Beowulf Questions and Answers

Beowulf book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How does Beowulf relate to Homer's Odyssey?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,856 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

In both epic poems, a brave and noble warrior must battle courageously against the odds to carry out a dangerous, demanding mission. In the case of Beowulf, he must slay the hideous, bloodthirsty monster Grendel, and, for good measure, finish off Grendel's mother as well. For his part, Odysseus embarks upon a long and dangerous voyage home to Ithaca, a place he hasn't seen in twenty years. In some sense, Odysseus's is the more exacting quest. Beowulf only has to kill two monsters, whereas Odysseus has to kill several such creatures on his journey, as well as having to deal with the wrath of Poseidon and a sorceress who turns his men into pigs.

Having said that, Odysseus generally has the gods on his side. He's carrying out a divine mission and so can count on the intervention and support of the goddess Athena. Although his quest is more difficult that Beowulf's, he enjoys the kind of divine protection that the noble Geat simply doesn't have. In any case, the most important thing is that both Beowulf and Odysseus are held up as examples of how warriors in their respective societies should conduct themselves. Neither man shrinks from a challenge, no matter how difficult, no matter how high the odds are stacked against him. And ultimately, that's what really matters.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write7,057 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Homer's Odyssey recounts the story of  the return of Odysseus from the Trojan war. Although the story of Odysseus himself is fictional, the Trojan war actually was a real conflict that occurred in approximately 1200 BC. Stories about the conflict between the Mycenaean Greeks and the Trojans were handed down orally for several centuries, finally achieving their present form and being written down in approximately the eighth century BC. The Odyssey was written down in an archaic form of classical Greek known as Homeric Greek.

Beowulf describes events that took place in Scandinavia in the late fifth century AD, approximately 1700 years after the Trojan War and approximately 1200 miles to the northwest. The sole surviving manuscript of Beowulf dates to approximately 1000 AD. It is written in Old English.

Both poems are heroic tales, recounting the adventures of great warriors seen as worthy role models by their respective cultures.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial