Beowulf: an Ideal Hero or Not
The real definition of an ideal hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character”. In the story of Beowulf, we clearly have a distinction between good and evil, which means that the story has a hero and a villain, but does the hero of the story has all the traits that an ideal hero is required to have?
The short answer to this question is Yes. Beowulf is strong and courageous, and loyal. Once he makes a vow he would stick to that vow and not go against his words even if it leads him to death. Beowulf battled against monsters – Grendel, Grendel’s mother, Dragon- to save people that weren’t even from his own tribe, he did it because he had a good heart and wanted to help the most people as he could.
Beowulf has everything to be considered perfect, a true hero, however, Beowulf had a weakness. Beowulf’s ego and overconfidence made him battle against the monsters all by himself, he didn’t want help because he thought that he was great and could do it by himself. His ego and overconfidence make me wonder if he was actually a true hero, if he was battling because he was kind and wanted to save those people or if he was only battling for fame and to be remembered.
If Beowulf really wanted only the fame and recognition, his role as an ideal hero is over. A true hero doesn’t care about fame and recognition, they help people that need help because they love helping people. In the fight against Grendel, Beowulf let one of his own men die so he could see how was Grendel’s attack. In the fight against Grendel’s mother, his decision of fighting her without any weapon was selfish and unneeded. Lastly, his decision of facing the dragon by himself, when he was old and had a whole army to fight for him, was idiotic and unnecessary.
But, if Beowulf isn’t an Ideal hero, what is he? Beowulf could be considered as a tragic hero that by definition means “a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat.” Even with his heroic traits that earned our sympathy, his selfishness, overconfidence, and desire to be a hero led him to an inevitable end, the death.
However, whether being an ideal hero or not, it is undeniable that Beowulf – being the first hero in English literature-served as an inspiration for many modern heroes like Superman, Batman. Some similarities can be found within these 3 heroes, Beowulf wanted to bring order and stability to Heorot, while Superman also wants to bring order and stability to Metropolis and Batman to Gotham city. Also, another similarity is that all of their antagonists represents sins, Grendel representing lust, Grendel’s mother representing wrath and the dragon representing greed. These are three sins that still happens a lot in our society and because of that our modern heroes still fight against.
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