Beowulf is absolutely a hero, for he meets all of the standards: valor, loyalty, courage, skill, generosity, honor, selflessness, and wisdom. My class held a lively discussion about Beowulf's boasts: narcissistic conceits or statements of fact? The story of the sea monsters didn't come out until Unferth challenged Beowulf's abilities, so really it becomes more of a resume than a boast. Beowulf's purpose in talking about his adventures was not to glorify himself, but rather to illustrate his capabilities.
The other item that came out of the class discussion: Is it bragging if he can back it up with action? We had great fun with that concept--especially when we compared it to some of the boasts made my modern sports "heroes."
I definitely believe that Beowulf can be considered a hero because he saved Hrothgar's kingdom from Grendel and his mother. He was strong, brave, and intelligent.
I agree with amy-lepore that Beowulf was arrogant and conceited. He had a huge chip on his shoulder and this caused problems for him.
In terms of the epic hero, yes. He is the epitome of what his people believe in--loyal to family and friends, brave, a good leader. He is larger than life--his conquests prove this...sea monsters, Grendel, the dragon. He is strong, honorable, and does what he says he is going to do. He does choose not to use anything but his bare hands to fight Grendel since the creature is also unarmed.
On the other hand, he brags a lot. Consider that in Anglo-Saxon times, not everyone was a Christian. The people believed that everlasting life was possible, but through fame. In order to achieve fame, one must do amazing deeds and these deeds must be publicized. Thus, bragging and being good friends with the traveling storytellers known as scops or bards were necessary.
So, based on this information, you will need to determine if you think Beowulf is a hero or not.
Beowulf meets the definition of an archetypal hero in that he is favored by or even partially descended from deities, but aligned more closely with mortal figures. He participates in a quest, faces adversaries that try to defeat him in his journey, gathers allies along his journey, and returns home significantly transformed by his journey. Epic heroes have superpowers and they are brave and protect their friends, families, and countries.
yes yes YES! beowulf put himself in harms way to protect and serve many times over. (reguarding the post above) sure, he brags alot however, would you not? defeating the undefetable deservese a healthy round of applause. (in all modesty).. modesty is bologny. if what you are bragging about is, in all truth fact, then it is not bragging but simply is. in my opinion without his arrogance and strong spirited character he would not be beowulf, hero to all in hrothgar's kingdom.