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Scandinavian Hero Beowulf

By Rya-Freij Dec 03, 2013 1028 Words
Rya Freij
Mr. Hamas
English Honors 3
20 November 2013
The Undercover Wulf
Beowulf, the Old-English epic poem, is characteristic of its Nordic-Germanic roots as a tale of a great Scandinavian hero Beowulf, who saves a neighboring kingdom from the wrath of the destructive, blood-thirsty monster, Grendel, and eventually becomes the king of his own people, the Geats. Closely related to modern day tribal and gang customs, it is questioned as to whether Beowulf should be considered a hero. He proves to be a great warrior and protector by killing three terrorizing beasts, a provider by bringing back great treasures from each of his exploits, and faithful by always looking out for his tribe and fighting in their honor. The true question to be asked is, can tribal mentality produce a worthy hero? The answer is, yes. Steven Pressfield further explains what tribal mentality actually is in his article Tribes, Gangs, and Terrorists. Although Beowulf had done shameful things in the past, Beowulf is still considered a Viking hero and a modern hero because of his actions through the story such as strength, which prove that tribal culture and mentality can produce a worthy hero. In the days of Beowulf and the Vikings, a hero was a man who was strong and courageous, willing and able to protect his tribe and provide for his people. Even today, the meaning of this word translates into the same category of definitions. A hero now is considered for the brave things they have done and selflessness that they possess. The narrator's portrayal of Beowulf is nothing but heroic from his first mentioning, where he is described as "[The] mightiest man on earth," (97), "The noble warrior," (314), and "The man whose name was known for courage, the Great leader," (340-341). Anglo-Saxon warriors had to be stoic, and they had to appear fearless at all times. This relates to Beowulf because both showed no fear or sorrow. He kept his word and did not complain, no matter how impossible their tasks seem. Also in the article Tribes, Gangs, and Terrorists explains, “The foe is granted full honor as a fighting man and defender of his home soil and values.” Honor is one of the main characteristics in a hero that is presented to the world today, so how is tribal mentality different than the mentality than a hero? Actions of a person describe whether a person is considered a hero, not their mentality. In Beowulf, Beowulf fights three different monsters. The first monster he fights is Grendel, the second is Grendel’s mom, and the third is a dragon. When travelling to Hrothgar’s land to slay the beasts, it shows as to how he and his men feel towards the monsters. “Tribes are hostile to all outsiders,” Steven Pressfield explains. Taking into consideration that the monsters are considered outsiders to Beowulf and his men, his heroic reaction to save his allies and companions expresses how the tribal system is connected to the thought that modern tribal mentality can produce a worthy hero. Each fight shows an important part of Beowulf. The fight with Grendel and Beowulf exhibits Beowulf’s sheer strength and power which is explained in the quote, “The captain of evil discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth” (749-752). Beowulf survives a handgrip that is supposedly tighter than anything he had ever encountered. In the second fight, Beowulf struggles against Grendel’s mom. Grendel’s mom grabs Beowulf a lot and Beowulf struggles to escape every time. When he hit Grendel’s mother with his sword, it bounces off and does merely nothing. This fight shows Beowulf’s weaknesses and struggles. In the third and final fight, Beowulf and a small army fight a dragon. This happens nearly fifty years after the fight with Grendel and his mom. “That final day was the first time when Beowulf fought and fate denied him of glory in battle,” (2571-2573) is the first battle Beowulf had ever lost. If slaying three infamous hell bound creatures was not heroic, than what else is? Tribal mentality bands together beliefs, morals and the survival of their group. They are narrow minded, irrational, and closed to outside interference. They move and respond as a group. They tend to be very basic, killing anything that threatens their closed group. The article Tribes, Gangs, and Terrorists written by Steven Pressfield explains, “Tribes prize loyalty and cohesion.” Beowulf valued a sense of community and camaraderie. Anglo-Saxon and tribal behavior and goals are quite similar. After Beowulf passes away, Wiglaf announces that there will not be “peace or pact-keeping of any sort from the Swedes,” (2922-23) because that was what Beowulf wants. He does not wish to see his empire that he made crumble into oblivion. This also represents the revenge, which is a main part in the tribal culture. “Any insult to honor must be avenged,” (Pressfield, 2011, pg. 1). Swedes had been insulting and harassing the Geats for a while by then, so with Beowulf gone, it was time for the team to take revenge. Just like modern heroes today. Heroes know when to take revenge for the loved ones that they have lost but in the right way. Beowulf took the lives of the monsters out of revenge and for the safety of everyone that surrounds him and the people that he cares about. The epic poem Beowulf focuses on the hero. Throughout various generations and cultures, people have had an image of the archetypal hero. The Anglo-Saxon ideals of heroism were strength, bravery, and loyalty, which were exactly the qualities that Beowulf possessed. Beowulf, as a result, is an icon of his ancient Germanic heritage. He imitates the world around him by reflecting past traditions of heroes and mirrors their characteristics and actions. With him, his honor and pride make him not only a hero of his own time, but also a hero for generations to come. In all, tribal mentality whether centuries old compared to modern day does produce a worthy hero; heroes that can and are willing to protect the people that they love and surround them.

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