West-Danes to defend us from Grendel,” (p.27) states that Beowulf knew God would always be there for him to guide him through his troubles. Since everyone had high expectations for Beowulf, they hoped that he would put in all his effort when it came to defending them from the bad.

The king of Denmark, Hrothgar, along with his warriors would have been happy in the Heorot Hall had it not been for the dreadful monster Grendel who came out of the marshes near by. Even Hrothgar feared that Beowulf would not be able to defeat Grendel. This had soon foreshadowed that Beowulf was on his way to fighting Grendel for his wrong doings. When a time of ambush came up against the Geats and Beowulf, Beowulf called for immediate action towards Grendel. Beowulf stated, “I hereby renounce sword and the shelter of the broad shield, the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand is how it will be a life-to-death fight with the fiend.” (p.31) With that said, he was audacious in a way that he did not use weapons to fight off Grendel. Beowulf’s allure and overall tactic led him to using strategic moves in beating Grendel. With quick reflexes, Beowulf managed to grip one of Grendel’s arms when Grendel came to attack him. He twisted and tore Grendel’s arm right off and left him to die in the marshes. Once everyone knew that Beowulf had defeated the beast, his victory made everyone rely upon him whenever there was another attack of that sort and so they called on him for those purposes. Beowulf was upholding his reputation of being the mightiest man on earth, being triumphant against Grendel.

On the other hand, another battle took place involving Grendel’s mother. Although Beowulf was able to handle Grendel, Grendel’s mother arose to avenge for her son. Prior to the battle, Hrothgar handed Beowulf a sword that supposedly would never fail against evil, but it had failed in the midst of the battle. The quote, “The brehon handed him a hilted weapon, a rare and ancient sword named Hrunting.” (p.101) explains that Hrothgar was in charge of giving Beowulf a sword for protection. Conflict mounted when Grendel’s mother had a lead in the match against Beowulf. With Beowulf’s life at stake, he knew that God would help him in beating Grendel’s mother. Everyone thought that Beowulf died, but instead it was the other way around. The quote, “Holy God decided the victory. It was easy for the Lord, the ruler of Heaven, to redress the balance once Beowulf got back up on his feet.” (p.107) shows that God, the one who guided Beowulf in times of misery, determined Beowulf’s victory against Grendel’s mother. Following the defeat, in order to show triumph, Beowulf cut off both Grendel and Grendel’s mother’s head off, and kept both as new trophies. Beowulf was indeed able to overcome Grendel and his mother throughout the suspenseful battles fought amongst each other.

Beowulf’s status became known as time progressed. The people of his community had no other choice but to cope with Grendel before they ever met Beowulf, their rescuer. Other’s perspectives regarding Beowulf led him to gaining popularity and respect, therefore they chose to support him even more. In the beginning, Unferth, a son of Eglaf’s, spoke against Beowulf in his competitive races alongside Breca. Since Unferth was not able to do the job like Beowulf did in opposition to Grendel’s mother, he finally had respect for Beowulf since he was chosen to fight off the beast. In regards to Unferth, the quote, “He was not man enough to face the turmoil of a fight underwater and risk to his life.” (p.103) states that Unferth was not the kind to fight underwater, where more risks are at hand. Another example of how Beowulf was considered necessary was when Hrothgar called him again to help the Danes from Grendel’s mother. Hrothgar said, “Now help depends on you and on you alone.” (p.97) This meant that if he were successful once again, he would then be rewarded for his actions. In response to Beowulf’s victories, Hrothgar handed over Heorot Hall to Beowulf. He wished Beowulf health and good luck, and named him hall-warden.

It is clear that Beowulf fought to his full potential and will. He proved himself as being a hero in plentiful ways. Whenever there was trouble, everyone relied on him for protection. He managed to stand up for his people through fighting his opponents and defeating each to further boost his reputation. He won both fights fairly, gained respect from many, and did what he did to satisfy everyone. Beowulf is definitely a true hero because if it were not for him, others would not have survived the struggles and strife’s faced upon them.

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