22 February 2012
Beowulf: The Immortal Hero “Hwaet!” (“Pay attention”!) So begins Beowulf, one of the oldest surviving works of literature in English. Poet-singers sang about remarkable deeds of an immortal hero named Beowulf for centuries. The voice of the epic poem still resounds today. Beowulf tells about the life and accomplishment of a revered hero – its titular character. In the poem, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats in Scandinavia, comes to the help of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall (Herot) has been terrorized by a troll-like monster called Grendel. Beowulf defeats both Grendel and his mother. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf, now an aged king of the Geats, slays a fire-breathing dragon, but is mortally wounded in the battle. He is buried in a great tower overlooking the sea. Beowulf is a typical epic hero who embodies the ideals of his Anglo-Saxon society. He is a man who is willing to risk his life in order to prove his superhuman strength and exceptional bravery, at the same time fighting for the greater good.
Like Hercules or Achilles, Beowulf possesses superhuman strength. Ordinary warriors are no match to him. His divine strength surpasses those if his peers “the strongest of the Geats – greater and stronger than anyone in this world” (lines 110-111). He can tear of the arms of Grendel, the monster has been slaughtering Hrothgar’s warriors with ease “Higlac’s brave follower [Beowulf] tearing at his [Grendel’s] hands” (lines 335-336). Grendel is so powerful that none of the Dane is able to hurt him, but Beowulf, alone and without weapon, uses his pure strength to subdue the monster. His strength comes to trial again when he faces Grendel’s mother in the darkness of her lake. An excellent swimmer, Beowulf dives to the very bottom and fight his enemy “The iron sang its fierce song, sang Beowulf’s...