Essay on Beowulf and Sir Gawain: a Comparison of Two Heroes

Essay on Beowulf and Sir Gawain: a Comparison of Two Heroes

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In Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight there are two heroes that help the present day reader gain insight into what the hero of the Middle Ages would have held as ideals and necessary triumphs. Beowulf and Sir Gawain each fill a different role within their unique societies. Beowulf is a leader and a savior in times of need, willing to go to any length to help another group of people as well as his own kingdom. Sir Gawain is also willing to rise during moments of trouble within his court but lacks the altruism that is inherent in Beowulf's leadership. Although there are many pursuable comparisons within the two tales, the most apparent between the two heroes are that of faith, the men who encouraged them, bravery and the adversaries they both faced.

Although Beowulf has themes of both Christianity and Paganism within the tale, Beowulf has a Christian faith that he often relies upon during his moments of combat. This juxtaposition of Christian faith within Beowulf and the ancestry and demonic characteristics between Grendel and his mother seem to be an intrinsic part of the fight that Beowulf has with each of them. Before the fight with Grendel it is said that Beowulf will win because "Almighty God rules over mankind and always has" suggesting that although Beowulf has the "strength of thirty" it is God rather than Beowulf's strength that will earn a victory over Grendel (46, 40). After Beowulf defeats Grendel's mother it is again attributed to divine strength. When Beowulf is knocked down and was about to be killed by the maternal avenger it is believed that "holy God decided the victory. It was easy for the Lord, the Ruler of Heaven, to redress the balance once Beowulf got back up on his feet" (66). The idea...


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...ad a positive role model in Hrothgar who helped him to see the perils of becoming too full of pride. Beowulf is also recognizable in the courage he maintained in the face of his enemies, even down to his final battle. Sir Gawain was a knight best known for his faith in God and courage. Sir Gawain was willing to protect King Arthur to all costs and fortunately did not have to pay with his life. His opponent, the Green Knight, was willing to have a little fun with the knight. Sir Gawain survived the challenge he was so certain would be the conclusion of his life. Ultimately, the difference between the two was that Beowulf turned his fate over to the hands of God and died while Sir Gawain went with the help of the green belt and survived. Beowulf was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice while Sir Gawain was allowed to live on to tell the story of his tale.

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