Can you please give a description of Beowulf as an epic.

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This great work clearly fits into the category of an epic. It is in a sense similar to theĀ Iliad and the Odyssey in that it is the first great work of the English national literature, which is why it is studied so much. The other texts, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are the first great works of the Greek national literature. Beowulf is the mythical and literary record of a formative stage of British English civilisation. It is also an epic of the heroic sources of English culture. Because of this, it shares many archetypes with other similar epics from all over the world, such as the epic hero, the quest, the monster and the battle.

It tells the story of a famous warrior called Beowulf who comes from Sweden to Denmark in a quest to free the people of King Hrothgar from the tyranny of a monster called Grendel. It, like other epics, started off as a piece of oral literature in that it was never written down but instead passed down from generation to generation from one bard to another. As such, because of the communal nature of such storytelling, it was a familiar story incorporating legend, incredible weapons, and a community threatened by the powers of evil with only one heroic individual to stand in the way of that evil.