The Changing Concept of Hero

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When the hero was first struggling to be defined, there were many different observations and opinions readily available to be thrown into the melting pot of the definition. Because there was no television, the heroes in the beginnings of British Literature were spoken of and read about then passed down through generations. Reading these stories in this day and age is interesting to look at because we can trace the difference in the heroes throughout Beowlf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Faerie Queene and therefore literally throughout time. The differences that can be seen are the characters armor, the enemies that are being faced, and the values of each of them.

Beowulf has no known author but it is thought to be written before the Anglo-Saxon exodus is completed but after the conquest began (p.30). Also going on during this time was the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon pagans to Christianity by Saint Augustine of Canterbury’s mission. This may account for the major focus on Christian themes throughout Beowulf, while Beowulf as a character is seen as a very pagan character (Lane). For instance, Beowulf’s armor is only briefly described because he was pure hero in himself. His armor did not need to be elaborately described because he actually took his armor off when fighting Grendel. His chain-mail did save him when fighting Grendel’s mother, but it is specifically pointed out that it only “saved him on the outside”(p.66). Later, when discussing the other heroes armor they wear their religion on their armor, whereas Beowulf wore plain armor but his intentions were pure. The enemies that Beowulf faces are spirits. “God-cursed Grendel” a demon descendent of Cain consumed his prey, Grendel’s revenge ridden mother and a drag...

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