What Defines a Hero?
When envisioning the ideal hero in today’s world, most people might picture a solider overseas, a fireman, or even a parent, but when it comes to the historical works of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, people looked for a warrior serving his lord and a knight serving his king as their ideal hero. Beowulf is the only Old English epic available to us today and because of this fact, it holds a vast amount of insight when looking into the morals held by the societies of this time period. On the other hand Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is more of a romance and comedy about heroism. This work is set after Christianity has taken over most people, and when culture has shifted from predominately pagan to primarily Christian. Throughout each novel, both protagonists portray qualities ideal for their time period they live in but differ as Beowulf portrays strength, loyalty, and bravery while Sir Gawain radiates humility, chivalry, and devotion to God. Due to both characters portraying two ideal concepts of heroism in their own way; they could not be father from one another. On one hand you have a hero that displays characteristics of a warrior and on the other a hero who shows his own qualities of being a knight. The first characteristic of Beowulf, strength, is illustrated in the epic when he rips off the arm of Grendel, "The monster's whole body was in pain; a tremendous wound appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split and the bone-lapping burst. Beowulf was granted the glory of winning” (50). This quote goes on to show that a man has the strength in him to use nothing but his hands to tear the monster apart. Time in and time out Beowulf shows off his strength through the epic whether he fights Grendel’s Mother or the Dragon. As for Sir Gawain, his time period called for other characteristics to portray heroism. Unlike Beowulf’s mighty strength, Sir Gawain showed humility to receive his knighthood. This sense of humility is brought out in...
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