Beowulf Essay, Research Paper
What Makes a Hero?
After spending over a week reading the story “Beowulf”, we can all come to the conclusion that he is a hero. Sure, he saves countries from monsters, has incredible strength and wisdom, and is fearless- the typical fictional hero. However, when I hear the word hero, I think in terms of an everyday hero. In my mind, a hero is someone who performs courageous acts even if the consequences can be fatal. A hero doesn’t have to be some big muscled guy who beats up bad guys. My example of a hero is a fireman. He/she knows that they might be killed rescuing someone from a burning building, yet they still go in. Why? Probably for the honor and glory that people will give them.
Now that we know my definition of a hero, we can take a closer look at the Beowulf’s life to determine if he is a hero by my standards. We first encounter Beowulf when he hears about the troubles the Danes are having with an evil monster named Grendel. Beowulf, knowing that this evil monster might be able to kill him, voluntarily packs up some stuff, gathers some of his men, and leaves the Geats to go help the Danes. When Beowulf arrives to Danish king, he is peacefully invited to the mighty mead hall. When there, Beowulf tells the king that he would like to fight the evil monster. The king, knowing that he has nothing to lose, lets Beowulf fight the monster. Is this guy begging for attention or what? What man in his right mind would go to another country to fight a vicious monster? Beowulf wanted the honor that he could obtain if he killed Grendel. That is why he went. Also, the king told him that if Beowulf could defeat Grendel, he would have anything his heart yearned for. So, the answer to the question if he qualifies as a true hero is yes for this part. He knows he can die if he fights Grendel, but he still does it.
After Beowulf kills Grendel, he is faced with another fierce monster – Grendel’s mother. Beowulf was not expecting another monster so he was a caught by surprise a little. Also, Beowulf had a harder time defeating Grendel’s mother than he did with killing Grendel. In this fight, I think Beowulf was fighting more in self-defense than in a heroic sense. He really had no choice other to fight. If he didn’t fight, however, he would be considered a chicken. So, is Beowulf a hero for killing Grendel’s mother? Yes and no. Yes, because he knew that fighting Grendel’s mother could kill him. No, because he was really fighting in self-defense.
As the story continues, Beowulf returns back to the Geats and becomes King when Hygelac dies. While Beowulf was ruler, he did not encounter any major battles for 50 winters (years). Everything was nice and peaceful until one day a thief decided to go to a dragon’s lair and steal something for the king. The dragon is sleeping when the item is stolen so the thief got away, but when the dragon wakes up, all hell breaks loose. The dragon gets furious and travels to the castle and burns it down. Beowulf, now around 70-80 years old, hears of the dragon that is terrorizing his kingdom decides that it is his responsibility to protect his people. He has the blacksmith make him a special iron shield and calls for Wicglaf, a warrior that is very much like Beowulf when he was younger. Beowulf, knowing that his chances of winning against the dragon are very slim, continues to go and fight the dragon. He strikes the dragon with his sword, but it hits the bone and does not do too much damage. Beowulf fights the dragon with all his might, but it just isn’t enough. Fate takes over the battle and the dragon is able to bite Beowulf in his neck with his fangs. However, Wicglaf is able to give the fatal stab while the dragon bites Beowulf. Beowulf has fought his last battle. Although Beowulf knows that he will be dead soon, he is content with all the good deeds that he has done and he feels he has lived a great life. The only complaint that he had was that he never had a son to become the heir of the throne. This event is what I consider makes Beowulf a hero. He knew that he was going to die; yet he still fought.
So, as I come to my conclusion, you can see why I consider Beowulf a hero. Not because of his incredible strength or great wisdom, but because his courage. Courage is what makes hero’s what they are, and Beowulf had plenty of it. There are many modern day heroes. So many people risk their lives everyday. It astonishes me. I have great admiration for those people because I know I will probably never have enough courage to perform any of the tasks they do everyday.