Beowulf's Heroic Traits

Topics: Beowulf, Hroðgar, Seamus Heaney Pages: 5 (1735 words) Published: November 21, 2013
People know what to look for in a hero. Whether it be pride, happiness, strength, or integrity, people generally have at least somewhat of an inkling on what makes a hero. In this poem, “Beowulf,” translated from Old English by Seamus Heaney, Beowulf is a typical hero. The son of Ecgtheow, Beowulf is a famous Geat warrior who valiantly fights off the horrid monsters Grendel and Grendel’s mother. He gains attention and fame for his courageous actions, and he does not get too overly confident about them. With this passage from the poem, Beowulf recklessly dives in the water to fight Grendel’s mother and encounters her strength. Grendel, a descendant of Cain, who committed the first-ever murder in human history, has been killing men remorselessly until Beowulf bravely steps in to fight him and defeats him on the spot. Grendel’s mother, (who is the monster Beowulf battles within this passage), is enraged by the fact that someone has dared to kill her son. Do not test a mother’s love for her child. He is dragged down underwater and our hero is seemingly in a tight position. Through this passage, Beowulf is proved to have the true makings of a hero. He is an exemplification of the qualities that defined a hero in his time: he is strong, fearless, and proves himself to be both selfless and generous to friend and foe alike. What most people look for in a good hero is selflessness and generosity. This trait is common even in modern day superheroes; Spiderman saves the city with no compensation, Captain America fights against the evil organization with no request for anything in return, and even Thor does not ask for anything in return when he saves the human race from the outside threat of his younger brother, Loki. Beowulf easily slides in with these well-known modern day heroes; as our hero readies for war, he tells all who are listening to and Hrothgar to “send Hygelac the treasures I received” (1483) if he falls in battle (Hygelac is is king and uncle). Even Unferth, the famous warrior who dared to openly criticize Beowulf as Beowulf gave his speech on how he was going to defeat Grendel, will receive something of real value: Beowulf’s own “sharp-honed, wave sheened wonderblade” (1490). It’s clear that Beowulf acknowledges that he is not immortal, and that he can be harmed and killed in battle. Part of the passage above speaks clearly on how Beowulf selflessly gives his prized possessions away. It’s almost as if Beowulf is writing his will in case if he falls in battle with Grendel’s mother. Beowulf is only entitled to a debt that his father owed to the King of the Danes, and by killing Grendel without asking for anything in return, he has more than enough repaid his debt that his father still owed to the great king (his father’s life was spared by Hrothgar once. In the time period in which “Beowulf” is set in, debts that go unpaid are automatically passed on from father to son. Therefore, Beowulf has inherited the debt that his father, Ecgtheow, carried with him when he was alive). While proving he has the characteristics of a hero, he selflessly risks his life and puts it on the line for the greater good and does not demand any compensation in return. In addition, these selfless actions can also be considered as generosity. Even if it is for his own will, this act of generosity, like giving his own prized sword to a man who publicly insulted him not too long ago, does not go unnoticed. It’s inarguable that a man who requests that his treasures be given to a man who does not appreciate him and his king is a man who is generous and has a lot of good-will. True heroes should all share this quality, or they cannot be considered to be heroes at all. The mere fact that Beowulf is willing to give up his life for others is both generous and selfless. Clearly, Beowulf displays the excellent quality of selflessness and generosity that all heroes should have. Another quality that Beowulf carries is fearlessness. Again, (relating this...
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