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Beowulf the Epic Hero

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Reggie Shaw                                                                                        

Dr. Sue Bennett

ENGL 2500-01

20 September 2017

Beowulf the Epic Hero

Beowulf is an epic poem about a great hero and warrior. His epic heroic qualities included his generosity, strength, leadership, and courage.  Beowulf was bold with his powers and uses them generously to help others remain safe. He was willing to put his own life in danger in order to protect the greater good of his fellow man.

Beowulf displays his generosity when he travels to Heorot to help Hrothgar and the Danes with their demon. He is willing to put himself and all of his men in danger to battle Grendel. The first time that Beowulf heard of this demon he immediately “announced his plan: to sail the swans road and seek out that king, the famous prince who needed defenders” (199-201). Nobody tried to deny him or question him (202-203) because they knew of his heroic strength and admired his generosity. The people knew that Beowulf was at this time “the mightiest man on earth” (197). Because of his willingness to leave his land and go help others, Beowulf is a man of heroic stature.

In order to be a epic hero Beowulf must also contain supernatural strength and qualities. Beowulf has many supernatural qualities that make him the hero that he is. His supernatural abilities and strengths are displayed in all three of the battles in the poem. In his first battle with Grendel these strengths are first presented when the two come into a handgrip. Grendel becomes afraid when he discovers “himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth” (Beowulf 749-752). Beowulf was said to have the strength of “thirty in the grips of each hand” (380-381). While Grendel was presented as a supernatural beast of his own right capable of hauling out ten men at a time, his strength was no match for the supernatural strength inside the grip of Beowulf who ripped his arm clean off leading Grendel to his death.

While this was a great defeat Grendel’s mother started wreaking havoc on the Danes. Beowulf vowed to put his life on the line again in order to help out the Danes. Grendel’s mother lives deep below the waters in a place at “the mere bottom has never been sounded by the sons of men” (1366-1367). Beowulf tracks her down and dives to the bottom of the sea to defeat her, once again showing his supernatural abilities to literally go where no mortal has ever gone before. His supernatural abilities allow him to keep his people and his land safe and it is these supernatural strengths that make him the epic hero that was needed at this time.

As Beowulf grew older the emphasis on his heroic qualities shifted more to wisdom, loyalty, and leadership for his kingdom. He became an effective leader of his people, bringing them riches and protection for many years. His greatest example of heroic leadership came with his decision to fight the dragon. His people believed that he should not fight the dragon because of his old age; however he made the best decision for his people and not for himself. Beowulf is wise enough to know that his supernatural strength is not what it once was and will not be enough to defeat the dragon, when speaking to his warriors before the battle he explains, “I would rather not use a weapon, as I did against Grendel in days gone by, I shall go forth in mail-shirt and shield” (2521-2524). He was wise enough to understand that he could not defeat this dragon in the same manner that he had defeated beasts and demons in the past.

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