Evolution Of Heroism In Beowulf

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The Evolution of Heroism Heroism is an abstract concept. It 's something that has evolved for 1000 's of years. The Iliad, Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight perfectly show how human concepts of heroism, character and religious themes have developed to present day understandings and views on heroism. The Iliad is the oldest of the three stories. It is set in 300b.c Troy and focuses on the conflict between the Trojans and the Greeks. One of the main characters in The Iliad is Achilles. Achilles is a very controversial figure. The only reason he decides to help Agamenom is for his own personal glory and fame. In modern day society we would never see Achilles as a hero but here is where the societal differences come in play. Up…show more content…
Beowulf is in many ways a merger of both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Iliad. At the time of Beowulf being written down Europe was in the middle of transitioning from Paganism to Christianity. We can see both those religious influences on Beowulf in the story Being called to help is one of the traits of heroism and when Beowulf hears of Grendel terrorizing the people of Denmark he immediately goes to try to save the people from this terrible monster. This is something more of a "knightly" characteristic much like Sir Gawain but we also find out that Beowulf wants to go because of his everlasting quest for glory and fame. "The days of my youth have been filled with glory. Now Grendel 's name has echoed in our land" (Line 144-145 Raffel). Again this comes back to how heroes of their time found it most important to leave a legacy of glory after they died. This is once again shown after Beowulf 's battle with the dragon when he asks Wiglaf to bring him the dragons gold and they build him a huge tower to commemorate him. These views of heroism are very common themes in both Beowulf and The Iliad because of their non belief in any type of afterlife. But there is also a strong Christian influence in Beowulf. The author often alludes to God 's glory and might and how God is ultimately where Beowulf draws his power from. Here heroism is shifting towards humility and grace towards…show more content…
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight however is a complete change in theme and expectations compared to both The Iliad and Beowulf. At this point in history Christianity has completely taken over in Europe and a new "code" of behavior for heroic figures has been developed called Chivalry. Chivalry was based on bravery, military skill, being humble, and devotion to their women. One aspect of chivalry and heroism is demonstrated when Sir Gawain offers to take King Arthur 's place in the challenge so that the King need not sacrifice his head for the challenge. This kind of selfless sacrifice is more in alignment with what we 've come to expect from "heroes" now a days, humility and not seeking the approval or "fame" from others because of selfless deeds. Heroism as seen today can also be seen in Sir Gawain 's decision to honor the deal made in the beginning of the challenge. He has a year and a day to seek out the Green Knight and uphold his end of the bargain and in choosing to go he willingly goes to meet his death (even though he ultimately escapes it). This shows honor and integrity on Gawain 's part and are also traits we associate with
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