Beowulf Archetypal Hero

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Ms. Hamscher
AP Lit Pd. 2
11/12/12

Beowulf: The Man, the Legend, the Hero

Beowulf is an epic poem whose earliest surviving copy was written in 1000 A.D. The story consists of three thousand one hundred and eighty two lines that follow the life of the title character. The original author of the epic poem is unknown mainly because it started as a verbal tale passed down orally through the ages. Finally someone wrote it down in a document now called the Nowell Codex. The epic tale is centered on Beowulf and his actions in an adventure to repay a debt owed by his father to Hrothgar, a Danish king. A gargantuan monster that is terrorizing Hrothgar’s mead hall is Beowulf’s target and Beowulf sails across the sea to aid his father’s friend. Doesn’t he already sound like a hero? Well that’s because he is. Beowulf is a hero in every sense of the word. From his moral code to his actions, and beliefs this Geatish legend fits the archetype of a hero down to the finest points.

All heroes set out on a quest. For what is unique to every story, but a quest is made all the same. This legendary hero of English lore sails across an ocean to take on a seemingly impossible task. For twenty four hours straight he and fourteen companions brave the oceans waters but reached their destination without a hitch. This seems odd for a classic hero. A journey going exactly as planned? Not likely. This alludes to the fact that this journey across the sea wasn’t the actual voyage he set out to make. The ultimate goal is Grendel. True heroes value their reputation. Beowulf’s reputation precedes him, as the Danes already know of many of his mighty feats. The value of a good reputation is also immeasurable in Anglo-Saxon society. When someone introduces themselves they say their name, son of their father. In Beowulf’s case when initially landing on the shores of Denmark, he says “The son of King Healfdene, have come here to visit.” This let the guard on the coast...
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