Beowulf's Role As An Epic Hero

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Beowulf is a story passed down over ages and ages of Anglo-Saxon culture. It tells of the epic hero as he travels to Heorot and defeats the evil Grendel and the beast’s mother. J. R. R. Tolkien suggested the theme of the story deals with ‘man alien in a hostile world, engaged in a struggle which he cannot win.’ I think that this theme is expressed through the challenges Beowulf faces, his pride as a hero, and the traits that make up his role as an epic hero. When Beowulf travels to Heorot, Hrothgar tells him of the great trouble he and his people had faced over many years. Grendel was a menacing and powerful monster that took control of the mead hall when night fell. Beowulf swore he would take care of the beast by the end of the night and he did. Soon after, however, Grendel’s mother rampages into the hall and takes back the arm of her son that Beowulf tore off. Even after…show more content…
Not only do the traits like traveling over a vast setting or noble birth fit Beowulf and his quest, but I think the more important traits are humility and facing supernatural foes. His humility as a hero means he is performing his quests for the good of everyone around him. He does what he needs to so his people can live happy and peaceful lives without the fear of Grendel and his mother. This need to save his people makes him venture to Heorot to defend the hall, adding to the point that the theme of a man in an alien world faces struggles he cannot win. The fact he faces supernatural foes is in itself a part of the theme. Because Beowulf is an epic hero, he is destined to face monsters and creatures with unreal strength and extreme power. This puts him in grave danger and makes him “engaged in a struggle which he cannot win.” The main traits of being a hero make it so the hero is always faced with challenges that eventually get the better of
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