Beowulf : The Epic Hero

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Beowulf the Epic Hero What does it mean to be a hero? Like anything else in this world, the definition of the word hero can be argued. Some may say that a hero can be passive, that is if he or she refrains from doing a certain action it makes them heroic. Others would argue that to be truly heroic the character must never turn tail and always face the obstacle head on even though he or she may die in the process. So is Beowulf a hero? Yes, Beowulf is a great epic hero, but his greatness comes only from his sword and not from his mind. In order to be a hero in an epic poem there were certain qualities you had to possess. First of all you had to be a male. It is rare to see any woman in epic poems taking on the role as hero. Women were usually only minor characters who are often not even named. Second of all you had to be a man of noble birth. Meaning that the hero had to be either a king, prince, knight or some other high-ranking person in society. Beowulf satisfies all of these requirements. He is the nephew of the king of the Geats, and son of a great warrior. As was common in literature up until recently, Beowulf’s mother was not named as well as Grendel’s mother. The slave character was not named too, which in my mind would indicate that women had little more status than slaves or property during the times of the Vikings. Fittingly enough, Beowulf’s sword even got a name, for it is by his sword that he earns his eternal fame and glory. However, besides

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