The Complex Hero in Beowulf Essay

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The story of Beowulf is one of the oldest examples of what society views as a hero. Though the story was written in Anglo-Saxon times, the credentials one would need in order to be considered by society a hero remain the same. The Anglo-Saxons believed that a hero was strong and courageous, but humble and kind as well. They also believed that a hero was intelligent and dignified, in which he would fight until death in order to defend his people. In Beowulf and Grendel, directed by Sturla Gunnarsson, Beowulf is depicted as caring, compassionate, noble, and understanding, which makes him seem as if he had every trait of a true hero. He seems quite the opposite, however, in the story Grendel by John Gardner. The book Grendel portrays Beowulf …show more content…
Beowulf also confronts the Danes, explaining to them that Grendel was not just the hideous monster they believed him to be. Because of these actions, Beowulf seems more respectable. According to society, this would make him a hero. Though the movie shows a great example of how Beowulf represents society's hero, the novel, Grendel shows the other side of this hero. Near the end of the book when Grendel is about to face his inevitable death, he meets Beowulf. Instead of killing the beast, Beowulf decides to mock Grendel. He does this by making him beg for his life and sing before killing him. This is evident in the book when after smashing Grendel's head into a wall, Beowulf orders Grendel to sing, saying, “Observe the hardness, write it down in careful runes. Now sing of the walls!” (171). Instead of killing Grendel in an honorable way, Beowulf mocks, as well as embarrasses him until he is finally dead. In the novel, honor seems to be nonexistent in Beowulf. The lack of honor in Beowulf makes him seem ruthless instead of honorable, therefore making Beowulf seem as if he were not a hero, according to society's standards. Along with being honorable, a hero must also seem intimidating to his enemies and opponents. Though a hero must be approachable, if not friendly, to his peers and allies, he needs to be able intimidate others. The Anglo-Saxons believed this because in order to uphold one's reputation of a warrior, he or she had to be able to seem threatening to all

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