Beowulf – A Hero Of Ancient Scandinavia
While life was harsh and bleak in Scandinavia during the Dark Ages, people were much the same as today and the stories they told then are, in essence, the same as the ones we tell today. In modern America everyone knows that Batman guards Gotham City and fights the villains therein. Like Batman, Beowulf is the superhero of ancient Scandinavia, who battles with monsters and dragons. Beowulf is an epic hero, whose story is uplifting and cathartic to its audience.
Beowulf, the dauntless warrior, wise advisor, and great king is truly unlike any real person; he is even unique among epic heroes. He’s not a relatable character, nor is he supposed to be. He is designed to be a perfect person who can beat any enemy. He can fight dragons with only a sword and shield, sea monsters with only a dagger, dive for hours to reach the bottom of a lake. Unlike other epic heroes, his personal flaws are not detailed. His hardships are not of his own. Unlike Hercules attempting to right the wrongs of his past, Beowulf is simply saving others, because they are helpless without him.
Although Beowulf is not a relatable character, the story was tailored to suit its audience. The settings of stories have to be relatable or no one will want to hear them. The original story of Beowulf is a pagan tale, but when written down in 1000 AD by a Christian monk the story was adapted to appeal to a christian audience. Beowulf’s motivations and actions stem from his pagan values, displaying the dismembered arm and head of Grendel, his obsession with the treasure of the dragon, and his boastful nature are but a few of his non-christian behaviors. But when written by a christian author, who didn’t want to change the actions of the hero, we see Beowulf give credit to God for many of his successes. This adaption allows the story to relate to audiences over time.
The timeless tale of Beowulf was important to its ancient culture, because more than anything else it was cathartic. Life was difficult, if not grueling, for these people. Defeat was common. Against all challenges, Beowulf was victorious. Beowulf could be killed only by a dragon, which also died. Even in this, his last battle, Beowulf remained the victor for he rid his people of any future threat from the dragon and was able to feast his eyes upon the dragon’s bountiful treasure during his last moments on earth.
Beowulf is the classic epic narrative with a larger than life protagonist, whose opposition is evil itself. His actions display the values of the people he represents and his endless success and bravery are the ideals of people throughout time. He faces adversity with valor and conviction which lead him to a life of honor and glory even beyond death.
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