The epic of Beowulf illustrates the characteristics the Anglo-Saxons desired in their leaders. As the protagonist of the epic, Beowulf possess all of the traits the Anglo-Saxons embraced.
Beowulf was a polished speaker, a great warrior and leader, brave, strong, desired to help others, and noble. His battle speeches excite and band together his men. He has proven to be a great warrior based upon his multiple victories over foes of equal or greater strength than he. He leads his men without fear across great expanses of water. He refuses to leave Hrothgar's lands until evil has been defeated.
Time and time again, Beowulf proves the worthiness of his name, his ancestry, and his rise to king.
'Beowulf' is a hero of an Anglo Saxon Epic in dignified rhythmic narrative of a momentous theme of action fulfilled by heroic characters and supernatural agencies under the control of sovereign destiny.
The story has it that Beowulf sails to Denmark with a band of heroes and rids the Danish King, Hrothgar, of a dreadful monster- Grendel. Beowulf meets the monster face to face and after a terrible fight wounds him to his death. The monster's mother seeks vengeance for the death of her son. Beowulf has to descend into chill and dark waters to find her. After a harrowing combat with the she-monster, Beowulf puts her to death. Beowulf fittingly feasted and rewarded, returns to his native land. He becomes king of Geates and after a reign of fifty years, slays a dragon which had ravaged his land, but in the fight he himself receives a mortal wound. The poem in more than three thousand lines concludes with the funeral of the hero, Beowulf.
Bewoulf, as a hero has all the characteristics of an epic hero.
- He has high birth and noble lineage.
- His life is full of action and ups and downs.
- He dies at the end of the story.
- He has supernatural powers to kill monsters and demons.
However, some critics have objected Beowulf's claim as a true epic poetry. S. A. Brooke says, "It has been called an epic, but it is a narrative rather thanepic poetry." It is also unequal in texture as the early part is superior to the latter.
Though Beowulf lacks a few attributes of an epic, it is still ranked as an epic poem. Inspite of its separate adventure, the poem constitutes an artistic literary whole and this unity is provided by the character of the hero- Beowulf. He is the same in soul, after fifty years, that he was when young. The epic hero is always a fighter, a soldier in some good cause.
Beowulf is not a war of heroes with other heroes, it is a conflict of man with powers hostile to man.