The Complex Hero in Beowulf

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The story of Beowulf is one of the oldest examples of what society views as a hero. Though the story was written in Anglo-Saxon times, the credentials one would need in order to be considered by society a hero remain the same. The Anglo-Saxons believed that a hero was strong and courageous, but humble and kind as well. They also believed that a hero was intelligent and dignified, in which he would fight until death in order to defend his people. In Beowulf and Grendel, directed by Sturla Gunnarsson, Beowulf is depicted as caring, compassionate, noble, and understanding, which makes him seem as if he had every trait of a true hero. He seems quite the opposite, however, in the story Grendel by John Gardner. The book Grendel portrays Beowulf as sinister and ruthless, which makes him seem less of a hero. What society values in a hero today is portrayed more in the movie than the book, which suggests that one is considered a true hero only if he or she has certain heroic traits accepted by society.

One characteristic a person must have in order to be considered a hero is honor. The Anglo-Saxons thought highly of this trait, and believed that being honorable was almost a requirement in order to be considered a hero. This was because they believed that a hero was supposed to be a role model to others. If one had no honor, he or she would not be a role model to others, causing him or her to not have the privilege of being considered a hero. This trait is portrayed differently in the book and movie. Throughout Beowulf and Grendel, Beowulf constantly proves that he is honorable, in which he shows a tremendous amount of respect for not only the Danes, but Grendel as well. Though he kills Grendel at the end of the movie, he shows a great am...

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...tion very important traits that one must obtain in order to uphold a heroic reputation. While the movie shows the more caring and compassionate side of a hero, the book presents a more intimidating and hostile side of one. Both the book and the movie relate to Anglo-Saxon culture today. They reveal the two sides a hero must have, according to society's standards. The film and novel support the idea that a hero is judged based on certain traits he or she has. One could only be a hero if that person met society's standards of a true hero. If Beowulf did not have the heroic characteristics that were mentioned in the book and movie, he may have not even been considered a hero.

Works Cited:

Beowulf and Grendel. Dir. Sturla Gunnarsson. Perf. Gerard Butler and Sarah Polley. Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2005. DVD.

Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Knopf, 1971. Print.