A hero is simply a behavioral model. To some, a basketball player might be a hero, but to another that may seem silly. We all have our own heroes for our own reasons. Thus a simple all-encompassing definition of a hero might simply be as a behavioral model.
Here are the characteristics of heroes in the Anglo-Saxon era:
- warriors were loyal to the king and would fight to the death for him, surrender was cowardly. Honor and loyalty to the tribe and to the king were more important, in a way, than material goods, for being remembered well after death, where you could not take material objects, was very important
- these were oral cultures (there was no writing or recorded history)
- these cultures were non-Christian; they were “pagans”, worshipping many gods.
In the end Beowulf has hit many of the categories needed to fulfill his role in literature as an EPIC HERO:
1.) An epic hero of imposing stature and who is meaningful as a legend or historical figure
Lines that describe his stature: 238 - 256, 279 - 292 (Beowulf is rumored to have 30 men’s strength).
2.) The hero’s actions take place on a grand scale and are important nationally, internationally, or worldwide.
Beowulf saves Hrothgar’s people and inspires a lasting peace between nations.
3.) The action consists of a great deed( s) requiring superhuman courage & maybe superhuman strength.
4.) Supernatural forces (gods, angels, demons) are involved or interested in the action