Beowulf and Sir Gawain – True Heroes Heroes come in many forms. The construction of "the heroic" has taken many forms, yet traits such as: courage, honor, and loyalty, reappear as themes throughout the "hero" personality. The characters of Beowulf and Sir Gawain each represent a version of a hero, yet each comes across quite differently in their story. A hero can be said to truly win if he remains constant to his noble values when put in any situation that crosses his way. When measured by that criterion, Sir Gawain stands out above Beowulf as a true hero, due to his command of both personal and spiritual power through the use of thought, as well as valiant deeds.
These warriors fought for their leader and tribe in return for treasure and protection. This relationship between the lord and his men was the basis of the Anglo-Saxon society. The epic poem "Beowulf" is a perfect example of how this system worked in these trying times. The warrior in the Anglo-Saxon civilization had many duties to fulfill. He was obligated to respect and protect his lord as well as defend his lord's honor.
Unlike most kings his takeover of the kingdom did not come from heredity directly but because of the people's choice, and for the people he continues to fight for, even until death. Because of his bravery, his leadership, and his commitment this encouraged the movement from hero to a king. Each king through out the story was known for their good works among the people and all of the battles that they have accomplished. "So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
Grendel is a monster who is the descendent of Cain. He becomes a true monster when he was exiled for killing his own brother. “…he had dwelt for a time / in misery among the banished monsters, /….For the killing of Abel / the Eternal Lord had exacted a price” (Beowulf 104-108). The reason why he attacks people is because of the jealous feelings and his notion that he was not being treated fairly. The battle with Grendel took place at the mead hall.
This allows the reader to notice how kings in the past were, and the power they possessed over the people of the area. “Our eternal lord grants some men wisdom, some wealth and makes others great.” (1726-1729) This quote displays Beowulf’s greatness as told to him by Hrothgar. He believes that the eternal lord grants this to him, and that this is not initially under Beowulf’s control. Despite that, Beowulf still uses that inborn quality to further his achievements as a king and warrior. Throughout the story, Beowulf handles many tough situations in which he almost always comes out the hero, saving the lives of the citizens.
For the hero, the highest good is glory and the highest evil is shame. Beowulf, the son of Ecgtheow and Hygelac’s thane is introduced by Heaney as a valiant warrior. The reader immediately notices that Beowulf is well respected. The tone of the work suggests that even the narrator holds him in high esteem, “the man whose name was known for courage, the Geat Leader” (Heaney, 11) (the chapter is entitled “The Hero comes to Heorot”). Beowulf is introduced with grandeur.
Though all men to a certain extent share the same qualities, some are more pronounced than in the others. It is important to see how these qualities are central to their respective stories and how it helps (or hinders) them in their journeys. The greatest value of Beowulf is his bravery, some may say bravado. There is no doubt that he is a great warrior. Beowulf's heroism belongs to a different time than that of King Arthur or Sir Gawain.
Beowulf understood that the key to being a great leader was selflessness, which is also why he chose Wiglaf, son of Wexstan, to be his successor. In Beowulf’s time of greatest need Wiglaf was the only selfless warrior that came to Beowulf’s aid. Even in death, Beowulf understood all the qualities of a great leader and saw them in Wiglaf. There is no question that Beowulf was a great leader. His fearlessness, selflessness, and faith in God all aided in shaping him into the great warrior and the great king that he was.
What qualifies a creature to be a monster? When the movie Frankenstein came out, monsters were usually big and scary animals that terrified everyone that walked in their path. They were creatures that generally behaved monstrously, doing things that were against society norms and had no consideration for the safety of others. Perhaps looking beyond the physical appearance of a “monster” and just looking at their actions one might see Dr. Frankenstein as a monster himself. Frankenstein was a story about a man who created an individual which led his life to failure and death, because of his desire to play which nature, and attempting the role of God.
Beowulf is a character that possesses all the qualities of an Anglo-Saxon hero. He is strong, fearless, brave, courageous, and arrogant. But are these qualities enough to consider him a hero by the standards of today? A hero not only needs to be physically outstanding, but he also needs to have integrity, moral values and needs to act without thinking in his own benefit. Beowulf has many characteristics of a hero but he also has some defects that make me think that he wouldn’t be considered a hero in today´s world.