The Heroism In The Epic Of Beowulf

1984 Words8 Pages
The path of a hero has never been clear and straight. It often twists and turns, running through patches of darkness, yet always managing to lead the hero to the light. Just like the heroes themselves, no two pathways are alike. Consequently, these differences make it seem that no encompassing definition of a hero could possibly exist. Despite this, heroes still manage to remain almost universally identifiable across time and cultural boundaries, even when their existence conflicts with other influential ideas. One well known literary character, Beowulf, easily finds this widespread recognition as a hero across these boundaries and in the face of conflict. The tale of Beowulf, which itself is rooted in the Anglo-Saxon and pagan view of a heroism,…show more content…
The period in which the earliest written forms of Beowulf have been hypothesized as originating from was, to say in the least, changing. Much of the Anglo-Saxon society that surrounded the epic poem’s creation was moving towards Christian beliefs. That is why the heroism in Beowulf is so remarkable, as it incorporates tension between the Christian beliefs of the time and the author’s attempt at “reviving the heroic language, style, and pagan world of ancient Germanic oral poetry” (Norton 37). The pagan heroic code, which defines a hero largely based on the warrior culture that would have been present, is at odds with the Christian hero that the author is always alluding to through Beowulf. Sure, ideas such as loyalty, strength, bravery, and courage are shared across both cultures, but many more intricacies of heroism are not. The heroic actions of Beowulf towards the beginning of the story are rooted primarily in the heroic code of the pagan culture. Following the attack by Grendel’s mother, Beowulf says “It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning…let whoever can win glory before death” (Norton 72). This is at odds with the friendly and forgiving nature, as well as fulfillment in the afterlife, that would have been expected of a Christian hero. In comparison to this search for honor in Beowulf’s character, Hrothgar manages to embody greatly different and vastly more Christian ideals. He does not seek honor, instead worrying more about the safety of his people than his throne. In line with the Christian ideals, Hrothgar wonders “whether Almighty God would ever turn the tide of his misfortunes,” while also recognizing that in death, “Aeschere was everything the world admires in a wise man and friend” (Norton
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