Acc. English 4.7
15 October 2013
All Around Heroes
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself” is how Joseph Campbell describes a hero. There are many different attributes that heroes can possess but this is the one thing they all have in common is they do something for others instead of themselves. Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon hero from a long time ago. He is a fierce warrior who is looked at as a hero by his soldiers and followers for his many great feats in battle and all the evil he rid the world of and lives he saved. Razia Jan is a more modern example of a hero who is not a warrior but a humanitarian. From a young age she was devoted to helping those who are less fortunate than her, particularly needy children and soldiers in her home country of Afghanistan. Both Anglo-Saxon and modern heroes alike are generous and great leaders; however, Anglo-Saxon heroes focused on physical strength in battle while today’s heroes do not need to be strong warriors physically but can show strength through actions and their will. There are many examples of heroes with Beowulf being one of the most famous. Heroes can do many different things to receive their title but one thing is they all help people instead of thinking of themselves. Beowulf helps people many times throughout the story, infact it is the entire basis of the story with him going to Denmark to help them. Beowulf shows this by “Proclaiming that he’d go to that famous king,/ would sail across the sea to Hrothgar,/ now when help was needed” (Beowulf l. 199-201). There was no reason Beowulf had to go help the Danes except he wanted to go rid them of the plague that was Grendel and save their lives from the goodness of his heart. There are also modern heroes who do things for people out of the goodness of their heart. Razia Jan created a foundation called the Razia Ray of Hope Foundation whose sole purpose is to help people and build a connection between Americans and Afghanistans. She does things everyday to help people like when “She coordinated the delivery of over 30,000 pairs of shoes to needy Afghan children” (Ray of Hope para. 2). Razia is determined to help everyone she can in Afghanistan such as all the needy children and give them things they need to survive and thrive. Another very important feature of both modern and Anglo-Saxon heroes is they must be great leaders and have people who want to follow them. The notion of a hero being a excellent leader goes back to the Anglo-Saxon days. Beowulf is a fierce warrior who leads his men into battle time and time again and they are more than willing to follow their leader. His soldiers followed them when “All of Beowulf’s/ band had jumped from their beds, ancestral/ swords raised and ready, determined/ to protect (Beowulf) if they could” (Beowulf l. 794-797). Beowulf’s is such an excellent leader to his men that the men who follow him would do anything to protect him such as when Grendel came to Herot. Modern heroes like Razia have several people that follow her including her entire foundation. She showed her leadership skills a while ago when “She began by rallying her adopted New England community to send over 400 homemade blankets to rescue workers at Ground Zero after September 11, 2001” (Ray of Hope para. 2). While there are similarities between Anglo-Saxon heroes and modern heroes, some characteristics have changed. While both heroes are strong, the Anglo-Saxon hero is physically strong with super-human ability while modern heroes can be strong in other ways. Beowulf’s strength can be shown throughout the story: “Hell’s captive caught in the arms/ of (Beowulf) who of all the men on earth/ was the strongest” (Beowulf l. 787-790). Today’s heroes are not required to conjure up such physical strength but can be a strong-willed person or strong in their beliefs. Razia’s work shows her strength when “she served as president of the town’s Rotary Club” and was “a member of the Interfaith Council and No Place for Hate” on top of that “Razia has spoken on women and children’s issues at many venues in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, and Afghanistan” (Ray of Hope para. 3). Razia is a great hero in today’s society where people who do a great amount of humanitarian are our heroes that we look up to and want to be like. While many heroes of the Anglo-Saxon era were strong warriors ready to fight in a war on a whim to help out their own country. On the other hand the Anglo-Saxon’s heroes were always preparing for battle, “Beowulf/ began to fasten on his armor,/ not afraid for his life” (Beowulf 1. 1442-1444). He was a hero because he was constantly putting his life on the line to defend his country in times of war. Their heroes were the men in the front of the line risking their lives to make their own country stronger. Today’s heroes may have never experienced the battlefront. Razia Jan fights her battles not in the war’s battle fields, but in her organization, “Razia moved back to Kabul, where she is developing and managing aid projects for Afghan rug weavers and their families” ( Ray of Hope para.5). She makes her country a better place not by strapping on her armor but by lending a helping hand. Razia isn’t fighting with swords and weapons but with mobilizing a community together to help one another. She is making her country better, one family at a time.
Since the beginning of time we have created and looked up to heroes that embodied all our hopes and ideals. Some things have never changed for the hero such as generosity and putting others before themselves and being great leaders and making others want to follow in their footsteps. One attribute of the hero has changed over the centuries from heroes of war and physical strength such as Beowulf to humanitarians who make a difference in the lives of many and help people less fortunate than them such as Razia Jan. One thing ties Beowulf and Razia together and that is they devoted their lives to something bigger than themselves and we admire them for that.
Beowulf. Trans. Burton Raffel. New York: Signet Classics, 2008. Print. “Razia Jan-Founder.” Razia’s Ray of Hope. Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, N.D. Web. 15 October 2013.