The Role Of Heroism In Beowulf

Topics: Beowulf, Hero, Heorot, Grendel, Hroðgar / Pages: 5 (1090 words) / Published: Oct 13th, 2015
When Beowulf returns victoriously to his homeland after the defeat of Grendel, one might expect that the text would praise him and celebrate his triumphs. This is indeed the case in lines 2163-2210, however the author also chooses this moment to reveal an unexpected aspect of the hero’s lowly past: that before he left for the Danish lands, King Hygelac and the Geat people “had never much esteemed [Beowulf] in the mead-hall”. A similar surprising moment arises just after our hero kills Grendel’s mother, when, amidst the many congratulations, Hrothgar suddenly warns Beowulf of a greater challenge that is yet to come: the challenge of leadership and growing old, which he conveys through the story of an elderly king, Heremod, who lives in the glory …show more content…
However a deeper reading of the book suggests a more sophisticated view: that often the real test is not the physical struggle at the time of battle, but the vital moments of learning and thoughtfulness following and preceding the fight. Over their lifetimes, heroes must become great by learning to face these mental challenges and being able to make the right decisions in those moments. Lines 2163-2210 are not only a key time when the reader is shown the more complex view, but this passage in itself also forms one of the hero’s crucial moments of …show more content…
In lines 2177-2183, Beowulf’s nobility and heroic actions are immensely praised, but then in lines 2183-2189, the book stops to explain the hero’s surprising history, that before he went to fight Grendel, “he had been poorly regarded for a long time, [and] was taken by the Geats for less than he was worth”. This is interesting and unexpected, and it’s showing us just how much Beowulf has had to grow, and how far he’s journeyed to become a hero. There’s a symmetry between the first and second half of this stanza which helps us see the change in how he’s thought of (“warrior that he was, watched and controlled his God-sent strength and his outstanding natural powers” versus “they firmly believed that he lacked force, that the prince was a weakling”), and the reflection is summed up with the last line explaining how after Beowulf defeated Grendel, “every affront to his deserving was reversed”. Similarly, before the turning point, Beowulf is presenting Hygelac with gifts from far away lands, but afterwards, it’s the hero’s turn to be rewarded by the king, showing a newfound respect for Beowulf’s

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