King Arthur And Beowulf Essay Research Paper

King Arthur And Beowulf Essay, Research Paper

Numerous stories about numerous heroes have been told and then retold. All of

these heroes do different things and all of them have a different set of

qualities which make them heroes. Due to the fact that there are only so many

heroic adventures and qualities, most are shared in part with at least one other

hero. Such is the case between the great hero, Beowulf, from the epic poem

Beowulf and King Arthur from the story of Morte d?Arthur. These great heroes

have strong similarities and a great deal of differences. Once their

similarities have been compared and then dismissed it is evident that Beowulf is

the greater hero of the two. True heroes do good things for good people. Such is

the case in Beowulf, Beowulf leaves his homeland to help the Danish people rid

themselves of the human eating monster, Grendel. This heroic quality is also

evident in Morte d’Arthur, as Arthur consciously rides into a battle in order to

rid his people of an evil knight who would not allow others to pass. Both heroes

are displaying their concern for others by risking themselves in battle for the

greater good. In the same aspect they are also striving for love and respect

from the people they protect. In order to obtain maximum respect per battle,

both Beowulf and Arthur enter into battle somewhat alone. Beowulf specifically

asks, ?That [he], alone and with the help of [his] men, / May purge all evil

from [the] hall? (Beowulf, line 165-166). His request is granted by Hrothgar,

King of the Danes, so he and his man enter into the battle themselves and when

Grendel is defeated, the glory, love and respect belong solely to Beowulf and

his men. Arthur does the same, ?he met with his man and his horse, and so

mounted up and dressed his shield and took his spear, and bade his chamberlain

tarry there till he came again? (Morte d?Arthur paragraph 20). Although

Arthur begins his journey alone he does meet up with Merlin, the court magician

and faithful companion, who accompanies him. Much like Beowulf, Arthur gains

great respect and praise from all men of worship by fighting alone, even though

it is not necessarily the smartest thing to do. The characteristic of being

fearless when faced with death is often a trait of heroes because it is

associated with courage and strength. King Arthur and Beowulf are not afraid to

die, thus showing their courage to their adversaries and peers. When Arthur is

faced with death he declares, ?welcome be it when it cometh, but to yield me

unto thee as [cowardly] I had liefer die than to be so shamed.? (Morte

d?Arthur, paragraph 34). Simply put he would rather die than admit to defeat

and being cowardly. Beowulf feels much the same way about death. He illustrates

this by showing no fear for his own life but instead expressing concern for the

honor of King Higlac by asking that, ?if death does take [him], send the

hammered / Mail of [his] armor to Higlac? (Beowulf, line 186-187). In sending

his King his armor it recommits himself to his country and lets his King be

reminded of his bravery every time he looks upon it. That is the extent to which

Beowulf and King Arthur are similar. Beowulf has way more confidence in his

fighting ability then Arthur has in his. This is evident in the fact that

Beowulf fights Grendel unarmed, he says ?my hands / Alone shall fight for me,

struggle for life? (Beowulf, line 172-173). His reasoning behind this is that

Grendel?s, ?scorn of men / Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears

none [so] / Nor will [he]? (Beowulf, line 167-169). By facing Grendel unarmed

to shows that he is brave and more importantly unafraid to be equal to Grendel.

Since Grendel is going to fight without the use of weapons, Beowulf creates

equality and therefore more respect upon himself by doing the same. Were as the

much less confident Arthur fights only with weapons and once his wounds were

amended his first thought was, ?I have no sword? (Morte d?Arthur,

paragraph 41) followed by the task of finding him a sword. This demonstrates

Arthur?s weakness in his dependence of weapons and thus Beowulf?s greatness

in comparison. Beowulf is indeed the greater hero as the help he received from

his men was useless, not by fault of his men but by the simple fact that Grendel,

?had bewitched all men?s weapons, laid spells / That blunted every mortal

man?s blade? (Beowulf, line 322-323). Since Beowulf?s men could give him

no help due to Grendel?s spell, he had to defeat the monster by himself with

his bear hands. Arthur on the other hand lost his battle. First Arthur lost a

jousting match then lost on the ground when ?the knight smote King Arthur?s

sword in two pieces? (Morte d?Arthur, paragraph 32). Merlin had to come to

his rescue at this point and by using his magic he put the knight to sleep for a

period of three hours. So to recap Beowulf defeated a monster with no aid from

his companions and Arthur could not even defeat a knight, he instead he had to

rely on the aid of magic from Merlin. Even thought both King Arthur and Beowulf

are great heroes, Beowulf emerges as the greater of the two. He does this

through his successful feats only, not through his heroic qualities. For when

comparing the heroic qualities of Arthur and Beowulf they come up pretty even.

Both demonstrate a great love for others as they both try to do good things for

commendable people. Their differences in heroism might be due to the fact that

Arthur is a young hero in comparison to Beowulf who is an experienced hero.

Either way they, like most heroes, have similarities and differences, this makes

them who they are, commendable and memorable fantasy characters.


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