Warrior Heroes In Beowulf And Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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‘Beowulf’ & ‘Sir Gawain And The Green Knight’ Classical literature is replete with the age-old albeit timeless concept of warrior heroes. There have been a number of epics, plays and novels that consist of characters that heroic qualities and thus fit into the literary archetype of a warrior hero. There are of course slight variations to the kind of heroes that can be found in such stories and this is mainly because of the cultural differences that exist among various civilizations. Consider for example Beowulf, which was originally written in the Anglo-Saxon language and is basically a story about the way the brave people of Germanic and Scandinavian origins successfully took control of the Roman Empire. The plot revolves around the warrior hero Beowulf and the manner in which he defeated the horrific monsters that were terrorizing the people at the time, which brings him immediate respect and fame. It must be noted that Beowulf was not a traditional warrior hero i.e. he was immensely disliked by his people initially because they did not think that he was brave enough to do anything (Niles & Bjork, p. 45). However all that changed once he defeated the monsters and thus his status was immediately elevated to that of a hero. Also worth mentioning at this point is that Beowulf was not a mild-mannered, chivalrous knight that could become fierce if the need arose (quite like the conventional English heroes). In fact he was violent to the core and it is this trait that is actually responsible for making him heroic. This is mainly because in the Germanic tradition military prowess was the main way to acquire respect and control in a society. Thus he is not a warrior hero, or simply a hero for that matter, because he was ‘philosophical’ ... ... middle of paper ... ...ty about it too (Brewer & Gibson, p. 187). At no point during the poem is Gawain forced to display his military skills; one just assumes that he has all those qualities (and that he is a warrior hero) simply by virtue of the exceeding politeness that he bestows to the people around him. Again this is a far cry from the violent, ill-tempered yet surprisingly spiritual Beowulf that was discussed earlier in this essay. Thus the above analysis shows that while there have been a number of warrior heroes in epics and other works of classical literature, there are several differences because of the cultural and social differences that exist among civilizations. References Bjork, Robert E. & Niles, John D. (Eds.) A Beowulf Handbook, London: Cambridge University Press, 1997 Brewer, Derek & Gibson, Jonathan (Ed.) A Companion to the Gawain-Poet, New York: Random House, 1997
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