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Hero Archetypes and Epic Conventions in the Odyssey and Beowulf

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Hero Archetypes and Epic Conventions in the Odyssey and Beowulf

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Hero Archetypes and Epic Conventions in The Odyssey and Beowulf

It is remarkable how closely one can compare two epics that have such diverse and unique historical and cultural backgrounds. A Greek poet named Homer wrote The Odyssey sometime from BC 1400-900 during the Mycenaean Period. The epic preceding The Odyssey, called The Iliad, revolves around Achilles, the hero of the commonly known Trojan Wars. The Odyssey is a continuation of The Iliad and deals with Odysseus, another hero of the Trojan Wars, who has been on a quest to reach his family in Ithaca for ten years and is continuously hampered by various trials. Odysseus is believed by many to have been a much-loved Mycenaean king (Milch 67-68). Beowulf, on the other hand, does not have a true author, "...unwritten stories that had been passed from generation to generation by word of mouth," (Safier 11-12). Beowulf, like Odysseus, "is about a hero who becomes leader of his people," (Safier 12). Consequently, there is a tribal mood in Beowulf, stemming from the barrage of English tribes continually attacking the land. Many similar factors affect the mood and outcome of stories written during the time period. Though these two epics are very separated by time period and culture, through careful analysis, one can note several key epic construction techniques similar to both. In comparing and contrasting the epics, The Odyssey and Beowulf, one must consider the significance of the epic conventions and hero archetypes displayed, such as: a hero of great strength, a good deal of combat with various creatures, and a great cultural influence.

The most evident epic convention used in the epics The Odyssey and Beowulf is the presence of a phenomenal hero of national importance. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is the definite hero. Of his extensive qualities, his tremendous hubris is his most apparent weakness. Throughout the epic, one can continuously observe Odysseus blazoning his haughtiness through his bombastic...