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Beowulf, the hero of the epic poem, is not an ordinary man; he is the epitome of a true hero. With the strength of thirty men in one arm, the courage to fight monsters, and the knowledge to respect and consider others' feelings, Beowulf defines the word "hero." As a thane of the Geats' king Hygelac, and later as king of the Geats, Beowulf uses his courage and wisdom to help him win many battles and competitions against humans and monsters.
Beowulf's list of victories consists of his swimming contest with Breca, the slaying of sea monsters, the dismembering of the monster Grendel, decapitating Grendel (or Grendel's mother), and killing the dragon. However, his greatest achievement is not killing monsters, but not letting 'hubris' destroy him. As a good warrior and king, Beowulf always keeps his pledges/promises and obeys the laws of ''comitatus.''
Wiglaf, a thane of Beowulf's tribe, is another true hero in the poem. Despite the fact that he has never fought in a battle before, Wiglaf does not hide with the cowards while his lord, Beowulf, is attacked by the dragon. Remembering all the treasures and the trust Beowulf has given his men, Wiglaf bravely helps his lord who is in need: "Beloved Beowulf, do all well, for, long since in your youth, you said that you would not let your glory while you lived. Now, great-spirited noble, brave of deeds, you must protect your life with all your might. I shall help you." (Norton, 61) By helping Beowulf, Wiglaf also obeys the laws of comitatus and is greatly rewarded by Beowulf for his loyalty and love.
They are often portrayed as evil and dangerous monsters, who eat people and burn homes. This view of the dragon is a direct result of the influence of Christianity and the Bible. In the Bible, the dragon is another name for the Devil, Satan himself, the archenemy of God and Jesus. Therefore, in a Western, Christian-based society, the dragon is viewed as an ally of the Devil and an enemy of God. Besides being seen as evil monsters, dragons were also believed to have treasures, such as gold or ancient artifacts in their lair. It is for one such treasure that the battle between Beowulf and the dragon starts.
Beowulf, King of the Geats, who is now over seventy years old, fights his last battle.
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