How does the Anglo Saxon period and the heroic ideals both similar and different of our own?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Heroes from the Anglo-Saxon period are similar to today's military and/or team sports heroes in that they both seek fame and glory for feats on the field.  Obviously, we are talking about a male-dominated hierarchy: the biggest, strongest, fastest, smartest. 

The Anglo-Saxons also value the group over the individual, although individual reputation is very important.  Just as team-sport profesional athletes (football, soccer etc...)  or special forces (Navy Seals, SWAT teams) have a relatively short time to make a "name" for themselves in the field (before they retire), an Anglo-Saxon warrior must show courage in combat to cement his reputation (before he dies).  The stakes may be a bit higher for the Anglo-Saxons since they saw constant battle.  Nonetheless, both time periods value the "team," or in Beowulf's time, the "tribe" in order to win.  There is room for individual greatness (Beowulf defeating Grendel single-handedly), but the hero is a product of a community. 

As major difference between then and now is the attitude of the heroes.  Whereas military and sports heroes of America believe in the Judeo-Christian principles of faith, redemption, and an afterlife, the Germanic tribes of Beowulf's era had a mythic view of evil, little hope of survival or an afterlife, and sought revenge whenever possible.  This concept of revenge is quite contrary to the Christian principles of "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies," and it led to cyclical blood-feuds between the tribes that lasted for years.