Beowulf - The Ideal Hero Essay

1911 Words 8 Pages
Achilles, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Samson and Heracles can all be characterized as heroes. However, each of these characters embodies different attributes that earn them the heroic distinction. This paper will seek to show that Beowulf is the “most” heroic figure based on his adherence to the heroic ethos. Also, the character of Gilgamesh will be used as a means of comparison to further showcase the heroic nature of Beowulf.
The heroic ethos is a set of values that prioritize and glorify the valor of an individual. The motivation of the hero is to garner fame and immortality in legend, resulting in feats of excellence. Characteristics of the heroic ethos include service to people in the upper level of the hierarchy (e.g. relationship between
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Unlike the praise and admiration for Beowulf, Gilgamesh’s character is being questioned right from the beginning of the text. Is this the classification of a great hero? Does the reader expect great things from Gilgamesh? Not really. This classification of Gilgamesh enables the reader to see that he is flawed and will more than likely experience later difficulties.
Courage is a major component of the hero’s artillery. Up to his death, Beowulf’s courage was boundless. He competed with Breca in a swimming match on the open seas; he fought Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and finally, the dragon that caused his death. In each situation, Beowulf displayed strength, wisdom, and faith. In all of his expeditions, he never really showed resistance. It can be argued that he was reluctant in the last battle with the dragon but this is to be expected since he was considerably older. In the fight with Grendel, Beowulf used his arm strength to accomplish his task. He was able to rip off Grendel’s shoulder and arm:
“The monster’s whole body was in pain; a tremendous wound
appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split and the bone lappings burst. Beowulf was granted the glory of winning; Grendel was driven
under the fen – banks, fatally hurt, to his desolate lair” (Heaney, 22)

One cannot help feeling sorry for Grendel. However, it is the hero’s duty to carry out his task and Beowulf accomplished his with strength and…

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