Beowulf is a long narrative poem written by an unknown author recounting the adventure of a legendary hero named Beowulf. Coming from noble birth, Beowulf is a larger than life figure who goes on a quest to show his heroism. Beowulf performs valorous deeds showing his courage, strength, and virtue. Beowulf follows a heroic code where he is expected to be courageous, loyal, and strong. He is willing to sacrifice everything including his own life in order to protect those he is loyal to. Beowulf’s pursues the heroic ideal throughout his quest, looking to the notion of personal fame for his name to live on, while following the heroic code.
Beowulf character is the living embodiment of the heroic code. For example, in Beowulf his heroines was demonstrated by his strength and courageousness. Beowulf owed the king, Hrothgar, his loyalty for helping his father out, and by doing this he voyaged to kill Grendel, who has been plaguing Herod for years killing anyone who dare to oppose him. Once arriving at the cost of the Danes, the coastguard mentions Beowulf’s physical appearance and says, “I have never seen a mightier warrior on earth than is one of you, a man in battle-dress” (AWL, 7). While also describing one of his arms having the strength of “thirty men.” After trying to downplay Beowulf’s strength and courageousness, Beowulf says to Unferth, “Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good” (AWL, 12). Beowulf speaks of his great courage to Unferth and the rest of the Danes telling them that he will kill Grendel because fate will always favor those who show more courage. He boasts about his courage and strength even more by telling them how he will kill Grendel without his weapons.
While demonstrating his strength and courage, another reason Beowulf went to Danish soil to fight Grendel was to pursue fame and add to his legacy. In the poem, after Beowulf defeats Grendel, Hrothgar says to Beowulf, “Glory is now yours forever and ever your courage has earned it and your strength” (AWL, 953-954). Hrothgar recognizes that Beowulf is going to be well known for defeating Grendel adding to Beowulf’s Heroic ideal. Also, Unferth discrediting Beowulf helped build an even grander story of the hero. Another example, is the narrator talks about how, “Beowulf longed only for fame left back into battle he tossed his sword aside angry the steel edge blade lay where he dropped it if weapons were useless he used his hands to strengthen his fingers so fame comes to the men who mean to win it and come to nothing else (AWL, 1529-1536). The narrator was hinting to the fact that Beowulf wanted his fame to live on.
What makes Beowulf a legendary hero, besides his great accomplishments, is his loyalty. Beowulf follows the Heroic code, who is humble after being showered with gifts and songs being sang to him. The minstrel songs may serve as foreshadowing and as warnings for Beowulf and was warned to not be corrupted like King Heremond who was corrupted with pride. After defeating Grendel’s mother Hrothgar tells Beowulf, “What I say speaking from a full memory and after a life spent seeking what was right for my people is this, this prince of the Geets was born a better man your fame is everywhere my friend reaches to the ends of the earth and you hold it in your heart wisely” (AWL, 1700). The king tells Beowulf some fatherly advice to remain humble and good even after accomplishing such tasks reveals that he feels greatly indebted to Beowulf and does not want him to suffer the fate that many kings and heroes do. He expresses his loyalty to the king but also expresses his loyalty to his homeland. Beowulf is true to the Heroic code and gives all his treasures to his men and his king. To not do so would have been a sign of great disloyalty.