What does it mean to be a hero or monster in Beowulf?

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The examples of heroes and monsters in Beowulf are clearly laid out by the author to have distinctive characteristics. Heroes, specifically Beowulf, exemplify the ultimate Anglo-Saxon warrior and hero because of their strength, courage, and desire for fame. When facing Grendel, for example, Beowulf is able to match the monster’s strength even though the reader is told earlier that Grendel has strength far superior to that of a human. Beowulf’s courage paired with his desire for renown is demonstrated when he asks to fight Grendel alone, even though others offer their help. He shows this same brave determination in his other battles, as well. Beowulf is self-sacrificing on several occasions when facing various monsters throughout the course of his lifetime as shown in the text, which would be another typical characteristic of a hero.

The most-discussed monsters in the text are Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. There are a couple of stark similarities between these foes. The first comparison is that all three have supernatural power. The second is that they are cast out from human society. The third is that all three are described to be enemies of God, which this implies that the “hero” figure, or Beowulf, must be on the side of God.

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