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Epic of Beowulf Essay - Traits of The Anglo-Saxon Hero

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Beowulf - Traits of The Anglo-Saxon Hero

Within the tale of “Beowulf” four character traits can be found which define the Anglo Saxon Hero. The first is loyalty, as demonstrated by the relationship between Lord and thane. According to page 23 of the “Beowulf” introduction, “a relationship based less on subordination of one man’s will to another than on mutual trust and respect.” The second and third characteristics are strength and courage. The importance of these specific traits to the Anglo-Saxon people is clearly presented during the reciting of Sigemund’s tale within Heorot. As the song states, “He was adventurer most famous, far and wide through the nations, for deed of courage – he had prospered from that before, the protector of warriors – after the war-making of Heremod had come to an end, his strength and his courage” (38). The final piece which comprises the Anglo-Saxon hero is the notion of fame. The only after life a warrior could ever aspire to have was immortality through fame. One again this is explained by the introduction to the story, “Beowulf’s chief reward is pagan immortality the memory in the minds of later generations of a hero’s heroic actions” (24-25). By understanding what defines a hero it is a simple matter to comprehend why Beowulf is considered by some to be the greatest of all. He posses unfaltering loyalty to his king and allies, and save for his final battle his thanes show the same devotion to him. His strength is unparalleled, as he is able to defeat each of his opponents and perform feats of unmatched endurance. Beowulf’s courage, though motivated primarily by his own notion of fate, is, none the less, unwavering. And as a hero he achieved his desire for immortality through the poem itself. Each of the four heroic traits can be identified within the three battles in which Beowulf participates: His battle with Grendel, his undersea struggle with the Grendel’s Mother, and his final fight with the dragon. Before going off to do battle with Grendel, Beowulf gives a speech that may appear conceited to the modern reader, but is in actuality a simple device used to insure his immortality through fame. Beowulf states, “I claim myself no poorer in war strength, war works, than Grendel claims himself. Therefor I will not put him to sleep with a sword… and then may wise God, Holy Lord, assign glory on whichever hand seems good to him” (35-36).
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