What are some examples of Beowulf being a good hero in Beowulf?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Isn't every hero a good hero?  That being the case, I think, here are a few ways Beowulf is a hero:

  1. He is self-less.  Beowulf crosses the waters to go help someone he's never met and has no real connection to but is in need.  It's simple--he knows he can help, so he does.
  2. He is brave.  When he faces all three monsters in this epic, he does so fearlessly.
  3. He is honorable.  He takes on Grendel without any weapons because that's how Grendel fights.  Hard to believe he feels a sense of honor even when fighting a monster that has no remorse about killing himans on a regular basis. But he does.
  4. He is quick to give others honor.  Despite his rather, shall we say, strong sense of his own accomplishments, Beowulf still honors others.  He mourns for the soldier he lost, he honors Hygelac with some of the treasure he received from Hrothgar, and he is even gracious to the man who insulted him, Unferth.

This should get you started.  Think of all the heroic figures in real life, in TV and movies, as well as the classic comic book heroes such as Superman; then make a list of all their positive traits.  Bet you'll find even more heroic characteristics for Beowulf.  Happy searching!

sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I don't think that the question is asking about Beowulf being a good hero in regards to his moral integrity.  I think the question is asking how Beowulf is a good example of a hero.  

Beowulf is a traditional Anglo-Saxon hero, and he perfectly embodies the characteristics that most people associate with heroes.  Most modern day heroes are carbon cut copies of Beowulf.  The question could have asked about Captain America, and my answer and examples wouldn't change much.  

First, a "good" hero has to look the part.  He or she has to look heroic.  What does that look like?  In Beowulf's time, and today, hero characters are generally good looking, young, white males.  They also tend to be quite muscular.  Those traits help the hero look like a warrior.  Early in the poem, Beowulf is journeying to see Hrothgar.  Beowulf is stopped by a guard that demands to know Beowulf's purpose.  The guard comments on Beowulf's commanding physical presence.  

"Nor have I seen

A mightier man-at-arms on this earth

Than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken,

He is truly noble.  This is no mere                             

Hanger-on in a hero’s armour."

As for Beowulf's muscles, I believe that having the strength of 30 men counts as being full of muscles.  

"Who valuable gift-gems of the Geatmen carried

As peace-offering thither, that he thirty men’s grapple

Has in his hand, the hero-in-battle."

Further evidence of Beowulf's massive strength is the fact that he rips off Grendel's arms.  

Heroes are typically brave, and Beowulf is a good example of that.  He chooses to fight Grendel, and Grendel is terrifying.  Grendel is described as being a demon possessed thing that eats humans, and no warrior has been able to stop Grendel; however, Beowulf is confident that he will be victorious.  

Another trait of most good and liked heroes is the fact that they tend to remain humble.  They are humble despite all of their heroic deeds and good looks.  This trait also applies to Beowulf.  He might be supremely confident in his abilities, but he doesn't abuse that power.  For example, Beowulf is offered the Danish throne and immense riches.  He's offered fame, fortune, and power, but Beowulf turns it down.  He turns in down and returns home the same way that he left. 

Sources:

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