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Literary Analysis (Beowulf)

Heroes Of Epic Proportions

Heroes. We all know them when we see them. The only question is what makes someone a
hero? Characteristics of what it means to be a hero are shown throughout Anglo-Saxon core
values. One of the most famous works from that time period is Beowulf. The story tells us of
how one man, Beowulf, sails to the rescue of King Hrothgar and his people in order to save
them from a terrible beast that is threatening not only their lives but also their way of life.
The warrior Beowulf definitely shows characteristics of an epic hero through bravery, loyalty,
generosity, friendship, achieving something of great value, providing people with a sense of
security, and being intelligent.
First, Beowulf showcases his heroic nature through his bravery throughout his quest. Many
times during his epic quest, he is not afraid to be brave in every situation. One example
from the story is, So Beowulf chose the mightiest men he could find, the bravest and best
of the Geats, fourteen in all, and led them down to their boat (119-122). This proves his
bravery because he was the head man for the Geats. By choosing the mightiest and bravest
people, Beowulf reflects that he himself must have been even more brave in order to be
able to lead his noble people. Therefore in choosing the brave men he did, not only did he
prove how much more brave he was, Beowulf also proved that he was by far and epic hero.

Another way Beowulf displays that he is a hero is through his friendship. By showing
friendship Beowulf is able to relate to the people more. Therefore he has the right to give
them help in a difficult situation. This is shown when he goes to talk to king Hrothgar and
the king says, Beowulf youve come to us in friendship, and because Of the reception your
father found at our court (191-192). This states that the king was indeed very grateful that
he had made the journey and as a result he considered Beowulf a great friend. Beowulf
shows his friendship in the fact that he didnt have to come save king Hrothgars people,
however because he was reaching out and being a friend he wanted to save them from evil.
In this instance again Beowulf shows that he deserves to have the title of an epic hero by
showing such strong friendship.

Next Beowulf proves that he is a great Anglo-Saxon hero through his loyalty. Loyalty was
without a doubt one of the most important ideals upheld by the Anglo-Saxon people.
Beowulf was an ideal Anglo-Saxon, therefore he was loyal every chance he got. So it was a
big deal that Beowulf showed his loyalty to king Hrothgar in this quote, I brought the end
of Edgethos Quarrel, sent ancient treasures through the oceans Furrows to the Wulfings;
your father swore Hed keep that peace (204-207). This is speaking of an act of kindness
that finally brought Beowulfs father to peace with Hrothgars people. In coming to the aid of
the Anglo-Saxons, Beowulf keeps the peace and thus shows his loyalty and respect to king
Hrothgar for helping his father. Beowulf the warrior gave his loyalty to Hrothgar, which
showed that he was an epic hero.

Furthermore, Beowulf can be classified as an epic hero in his generosity. Beowulf was
always being generous in every situation. He would accept a challenge even if he knew it
might take his life. One of the most amazing ways to show generosity and selflessness is in
sacrifice. A great example of this is when the warrior says, when we crossed the sea, my
comrades And I, I already knew that all My purpose was this: to win the good will Of your
people or die in battle, (364-367). In this statement Beowulf is saying that he is willing to
lay down his own life if it means he might help save the Anglo-Saxon people. Beowulf
generosity testifies again of his heroic nature and epic hero attitude.

Further proof, that Beowulf is an epic hero is when he achieves something of great value for
himself. This is described in a secondary source called Moments in time which is written by
an english major at the University of Memphis. He says, They undertake long, dangerous
journeys, or quest, to achieve something of a great value to themselves or their people
(Moments in time). Beowulf always took every problem he heard about on himself. The
reason being is because he wanted to gain immortality for himself. This characteristic of an
epic hero is shown through this quote, Proclaiming that hed go to that famous king, Would
sail across the sea to Hrothgar, Now when help was needed (114-116). Beowulf did not sail
off to rescue Hrothgars people right away, but instead waited till he was sure that he was
the only one that could do the task. The reason he did this is because he wanted to gain
immortality, something that was very important for a hero. Therefore, Beowulf took a long
quest in order to gain something of great value for himself which shows that he is in fact
and epic hero.

Also Beowulf can be described as a great hero because he provides the people with safety.
An essay written about Beowulf describes it this way, An Anglo-Saxon hero is a person who
has good leadership qualities, is able and willing to provide people with a sense of security,
and is willing to go into danger despite possible harm to themselves (Epic of Beowulf
Essay). People think of a person very highly when they feel safe with them. This element of
an epic hero is described when Beowulf says, I have come so far, Oh shelterer of warriors
and your peoples loved friend, That this one favor you should not refuse me-That I, alone
and with the help of my men, May purge all evil from this hall (162-166). Beowulf says that
he wants to purge all evil from their land. In doing so he is providing the people with a
sense of confidence that they are safe and secure. Beowulfs words cause the people to feel
a sense of ease, which gives evidence that he is an epic hero.

Finally Beowulf earns the title of an epic hero through being very intelligent. In doing so he
fulfills what Christopher Garcia says, In Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, to be a hero
was to be a warrior. A hero had to be strong, intelligent, and courageous (The Anglo-
Saxon Hero). When someone is in a form of leadership the people expect them to give
them smart or intelligent advice. Not only intelligent advice but also to set an example
before them that is intelligent. Beowulfs reaction when Grendel arrives shows this final
characteristic of a hero, Then he stepped to another Still body, clutched at Beowulf with his
claws, Grasped at a strong-hearted wakeful sleeper- And was instantly seized himself,
(427-430). Beowulf is very courageous and intelligent in the way he decides to confront
Grendel. You could say that Grendel is tricked by Beowulf because he pretends to be asleep
and doesnt move to attack him until its too late. The intelligent and cunning tactic Beowulf
uses to defeat Grendel is another way that he definitely earns the right to be called an epic
hero.

Throughout the story, Beowulf is constantly displaying characteristics of an epic hero. First
of all Beowulf displays the four pillars of Anglo-Saxon which include bravery, loyalty,
generosity, and friendship (Element of Literature, The Anglo-Saxons 2). He also gets
something of great value for himself. Beowulf also gives the people a sense of safety and
security. His intelligence is also another way his heroic behavior is shown. There are many
heroes throughout time but as far as epic heroes go, Beowulf really takes the cake.