Beowulf and Sir Gawain: Compare and Contrast
Beowulf and Sir Gawain are very noble and honorable warriors. But, they are both very different. In both the epic poems they relate back to heroes that are “legendary” and have “awe-inspiring lore”, having the protagonists undergo strenuous journeys and fulfilling their deeds of good riches. Creating the image of their struggles and how they overcame it in their society.
To start they are both heros, A hero is the main character in a story who is noble and courageous, they have to risk their lives on journeys and win battles. Beowulf and Sir Gawain both have heroic qualities including skill and bravery. Beowulf is a hero because he goes around the land to fight evil monsters who threaten his town and civilians. He fights them to save his people but he also loves the fame he gets from doing so. Sir Gawain is a hero because he saved his uncle. He goes on a journey to meet the Green Knight and battles him in place of his uncle, King Arthur. When they meet, the knight cuts Gawain but does not kill him, the whole thing was a test of Gawain’s loyalty to the king. They also have religious beliefs Beowulf talks about his fate and God throughout the story. When someone got close to the dragon and did not die he said it was because of fate, when Beowulf died the narrator said, “As much as God would grant him; all worldly pleasure was gone, as life would go, soon” (739-740). This is showing that Beowulf’s journey has come to an end and the fate of the battle was for him not to win. With Sir Gawain his trust in God is shown when he is praying for protection and forgiveness before his duel with the Green Knight. Beowulf and Sir Gawain have many similarities but these are the ones that stuck out the most.
A difference, is there fear or willingness to sacrifice themselves. Beowulf was meant to be a warrior and goes head on into the situations he was faced with, when he was going to fight Grendel he did not even want to wear armor or use a weapon. But with Sir Gawain he was not about to volunteer to fight the Green Knight and the only reason he did was to save the king. He was too afraid of death that when he met the woman and she offered him the silk that could save him, he immediately took that because he was afraid to die. In this quote “If the gift meant remaining alive, it might well be worth it,”(230). We see that the character is willing to fight to stay alive for the token he received from someone he loves. But, in the quote explaining Beowulf courageousness “The fact is unferth, if you were truly as keen and courageous as you claim to be Grendel would never have got away with such unchecked atrocity, attacks on your king, havoc in Heorot and horrors everywhere,”(590). As goes to show Beowulf scores one off of unferth: unferth can talk smack about Beowulf’s past deeds; but the truth is that unferth himself doesn’t have any great deeds to boast about. Beowulf suggests that unferth shouldn’t go around insulting other warriors’ courage up until he has done something courageous for himself. In the end, Unferth never got the better of Grendel, so why should he sneer at Beowulf for trying to help him out. Overall, we see that both characters have certain downfalls in both their journeys in becoming an epic hero.
Even though they are both honorable warriors, we see that there is more to them when it comes to similarities and differences. You see that they are both heros that portray religious views, and also having a different willingness to fight, to advance in their society in many ways possible. But, in the end these stories of great heroes that lived a legacy for the people of their society and are still mentioned to this day.