Siegfried vs Beowulf

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“Any relations in a social order will endure, if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy which qualifies life for immortality.”

-George William Russell

Homer defines a hero as one who acquires and maintains honor through victory in battle while embracing a highly individualistic attitude. Homer’s epic warriors were self-interested in order to preserve their honor and to acquire fame--the currency used by the hero to achieve immortality. Heroes of this archetype often show a neglectful disregard for the lives of their warriors and supporting cast. This is symptomatic of their obsession with acquiring honor over building relationships (Dunkle). But how can a hero protect his fame if he lacks compassion and loyalty to his people? After all, a hero must build relationships since one can only thrive if he is the hero for a society--a hero without an audience is not a hero. One cannot be his own hero. Besides, without relationships, who will keep the hero’s memory alive? To answer these questions, one can look to two seemingly similar heroes, Beowulf and Siegfried, who differ wildly in character and temperament. Siegfried desires to establish and preserve relationships while Beowulf is out for his own glory. Though Siegfried’s modification of the definition ultimately exposes him to betrayal, his inclination to create and sustain relationships aids in solidifying his immortality on earth post-death.

At first glance, the two characters presented in Beowulf and The Nibelungenlied share similar qualities of a hero: both Beowulf and Siegfried kill dragons, become kings, and are believed to be unbelievably strong and invincible by their followers. Because they are equipped wi...

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...o longer his own hero, but he is a hero for a society. By doing so, his followers will thirst to keep the hero’s fame alive through their memories and will celebrate the hero’s life long after his passing. Though both Beowulf and Siegfried may be regarded as heroes, Siegfried is clearly the better contender if one were to compare their fame after death. His meaningful relationships have encouraged the loyalty of others to spread his name and avenge his death; whereas, Beowulf’s lack of significant human interactions results in his followers quickly dismissing the death of their fallen hero and allowing other issues to consume them. Had Beowulf known this sooner, perhaps he would have attempted to make more friends?

Works Cited

1. Dunkle, Roger. "Homer's Iliad." AbleMedia LLC - A Knowledge Company. Web. 31 Mar. 2011. .
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