The Irony in the Ideal Hero

700 WordsApr 23, 20193 Pages
The Irony in the Ideal Hero Beowulf is an epic poem about a great hero in pagan society written by a Christian poet. During the time that Beowulf was written, the Germanic tribes were in flux, transitioning from paganism to Christianity. The conflict between the ideal pagan warrior and Christian ethics is evident throughout the poem. Beowulf is portrayed as the ideal hero because of his bravery, strength, and skill as a warrior; his success over Grendel and Grendel’s mother is rewarded with riches, a typical practice in pagan society. The tenets that make Beowulf a great hero conflict with Christian ideals such as love they neighbor and thou shalt not kill. Peace, mercy, and kindness are essential ethical components of Christianity while…show more content…
People today are still seeking revenge, one could say that a settlement from a lawsuit could be considered a modern day death price, and the death penalty could be synonymous with the more violent forms of revenge performed by Germanic warriors. The promise of reward is another aspect of Pagan warrior life that conflicts with Christian ethics. Beowulf fights Grendel not only to help save the Danes but also for personal gain. By defeating Grendel, Beowulf is rewarded with land, wealth, and a gleaming reputation as a fierce and courageous warrior. “There is nothing you wish for/that won’t be yours if you win through alive” (line 660-61). There is a contradiction of the Christian ideal that one should perform good deeds not out of expectation for reward but because it is the righteous thing do. The idea of fighting for personal gain and glory is also antithetical with the value placed on humility in the Christian religion. Beowulf is anything but humble when he boasts about defeating the “sea-brutes” (line 549) to Unferth in the Great Hall, the night he arrives in Heorot. Beowulf continues to toot his own horn when he declares, “I will show him how Geats shape to kill/in the heat of battle” (line 602-603). After defeating both Grendel and his mother, Hrothgar awards Beowulf with various riches such as helmet, breast-mail, a sword known as the Hrunting, and eight horses. Later on in the story,
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