Hero and Beowulf

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The hero is an age-old concept that describes someone that will defend their honor to the end. In Beowulf, the author portrays the warrior Beowulf and his three battles in such a way as to clearly define what it means to be a hero. Fred Robinson and J. R. R. Tolkien addressed heroism in Beowulf regarding the warrior’s traits, as well as his battles and burial. The author of Beowulf defines the hero through Beowulf’s three battles with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. In this poem, each monster possesses a specific quality undesired by heroes. Beowulf battles anger/jealousy, vengeance, and greed/selfishness for the good of his Geat nation. As Beowulf fends off these anti-hero traits, he becomes capable of being a great leader of the Geats due to his divine piety – ultimately allowing him to be deified during his two burial ceremonies. Therefore, in Beowulf, the hero must utilize divine piety to overcome greed, vengeance, and jealousy in order to protect his nation.

The first sign of heroism in Beowulf occurs during the fight against Grendel. Grendel is a monster that “had dwelt for a time / in misery among the banished monsters” (Beowulf, 104-105). This monster is claimed to be banished due to his descent form Cain. Grendel’s havoc originated with his inability to occupy the Heorot without being treated with hostility and hatred due to his God-cursed nature. As a result, Grendel acts out of anger and jealousy in his “lonely war” (164). Grendel is jealous of that fact that he is a member of “Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed / and condemned as outcasts” (106-107). He will never be able to inhabit the land the Danes. Since Beowulf is able to conquer Grendel, the first heroic trait is the dismissal of envy. This is seen a second time by Beowulf as he refuses to takeover the Geat nation upon Hygelac’s death. After Queen Hygd offered Beowulf the throne, he refused and “he did provide support for the prince / honored and minded him until he matured...
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