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Heroes Through The Ages

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Different times have had different ways of showing appreciation of those who rise above and beyond. We have called these people numerous things over the years, but a broadened term has defined them for what they truly are: Heroes. Heroes have been around since the beginning of time; from Beowulf in the 5th Century, to Sir Gawain in the late 14th Century, to Superman in the 21st Century. Whether it being scops, professional poets in Anglo-Saxon times, or in media and literature today, we have honored and commemorated these heroes in many different ways. First of all, Beowulf in the Anglo-Saxon Times was immortalized as an epic hero. He was known for being the strongest and bravest man in all the land. He fits his time perfectly because it was important to be tough and not be afraid of war. Beowulf’s toughness is described in the text as “....I drove five great giants into chains, chased all of that race from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean...” ( Beowulf 43). As defined in the text, Beowulf’s superhuman strength was his greatest trait, but it also gave him great pride, which eventually led to his demise. However, with his great strength, Beowulf accomplishes extreme feats that make him famous and known throughout history. Similarly, Sir Gawain shows great honor and chivalry, which was to be expected of a knight during his time. Sir Gawain shows extreme courage when he takes the kings place when he is challenged by the Green Knight. Even when the Green Knight is described as being
“...Half a giant on earth I hold him to be,
But believe him no less than the largest of men,
And the seemliest in his stature to see, as he rides,
For in back and in breast though his body was grim,
His waist in its width was worthily small,
And formed with every feature in fair accord 
was he.
Great wonder grew in hall
At his hue most strange to see,
For man and gear and all
Were green as green could be” (Sir Gawain 140-150).
Sir Gawain does not show fear when accepting the challenge. During his quest, Sir Gawain is faced with the seducing wife of the king, and although he accepts kisses from her, he is still extremely honest about them to the king. This honesty will eventually save Sir Gawain’s life when he is given a green sash that protects an honest man. Sir Gawain is then idolized through the kingdom for his great honor and chivalry. Furthermore, in The Canterbury Tales, the doctor is shown as a villain that only cares about money. He had a devious plan to write patients prescriptions they didn’t need, then he would get a cut of the profit from the pharmacist. The narrator says “....Gold stimulates the heart, or so we’re told” (Chaucer 153). The doctor is a great example of greed and corruption in both medieval and modern times, and shows that not all characters in old tales are praiseworthy and heroic. All in all, whether it’s the strength of Beowulf, or the honesty of Sir Gawain, the great warriors of the past and present are gifted with traits that define them in a way that is more than human; perhaps that is why we call them heroes. Because not only do they rise above and beyond their given task, they do so with courage and integrity. That is why one might believe we classify heroes on more than what they have done, but also, by who they were. Beowulf and Sir Gawain are just some of the heroes that have influenced history and society today, that inspire us to become more than the evil shown by the doctor in The Canterbury Tales.

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