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Heroism Explained through the Prism of Beowulf Hero Essay


When we speak of men of Medieval Times, we should consider glory as one of the most precious values along with honor, honesty, and dignity. All of these qualities can be met in the official code of warriors that consisted of 16 major rules that all clans were supposed to strictly follow under the fear of death. “Defend your Clan, even with your life. You may have friendships with cats from other Clans, but your loyalty must remain to your Clan, as one day you may meet them in battle”, – says the code.

Later adopted and transformed by medieval knights, those were the rules promoted by the main characters of the Beowulf poem despite the fact they represented different clans. They all considered glory as the main reward even if they had to obtain it after dying in a battle, which was also an honor.

By the way, ‘the idea of the warriors’ code appeared even earlier starting from 1185 during the feudal period in Japan. It was developed by samurais and represented actually the same values with some slight differences: “Courage is worthy of being counted among virtues only if it’s exercised in the cause of Righteousness and Rectitude”.

The same values we can spot in the poem where men try their best to act with strength and incredible courage uniting different members of European tribes looking for luck while wandering across northern lands.

Thesis Statement

The poem of Beowulf introduces one of the most courageous and heroic Anglo-Saxon characters. He always puts the issues of others before his own needs, which makes him play an important role in other people’s lives. He tries to be as helpful as possible showcasing dedication to everything he takes. Besides, he boasts all qualities a warrior should have. He makes us believe he is not just an ordinary man but a superhuman being.

Determinants of heroism

What do we mean under the “heroism” term? We generally imagine a brave man who possesses strength and stamina long with intelligence, mercifulness, and other crucial qualities. He may suffer from serving injuries and bruises but in the end, he is always ready to defeat evil at any cost. In this Beowulf Hero Essay, we are going to review and analyze three of his battles highlighting his heroic features of character. They include a battle with Grendel, her mother, and the dragon showcasing some of his deeds that can be considered superhuman.

Characters and situations

In the foreground, we can see Beowulf – a supreme type of hero. He decides to fight Grendel on a volunteer basis without any reward. However, Grendel’s mother seeks revenge, which leads to another battle by the lake where Beowulf dares to take the challenge. Fifty years later, he is back again to take down the dragon.

The story of Beowulf involves numerous battles. All of them turned out to be victorious for him except for the last one. As we know from the story, Beowulf lost in a swimming contest to Brecca, one of his opponents. Later, he explained the reason for his loss, as he had to swim seven nights in a row and kill at least nine sea creatures. The main character was said to have the strength of not less than 30 men. He had a mighty hand grip as well, which means he had enough power to take down the monster also known as Grendel. He actually did it with his bare arms, which is another witness of his superhuman strength.

In the second epic battle against the monster’s mother, Beowulf finds it possible to slash her neck with a giant sword that none of the grown men would ever be able to lift. Beowulf has no difficulties in carrying the monster’s head from the ocean. However, four men were necessary to bring it to Heorot. In other words, we can assume that extraordinary and superhuman health was the fundamental aspect of his heroism.

Some people are ready to assist Beowulf in his battles. For example, his uncle who is also the king of Geats takes part in a battle against Grendel. Maybe, this is why Beowulf always puts the needs of others against his own. At the same time, he is ready to put his own life at risk for the sake of the Danes without even asking for their assistance.

Another vital quality Beowulf has is the ability to realize and evaluate potential risks. In other words, he realizes the danger but is always ready to face it without fear or hesitation. The final battle takes place fifty years after he took down Grendel’s mother and become the King of Geats. The mission is to destroy a dragon that keeps all his people in terror. Despite the fact he is quite old and tired of endless battles, he still decided to take the challenge and eventually takes the dragon down just like the others.

The last thing that requires attention when describing his qualities is his readiness to die. We do not mean he seeks any chance to go six feet under the ground. No, he is simply not afraid of dying. For this reason, Beowulf always shares some of his wishes and tasks to complete in case of his death. Despite all that strength and confidence he has, Beowulf realizes that every next battle can be the last. The ability to face the reality no matter how bitter it might seem is also very important to foresee all possible outcomes, even the fatal one.

The Bottom Line

Beowulf is an example of an ideal medieval warrior who strictly follows the code and puts people’s needs before his own. He is ready to risk his own life any time just to ensure his people are safe and sound and nothing threatens them. He put his life at risk numerous times and always won. He became a true epic hero after his eagerness to help the Danes, which was weird at those times considering the time of war and people trembling with fear.

Works Cited

Brett & Kate McKay, September 14, 2008, Last updated: August 25, 2021

The Code of the Warrior: In History, Myth, and Everyday Life by Rick Fields, October 1, 1991