The Story of Beowulf
The story of Beowulf has been passed down from generation to generation. Beowulf has all the ideal characteristics of an Anglo-Saxon hero. The story tells about a brave fighter with inhuman strength that defeats and kills two descendants of Cain. In old age the warrior even manages to kill a dragon, which eventually would lead to his death. Beowulf’s author is unknown, but the character Beowulf represents how the Anglo-Saxons imagined their glory seeking heroes’ to be because he is brave, boastful and has inhuman strength.
For one to become a hero one must be brave enough to try and accomplish things that no other humans are able to do. Beowulf shows his bravery and courage on many occasions. According to Ker, killing dragons and monsters is a regular occupation for the heroes of urban legend and it’s also what Beowulf tasks consisted of. Beowulf s first faces the task of killing Grendel with his bare hands and he succeeds. Beowulf also defeats Grendel’s mother which no one expected him to be successful, because she is eviler and more viscous than her son Grendel. Lastly, Beowulf and Wiglaf are the only ones that stayed to defeat the dragon while everyone else ran off (948-950.) Although Beowulf is already a hero, his bravery encourages him to want to prove to everyone that he can accomplish anything.
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The ideal Anglo-Saxon hero could also be boastful and prideful, but should always live up to his or her word. When Beowulf first comes to Heorot, he boasts to the people about his strengths and battles he’s fought to show how capable he was of defeating Grendel. He talks about his glorious conquests when he battled beasts, raided a troll’s nest and slaughtered sea creatures (So. The Spear-Danes lines 418-421). Boasting about ones talents and battles won is one of Beowulf’s strongest characteristics. Beowulf boasts because he thinks that he is the best. Before the fight with Grendel, Beowulf voices to the people of Heorot that he will achieve his vow in defeating Grendel or he would die trying (So. The Spear-Danes lines 632, 636-638). Beowulf keeps his word and does not back down from a challenge. According to Garcia, warriors needed to be prepared fight for their people even if it meant dying in the process. Beowulf gladly faces any obstacle that stands in his way.
Anglo-Saxons heroes are well-defined by their inhuman strength used to defeat their rivals. Beowulf demonstrates his incredible strength on several occasions. Warriors in Beowulf are willing to go to extreme lengths just to prove how strong they are. Beowulf wrestles Grendel with his bare hands. No other human being is able to do this because Grendel is supposedly stronger than any human. Beowulf tears off Grendel’s arm (Beowulf for Dummies). Another instance of Beowulf strength is when he swims for five days in the sea. One may be able to float for five days, but swim without stopping is nearly impossible. While swimming in the sea, he also manages to fend off sea monsters. According to Drout, Beowulf breaks through the shield wall of the Frisians and swims to freedom with thirty suits of armor in which he gives to his people. Beowulf wants to prove to everyone that he is the strongest and nothing can defeat him.
In conclusion, Beowulf symbolizes the ideal Anglo-Saxon hero. He is brave and has great inhuman strength. He is boastful but also lives up to his word. He has overcome many obstacles and is never one to give up. Beowulf’s traits play a role that makes Beowulf so unstoppable. Beowulf seeks out glory by proving to himself and everyone else that he is the best. Even though, Beowulf dies in the end he also defeats his enemy gaining his glory.
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Drout, Michael D. C. “Hoisting the Arm of Defiance: Beowulfian Elements in Ken Kesey’s
Sometimes a Great Notion.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Tom Burns and Jeffrey W. Hunter, vol. 184, Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1100055055/GLS?u=avlr&sid=GLS&xid=cd3057de. Accessed 11 Oct. 2018. Originally published in Western American Literature, vol. 28, no. 2, Aug. 1993, pp. 131-141.
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of Major Authors from Gale’s Literary Criticism Series, edited by Polly Vedder, vol. 1, Gale, 1997. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1420011086/GLS?u=avlr&sid=GLS&xid=943941a8. Accessed 11 Oct. 2018. Originally published in Epic and Romance: Essays on Medieval Literature, by W. P. Ker, 1897.
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