A Comparison of Honor in Beowulf and Parzival

A Comparison of Honor in Beowulf and Parzival

Length: 1679 words (4.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Honor in Beowulf and Parzival            

Throughout literary history authors have created and restored figures from all times that seem to represent what is honorable and chivalrous. The two literary legends compared in this paper are Beowulf and Parzival. These two figures in their own way find within them what is virtuous.

At first impression it seems as though Beowulf is the warrior who contains the honor within himself, but as the two characters are compared in depth, it becomes obvious that Parzival's journey through manhood brings him to a much more noble and honorable place. Beowulf and Parzival's journey's began on the same path, each fatherless, they strove to search out what they saw as adventure. They jumped to whet their desires for the unknown and the chance to be a hero. A young Beowulf, we learn, challenges a peer to a match of strength. Unferth tells this tale of "when for pride the pair of [them] proved the seas and for a trite boast entrusted [their] lives to the deep waters, undissuadable by effort of friend or foe whatsoever from that swimming on the sea,"(Beowulf,65).

Beowulf's stubborn pride lead him even at a young age to challenge what may have seemed beyond his reach for glory. Later on, Beowulf hearing the horrific tales of the monster Grendel that had been reeking havoc at Heorot, abruptly left his homeland to prove his gallantry. "The wiser sought to dissuade him from voyaging hardly or not at all," but the strong-headed Beowulf refused to listen to reason. Unlike Beowulf, Parzival was actually hidden from all opportunities of adventure by his mother. She fled to a place where she believed she could escape all traces of knighthood, which she believed to be evil. She was not successful though, and as soon as Parzival laid his eyes on the god-like knight, he made up his mind to leave his mother and all that he knew to seek adventure. The absence of her son drove her to an early grave. This action is one that Parzival was later deemed "unhonorable" for and one he deeply regretted. These boys both started out young and refused to listen to the reason of their elders. Against the wishes of the people who were wiser and more experienced, they let their pride and ambition overtake them. This did not show to be a promising beginning for either of them.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"A Comparison of Honor in Beowulf and Parzival." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Jun 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=5596>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Women and Maturity in Eschenbach's Parzival

- Women and Maturity in Eschenbach's Parzival Through the course of Wolfram von Eschenbach's epic romance Parzival, it becomes abundantly clear that the main characters, Parzival and Gawan, must attain some level of maturity or growth before they will be able to persevere in their personal quests. While their paths to maturity involve a great deal of combat and contests of knightly skill, it is their encounters with noble women that truly redefine their characters. Parzival is undeniably a romance....   [tags: Eschenbach Parzival Essays]

Research Papers
1246 words (3.6 pages)

Comparison Between Beowulf And Beowulf Essay

- The most important events in Beowulf’s life seem to all be a matter of Dichotomy. Good versus evil. Beowulf encounters perilous monsters throughout his life that no man or woman would ever stand a chance of defeating. Beowulf embodies the classic storybook hero, whom is built with a strong body and a pure heart. Throughout this epic, Beowulf must harness his heroic body and pure heart into destroying the forces of evil in the world. Grendel is a horrid monster filled with evil and bloodthirsty rage; Grendel terrorizes the men of Heorot when he deems them as being too loud in the meadhall....   [tags: Beowulf, Good and evil, Epic poetry]

Research Papers
919 words (2.6 pages)

Comparison Between Beowulf And Beowulf Essay

- The poem of Beowulf has been told many times for hundreds of years. There have been many versions and variations that differ from the original written tale. There has recently been a movie production of the epic tale that was released in 2007 entailed Beowulf. Although this variation of the story was entertaining it was not an accurate account of the story of Beowulf. This analysis of both narratives will illustrate the differences between the two. In the movie depiction of Beowulf both the Danes and the Geats are Pagan....   [tags: Beowulf, Anglo-Saxons, Mead hall, Denmark]

Research Papers
955 words (2.7 pages)

Code of Honor in the Epic of Beowulf Essay

- Beowulf: Code of Honor After fighting and winning many battles, Beowulf's life enters a new stage when he finally becomes king of his homeland, Geatland. Even in his old age, his code of honor still obligates him to fight against an evil, fiery dragon. For fifty years he has governed his kingdom well. While Beowulf is governing, the dragon "...kept watch over a hoard, a steep stone-barrow" (Norton 55). Under it lays a path concealed from the sight of men. Over centuries no one had disturbed the dragon’s kingdom until one day when a thief broke into the treasure, laid hand on a cup fretted with gold, which infuriated the dragon....   [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]

Free Essays
1062 words (3 pages)

Honor, Fame, and Courage in Beowulf Essay

- The Story Beowulf is an Epic poem written in the Anglo-Saxon period. The author of the poem is unknown. Beowulf is the hero of the story and the Thane to Hygelac the king of the Geats in Sweden. When Beowulf finds out the Grendel (the big guy) is causing problems in Denmark he decides to go over there and help them out. He fights Grendel and everyone is happy. Then Grendels mother comes to avenge her son so Beowulf has to go fight her also. After winning that battle Beowulf goes back to the Geats and becomes king and rules for fifty winters....   [tags: Epic of Beowulf Essays]

Free Essays
772 words (2.2 pages)

Epic of Beowulf Essay - Honor and Dishonor

- Beowulf:  Balance of Values      Symbolizing honor and strength, control of the "wine-hall" passes into the hands of the victor, under the traditional laws of the Danes and Geats. As Beowulf triumphs over the fiend, Grendel, he casts off the shame and dishonor which would have befallen him, and full control of the wine-hall, as well as territorial supremacy, are clearly his. Only later in the poem does Beowulf begin to lose the primacy that had been exclusively his domain. Even in death, however, Beowulf is immortalized by the members of his tribe, and by the writer, as he passed into glorious history His funeral pyre, and monument on the coast, bore witness to his greatness....   [tags: Epic Beowulf essays]

Free Essays
398 words (1.1 pages)

Depiction and Development of the Knight Hero in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival

- Introduction Wolfram von Eschenbach’s epic poem Parzival stands as one of the richest and most profound literary works to have survived from the middle ages. Lost in obscurity for centuries until rediscovered and republished by Karl Lachmann in 1833, the poem enjoyed at least as great a popularity when it was first composed as it does among today’s readers: Some eighty manuscripts have been preserved, in whole or in part, from Wolfram’s era (Poag 40). Among the more intriguing aspects of the work is Wolfram’s handling of the depiction and development of two of the story’s primary characters, the knights Gahmuret and Parzival, father and son....   [tags: Eschenbach Parzival Essays]

Research Papers
2797 words (8 pages)

Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex Essay

- Comparison of Beowulf and Oedipus Rex Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon folk epic written by an unknown author. It was written sometime during the eighth century. Oedipus Rex is an Ancient Greek tragedy written by the playwright Sophocles sometime around 430 BC. Although the two works were written during two different time periods, in two different places, and are different kinds of literature, they contain many similarities in the manner in which they depict a hero and the depiction of government....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Free Essays
1176 words (3.4 pages)

A Comparison of the Scop in Beowulf and Widsith Essays

- The Scop in Beowulf and Widsith.       The scop in Anglo-Saxon times had a very defined role. A comparison between the scop in Beowulf and the scop in Widsith will more clearly define for us what that role was.   The 142 verses of Widsith are the oldest in the English language, and form the earliest output in verse of any Germanic people. Widsith contains a huge catalog of 70 tribes and  69 important people, many of whom are proven to have lived in the third, fourth and fifth centuries. The vast knowledge of history which was required of a good scop, just amazes the reader....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Research Papers
991 words (2.8 pages)

Comparison between Female Characters in Beowulf Essay

- Comparison between Female Characters in Beowulf      Beowulf, the Old English epic tells the story of one brave hero and his battles against evil monsters. The poem deals with mostly masculine elements like fight descriptions, depictions of armor and long inspiring speeches. However, the women characters in the epic also have important roles and they are far from being superficial, as it may seem at first. There are several female figures in Beowulf; this paper will focus on three of them- queen Wealhtheow of the Danes, queen Hygd of the Geats and Grendel?s mother....   [tags: Beowulf Compare Contrast Essays]

Research Papers
1206 words (3.4 pages)

Related Searches

Their roads do take a different turns though. Beowulf, arriving at Heorot, is immediately described as a person who, "has the head of a hero," but his arrogance accompanies this hero-like status(Beowulf, 59). He proceeds to boast to all of the Hall of Heorot, that he is an accomplished fighter who has come to save them from this terrible monster. He proclaims, "With bare hands shall I grapple the fiend, fight to the death here"(Beowulf, 65).
Though Beowulf is extremely arrogant, there is some truth to what he boasts. He does perform in the manner in which he promised, be with this success comes extreme arrogance that should not be found in a true hero. Beowulf, unlike Parzival has already experienced combat. He brags that "fame-winning deeds have come early to [his]hands .. Men knew well the weight of [his]hands. Had they not seen [him] come from fights where [he] had bound five Giants - their blood was upon [him] - cleaned out a nest of them.,"(Beowulf, 64).

Beowulf was raised fighting and had never been defeated, so he never really knew what it was like to not be successful. Parzival did not expierence success until he learned what honor really was. It was said of him that, "No kurvenal had reared him, he knew nothing of fine manners," (Parzival, 83) He seemed doomed to fail in the world of the knighthood, because of his lack of spiritual and physical training. He is described as "naïve", "simple", and as a "raw young man" not at all prepared for he sought out in his vast world. His first encounter was with the Red Knight, Ither, who we later learn is a relative of Parzivals'. Parzival battles with Ither and kills him. After the battle is finished, Parzival stripped the corpse of its armor for himself. "Later on reaching years of discretion, Parzival wished he had not done it." (Parzival, 91) At this time in his life though, because of his ignorant nature and preconcieved notions of knighthood, he does not see how this is wrong.

A great example of Parzival's ignorance is his tendency at a young age to take everything literally. When entering the Gral castle, which is where his greatest dishonor occurs, he is greeted by squires who try to help him dismount and remove his armor. Parzival proclaims, when asked to dismount, "It was a king who commanded me to be a knight," and refuses to get down off the horse (Parzival,92). Parzival takes the definition of knight literally. A knight's literal definition is "rider", so because of his naiveté, Parzival would not dismount. He took the term Knight to be literal, and did not want to dishonor himself be getting off the horse. He completely ignored the common reference to knighthood and made a fool of himself. Another example of Parzival's naiveté in the realm of knighthood, is his failure to ask the Gral King what is ailing him. This failure proves to be Parzival's biggest mistake throughout the entire tale. He must spend the rest of his young life repenting for his dishonor to the king. Through this repentance he learns and matures. We never truly see this growth in Beowulf.

When comparing what is honorable between these notable characters, it is necessary to see where they were at their strongest and weakest point. When Beowulf is at Herot, Hrothgar warns Beowulf that he must beware the temptation of power, and that he must always be honest, fair, and just. Beowulf fights both Grendel and Grendel's mother, and comes up victorious in both struggles. There is honor in his fighting these monsters, but it also seems that a great motivation for him is glory. He returns home and the kingdom falls upon his shoulders. With this responsability he proves that he is capable of being a great king and a virtuous leader.

Parzival's journey to greatness takes him on a much more difficult path to virtuosity. The reader sees Parzival grow through being educated and encountering many life altering experiences. He is taught that to be honorable, "you must never lose your sense of shame,"(pg. 91). When he receives this advice, he is still at a point in his life where he does not completely understand the notions of humility and integrity, but he begins to show some signs of compassion. Parzival realizes his mistakes and knows that he must "make amends" for the wrongs he has done to others, (pg. 135). The reader sees a natural progression in Parzival's behavior. As the tale continues, the adjectives to describe him evolve from naïve and ignorant, to strong, valiant, and brave. He states, "may I forever be disgraced in this life and my fame brought to naught; and that these words are fact let my prosperity stand surely in the eyes of Him Whose hand is highest…and let me be mocked and damned in this life…I was a young fool-no man-not yet grown to years of discretion."(pg 141). Through his travels he grows to become chivalrous and honorable. To fully compare Beowulf and Parzival though, one must define what honor and chivalry really are.

In Parzival, chivalry is described to be "endowed with two rich revenues: a true sense of shame and noble loyalty."(pg. 167). Beowulf seems to be lacking in ones of these areas. He does not have a "true sense of shame." As he grows older and rules over his kingdom, he is faced with no real challenges, until a dragon in his kingdom is disturbed. With only one man standing behind him to rally against the dragon, he goes on to fight this fateful battle. This step is extremely ignorant: as an old man, there is no way to defeat the dragon and survive. As king, he has a duty to serve his people, and by challenging a fire breathing dragon, it is doubtful that he will come out victorious. This move is extremely pigheaded, because Beowulf does not have an heir to his throne and he will leave his kingdom without a leader. This act of Beowulf's shows excessive pride. Beowulf does put up a good struggle and defeats the dragon, but by doing this he also kills himself and any real leader that Geatland had, and leaves the country in chaos. It seems as though through the entire tale of the heoric Geat, he never learned anything; he never really made a transition in character. Without growth, it is very hard to be truly honorable. Parzival realizes his faults and asks to be guided and taught. He recognizes that he is a "sinner" and through trials and tribulations, he finds himself in an exalted position. His story, unlike Beowulfs' ends on a happy note. Parzival finds his true love and rules over the kingdom he was destined to lead. He becomes "worthy in God's eyes" and a "man of reputation and honor."(pg 388, 394).

Beowulf and Parzival begin their journey to honor on the same path, but only Parzival experiences fully emotional and spiritual growth. Beowulf never experiences any humbling confrontation, he only knows success. Beowulf though, never experiences true happiness. He never marries or bears an heir to his throne, and dies a sad old man. With Beowulf's death, so goes the death of his kingdom. Parzival as a young man commits several sins, and does not fit the hero stereotype, but through his sins and misdeeds, he learns honor and virtue. Though Beowulf was successful and seems to achieve everything in life, he never knew what it was to be truly honorable like Parzival. Though Beowulf was successful and seemed to achieve everything in life, he never achieves true honor like Parzival.
Return to 123HelpMe.com