Aside from loyalty, bravery, and persistence, what heroic qualities do Sir Gawain and Beowulf have in common?  

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ecofan74 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Both Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight meditate on the qualities most sought after in warriors. Though Beowulf depicts a period approximately eight hundred years earlier than that depicted in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the ideal warrior in each culture share similar characteristics. Most obvious of these characteristics is loyalty, bravery/courage, and persistence, but the similarities between the title characters of the two poems do not end with these.

Aside from loyalty, bravery, and persistence, Beowulf and Sir Gawain are both honorable and just characters. Each of them feels bound to the oaths they make, so much so that each of them is willing to risk their lives to uphold them. Sir Gawain takes up the Green Knight’s challenge, and, even after he finds he has been tricked, stands by the oath he makes. He travels to meet the Green Knight at the Green Chapel, a journey that promises only Sir Gawain’s demise. Beowulf comes to Heorot to rid the land of Grendel, a monster with the strength of many men. While he mortally wounds Grendel without too much difficulty, he upholds the larger meaning of his oath; he gives an oath to defend Heorot, and he continues to do so until the threat is no more.

When Beowulf and his men seize the gold-hoard, he makes a concerted effort to dispense the content of the hoard among his men, knowing it to be the right thing to do. He acknowledges the role that his men played in his success. Showing this kind of generosity and being a just and fair commander ensured the loyalty of his men, and Beowulf realizes that his men are largely responsible for the renown that he himself enjoys. When the Green Knight rides into Camelot and challenges the knights to his game, King Arthur chooses to accept the challenge, but Sir Gawain takes up the game in his place. Recognized as the most valiant knight among Arthur’s court, Sir Gawain puts the honor of Camelot before his own. This kind of selflessness is reminiscent of Beowulf’s agreeing to come to Heorot and fight Grendel. While Beowulf’s honor certainly increases from his battles with Grendel and Grendel’s mother, it shows a sense of selflessness on his part to come to the defense of another.

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