Essay on Heroes of Celtic and Germanic Mythology

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Heroes of Celtic and Germanic Mythology


Throughout the myths of the Celtic and Germanic peoples of northern Europe tales of epic heroes and their extraordinary deeds abound. These tales depict heroes performing a variety of incredible feats; many of which appear to be magical, superhuman, and, quite honestly, utterly impossible (e.g., wading across oceans, defeating armies virtually single-handedly, and other astounding exploits). Since the Celtic and Germanic tribes of antiquity inhabited neighboring lands and lived in close proximity to one another (as many of their modern descendants continue to do: i.e., in Great Britain), it is not surprising that they often established intimate relationships with each other via commerce
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Nonetheless, Beowulf displayed many characteristics, which are not unlike those exhibited by other legendary champions. Although Beowulf’s birth does not appear to have been divine or shrouded in mystery or magic, his lineage was noble since his mother was the daughter of the high Geatish king Hrethel. Furthermore, in his analysis of the Beowulf Legend Howell D. Chickering, Jr. suggests that Beowulf was a vessel, through which divine power operated. He claims that the appearance of the shining light as Beowulf decapitated Grendel’s mother was a manifestation of white magic and symbolized good triumphing over evil:

The sword itself is destroyed in the process, its blade melting away in battle-icicles from the poisonous blood of the monster. Only the golden hilt remains, engraved with the legend of how God destroyed the race of giants in the Flood. This sequence suggests that Beowulf wins his underwater victory as an agent of Providence and in a manner that somehow resembles the cleansing of the earth by the Flood (274).

Thus, in spite of his mortal birth and upbringing, albeit a noble and heroic upbringing, Beowulf may have eventually became an instrument of divinity.

Beowulf unquestionably displayed the enhanced endurance that was so often a trait of the epic heroes of Celtic and Germanic lore. This endurance was evidenced by…

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