Beowulf: The Epic Hero Then and Now
In literature, epic heroes have specific traits that help in identifying them as epic heroes. Of course, heroism and bravery are primary characteristics that an epic hero must have in order for him to be regarded as the focal point of an epic poem. Epics or epic poems are known as poems of sustained length that carries a grand narrative. Beowulf is a prime example of an epic poem which comes from the English and has roots in Old English. The story of Beowulf follows a pattern which is inherent in all other epic poems; it follows the journey of the epic hero in going at great lengths in order to protect his fellow man.
Beowulf first faces the fire breathing monster Grendel who has plagued Heorot, the great hall of the King of Danes. After defeating Grendel, Beowulf then goes on to slay Grendel’s mother in their lair. The third battle in the epic of Beowulf is between the hero and the dragon. After Beowulf was made king, the dragon came to threaten the Danes. Beowulf was weak compared to the dragon. Together with his fellowmen, they sought to defeat the monster. In the end the monster was slain but so was Beowulf. The epic hero was praised and remembered as a great individual who went to great lengths in order to protect his land and his people.
As an epic hero, Beowulf is remarkable because of how his life ended in death just so he can maintain peace and harmony amongst his people. This characteristic is required in an epic hero for him to stand amongst his people. As a king, his sense of heroism is linked to a strong image of leadership. For Beowulf, protecting his land came along with leading his people. It is also notable how his people were dependent on him; they saw Beowulf as their saving grace; their salvation. Beowulf can also be seen as a representation of the collective experience of the Danes in their territory. Beowulf symbolized the hope and determination they have in maintaining peace and harmony.
The epic of Beowulf is a landmark piece of literature yet not everyone knows the value of epic poems in the culture and history of the world. Epics are known as the first forms of literature in the world and this is why this form of literature serves as the slate for all other literatures present in the society today. The image of Beowulf as a hero is the mold for the concept of “hero” and heroism that we know of today. The great powers and strength of Beowulf is what inspired the rise of superheroes in popular culture. Most people may not notice but many aspects of popular culture that we are experiencing today have traces of the epic form of literature.
The identity of Beowulf as an epic hero serves as an image of hope, then and now. Everyone needs an image of a savior. In the context of the society, the hero complex is present in many contexts and it can be perceived as a very convoluted understanding and perception of what truly makes a hero. If everyone were to go back to the history and significance of the epic, there would be a greater understanding as to why there is a need to identify heroic individuals yet what is more needed is a remembering of what pure qualities a hero must have and these qualities are sure to never be self-serving. Beowulf is remembered because of his purity and selflessness and that should remain in the conception of the modern hero.
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