What are important characteristics within Beowulf that make Beowulf an epic hero?

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Some of Beowulf’s most important traits as an epic hero include bravery, loyalty, honor, superhuman physical strength, and the willingness to risk his life for the greater good. These characteristics are exemplified in Beowulf’s epic deeds, including slaying Grendel and Grendel’s mother. Beowulf later also demonstrates the epic trait of being a just ruler of his people, the Geats, and sacrificing his life to slay the dragon that threatens them.


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Beowulf embodies several traits that make him a textbook epic hero. Some of these traits include his larger-than-life physical strength, his courage in the face of extreme danger, and his loyalty to both his superiors and the men who serve him.

An epic hero is not perfect or immortal, but he is a sort of superhuman. He is larger-than-life in the sense that his qualities exceed those of regular humans. For example, an epic hero will have extraordinary strength. Beowulf displays this best when he fights Grendel and rips his arm from his body. Grendel is an imposing beast who has already easily...

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Beowulf is considered an epic hero because he performs impressive superhuman feats that have won the admiration of his peers. By traveling to Heorot in the land of the Danes, Beowulf, a Geat, has left his home to slay Grendel, a seemingly unstoppable monster. Hrothgar calls upon Beowulf for aid because no other man can stop Grendel – Beowulf’s reserves of immense strength, agility, durability, and willpower distinguish him from other men, and it is these distinctions that make Beowulf an epic hero. For without such abilities, Beowulf would be unfit to maim Grendel with his bare hands, swim down a lake to reach the lair of Grendel’s Mother, and slay the dragon that ultimately kills him in return.

Bear in mind, however, that one does not need to be a moral exemplar to be an epic hero. Beowulf is only considered an epic hero because of his ability to rise to certain challenges that regular humans cannot endure (although Beowulf, like any epic hero, can still die or be killed). Though Beowulf comes to Heorot out of gratitude for a favor Hrothgar completed for his father, Beowulf’s motivations hardly influence his status as an epic hero – had he been altruistic or fame-hungry before slaying Grendel, Beowulf would have been considered an epic hero all the same. Before modern notions of heroism emerged in contemporary storytelling, a hero was more defined by deed than by character.