Beowulf is an Ideal Epic Hero Argumentative Essay

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The epic hero is an archaic character that is attached to many illustrious stories throughout history. “Beowulf” is the oldest text that can be found today, Dating back to 1000 AD, Beowulf is the epic poem of a supernaturally gifted warrior who defeats surreal opponents feats and is ultimately defeated by his own flaw. The protagonist of the epic poem “Beowulf”, translated by Burton Raffel, is the archetypal epic hero by the standards of the very definition. The said protagonist which the poem is named after is plagued by huberis, and is the cause of his eventual demise, is exceptionally courageous, protective of his people, abides by a code of loyalty, and, as previously stated, possesses supernatural abilities. Beowulf is the quintessential epic hero.

To begin, Beowulf is constantly expressing arrogance. Throughout various points in the poem Beowulf’s attempts to gain notoriety can be cited; Beowulf acknowledges that the only way to defeat his opponents is to cling onto the idea of fame, and he narrates to himself in the midst of the battle with Grendels mother that he is losing so far, ‘So fame comes to the men who mean to win it and care about nothing else!’ (Raffel 54) fame is the sole inspiration that Beowulf could muster to continue fighting, which is indicative of his own self importance. Also, when Beowulf is confronted by the watchman of the Danes, he makes a request that could only benefit he and his own people, “That I, alone and with the help of my men, may purge all evil from this hall.” (Raffel 48)

Beowulf would have been benefited by the aid of the Danes, but refuses so that the credit is gievn to him and his people alone. Here Beowulf is sacrificing practicality for his own glory. He practices this unserviceable method of deafating threats frequently throughout the poem, and eventually, after he had been crowned king for fifty years, is defeated by a dragon that he attempts to kill by himself.

Once more, the decision to kill this dragon by his lonesome was made purely on the basis of arrogance and the desire for fame, each victory accomplished never being enough to satisfy him. Being defeated by ones own flaw is a key element in the structure of a typical epic hero, and Beowulf demonstrates his possession of this trait numerous times throughout the poem. Secondly, Beowulf is eminently courageous. This trait is obvious in him, in that he willingly battles every opponent he is faced with, and insists on fighting alone or with his own men.

There is a potion where Beowulf boasts before attempting to kill the dragon wreaking havoc on his kingdom, “I’ve never known fear, as a youth I’ve fought in endless battles.’ (Raffel 56) in which he himself states, accurately, that he has never been afraid to fight. There is also evidence in his willingness to defeat Grendel’s mother on behalf of the Danes, when he was only aware of one demon, Grendel himself, that he had to defeat.

This shows his fearlessness because the spontaneous discovery and total lack of preparation on his part had no effect on his decision to fight her. He had no preconceived notions of her and yet he was undaunted by the unknown. The valorousness of his character is a symptom of an epic hero disposition. Next, Beowulf is protective of his people during his reign as king of Geatland. Even before he was crowned, he made sure that credit was to be given to his men during his battle with Grendel and his mother, he makes that clear when he speaks to the watchman upon his arrival to Herot.

Beowulf is exceptionally arrogant, as previously established, and his allowance of glory to be shared with his men shows that he is not heartless or even particularly selfish. What is most obvious that Beowulf is a capable king is his willingness to fight the dragon that menaces Geatland. The dragon does not pose an immediate threat to Beowulf, but he once more risks his life to defend his constituents, and ends up paying with his life, as Wiglaf summarizes, “Wiglaf and Beowulf kill the dragon, but the old king is mortally wounded.’ (Raffel 61)

The injuries kill Beowulf, and the mourning that the people of Geatland display is proof that they held him in high regard, and that he was a benevolent leader and was loyal to them as they were to him, and his popularity among his people is one more reason to consider him a great epic hero. This ties into the next point that Beowulf abides by a strict code of loyalty. In the days of the Anglo-Saxons, loyalty was unquestionably a trait held in the highest of regards. It was a sign of reliability and respectability. Beowulf was undoubtedly loyal, and respected those whose status was above his.

This can be cited once more upon his arrival to aid the Danes when he praises his king and the king of the Danes simultaneously, “Hail Hrothgar! Higlac is my cousin, my king…’ (Raffel 47) this short citation is sufficient evidence that Beowulf is loyal to both who he comes to help, and the leader of the land from which he came from to help. It should be noted, as well, that Beowulf disregards his own abilities and instead values his leaders above himself, though he is far better suited to be king, and explicitly declares numerous times, “We are Geats, men who follow Higlac. My father was a famous soldier..,” (Raffel 46) here Beowulf even speaks of his father, which he would not do if he were not proud of being his descendent.

After Grendel is defeated and Beowulf has established a relationship with the Danes, Hrothgar asks Beowulf to defeat Grendel’s mother, who was up until that point totally unheard of and Beowulf agrees, ‘Resolving to kill Grendel’s monster our mother, he travels to the lake in which she lives.’ (Raffel 52) at this point Beowulf feels an obligation to continue and follow through on his promise to “purge all evil” from Herot. Beowulf’s dedication and loyalty contributes to the idea that he is an ideal epic hero. Lastly, Beowulf possesses supernatural abilities.

This is once again an obvious trait that evidence of which be detected at aloft every point in the poem. However the most notably pieces of evidence are probably in the description of Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother, “He tossed his sword aside, angry; the steel-edged blade lay where he dropped it. If weapons where useless he’d use his hands, the strength in his fingers.” (Raffel 54) the outcome of the battle proves the point the Beowulf has supernatural strength, because he does win the fight against Grendel’s mother. He almost loses the battle, which shows how strong Grendel’s mother actually is compared to Beowulf.

The initial fight with Grendel is also contextual evidence to support the claim that Beowulf is supernaturally strong, when the description of Grendel losing the fight is given, “And yet his time had come, his days were over, his death near; down to hell he would go, swept groaning and helpless to the waiting hands of worse fiends.” (Raffel 51) this quote describes an agonizing defeat on Grendel’s part. Once it had been established that Grendel was considered to be nearly invincible, this loss he experiences at the hands of Beowulf is astounding. Beowulf clearly possesses supernatural abilities, and this trait is shared with iconic epic heroes.

In conclusion, Beowulf is an ideal epic hero because his greatest character flaw, which is incidentally a desire for glory which in itself is an element of an epic hero, is the ultimate cause of his death, he is exceptionally courageous, protective of his people, loyal, and has supernatural strength. All of the above listed traits are main criteria of an epic hero, and Beowulf is more than qualified to be categorized next to Gilgamesh, Siegfried, Rama, and King Arthur, who are all kin to one another by rule of the epic hero.


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Beowulf is an Ideal Epic Hero Argumentative Essay. (2021, Apr 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/beowulf-is-an-ideal-epic-hero/

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