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Beowulf the Hero

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“… A fiend out of hell”(Heaney 100). These words describe the monster Grendel, who is truly an evil entity. Only an epic hero with strength, courage and confidence is able to defeat this mighty foe. This hero’s name is Beowulf. He displays all of these throughout the epic. Beowulf’s first epic hero trait is confidence. Beowulf displays confidence when he talked to Unferth in the great hall Heorot. Beowulf said, “…but he will find me different. I will show him how Geats shape to kill/ in the heat of battle” (601-603). Here Beowulf says that Grendel would not put a scratch on him or his men. Beowulf thinks that the Geat warriors are far superior to Grendel. This quote is somewhat over-confident because Beowulf has not even seen Grendel yet, but claimed to be able beat Grendel with ease. This shows that he is confident in his abilities as a warrior and a hero. A similar quote that displays Beowulf’s confidence occurs when Beowulf was speaking to Unferth about his swimming match against Breca, Beowulf states, “I was the strongest swimmer”(534). This quote also indicates Beowulf’s cockiness because he states that no one is better than him at swimming.

However Beowulf’s cockiness really convinces the Danes that he is fully capable of taking on the massive task of slaying their monster, Grendel. Because if Beowulf did not sound sure in his abilities as a warrior then the Danes would not feel very safe with their lives in Beowulf’s hands. Beowulf also shows a great deal courage throughout the epic. For example when Beowulf’s outside Grendel’s mother’s lair the text stated, “…After these words, the prince of the weather-Geats/ Was impatient to be away and plunged suddenly” (1492-1493). Beowulf’s courage is presented when he dove into the monsters lair essentially unprepared. Grendel’s mother had an obvious advantage due to the element of surprise. Another example of Beowulf’s confidence is displayed when he was trying to comfort Hrothgar after Hrothgar’s good friend Aeschere was murdered by Grendel’s mother; Beowulf said, “So arise, my lord, and let us immediately/set forth on the trail of this troll-dam./I guarantee you: she will not get away,” (1390-1392).

The reason that this quote shows Beowulf’s confidence is because even after witnessing Grendel’s mother kill Aeschere, Beowulf guarantees Hrothgar that he will be able to chase after Grendel’s mother and slay her with ease. Beowulf would not get very far without his mail and superhuman strength. Beowulf displays incredible strength throughout the entire epic. For example when Beowulf grappled with the monster Grendel the text stated, “…The captain of evil discovered himself/ in a hand grip harder than anything/ he had encountered in any man on the face of the earth” (749-752). This quote really demonstrates Beowulf’s tremendous strength, because this is when Grendel realizes that he is outmatched by Beowulf and that his fate is sealed. Beowulf’s incredible strength is also revealed during his battle with Grendel’s mother, when the magical sword Hrunting has no effect on Grendel’s mother’s magical skin; Beowulf had to find another weapon to fight with and he finds an ancient ceremonial sword used by giants long ago then the text states, “But so huge and heavy itself/that only Beowulf could wield it in battle” (1561-1562). This quote shows that Beowulf possesses strength equal to that of the giants of ancient times because he was able to use the weapon to its fullest potential.

The final attribute of Beowulf as an epic hero is his honor. When Beowulf decides to slay the fire dragon, he chooses to fight alone, …Men at arms, remain here on the barrow,/ Safe in your armor, to see which one of us/ is better in the end at bearing wounds/ in a deadly fray. This fight is not yours, /nor is it up to any man except me/to measure his strength against the monster/Or to prove his worth (2528-2535). Beowulf would not let him allow his comrades to help him in the battle with the fire dragon because he believed it to be dishonorable, so he fought the dragon by himself. Beowulf’s honor is also displayed when he is getting ready to fight Grendel Beowulf begins to strip himself of all his armor and weapons and then Beowulf states, …When it comes to fighting, I count myself as dangerous any day as Grendel./so it won’t be a cutting edge I’ll wield/to mow him down, easily as I might./He has no idea of the arts of war,/of shield or sword-play, although he does possess/a wild strength. No weapons, therefore,/for either this night: unarmed he shall face me/if face me he dares(680-685).

This quote displays Beowulf’s honor because it shows that Beowulf does not want to use weapons or armor against Grendel because Grendel does not use weapons or armor himself, this shows that Beowulf wants to have a fair fight with Grendel. Because Beowulf was so honorable his people loved him and had great respect for him, when Beowulf lost his life to the fire dragon his people were in such shock and despair. So in order to honor him the Geats built a gigantic pyre bigger than any others in the past and piled it high with all of Beowulf’s treasures and armor, Beowulf’s funeral represents his successfulness as a king and ruler. Beowulf displays strength, courage, and honor throughout the epic. Beowulf’s actions reflect these epic qualities by the characterizations in his battles with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the fire dragon. The magnitude of Beowulf’s funeral directly reflects all of his accomplishments in his life. Beowulf did more than what was necessary to prove himself as a great epic hero.

Works Cited

Heaney, Seamus. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
Inc., 2000.

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