Understanding a Real Hero On The Example Of Beowulf Legend
Webster defines a hero as “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability”. This definition perfectly exemplifies what makes Beowulf the greatest hero of the three stories we read about. While Gawain and Olaf both have their own special heroic traits, neither of them live up to the true meaning of being a hero. His legend includes defeating Grendel to killing the mother of the original beast, further showing Beowulf’s commitment to defending the people of Herot and his loyalty to the great King Hrothgar. His bravery, honor and superhuman strength made him the greatest hero the Danes had ever seen.
Beowulf’s first encounter with the Danish people is with the horseman of Hrothgar in which he gives a speech on where the great Geats have come from and why they must meet with the King, claiming he will be the one to finally end Grendel’s reign of terror. After meeting with Hrothgar, he waits in Herot for Grendel to strike and when he does, uses nothing but his bare hands to slay the beast. This act of hand to hand combat was cockiness coming from Beowulf, but also the desire to make his name more remembered as the man who defeated Grendel with nothing but his hands. This bravery against a monster that had killed Hrothgar’s best warriors showed that Beowulf truly had no fear against any being. His undying loyalty to Hygelac, his King as well as his uncle, is also evidence as to why he is the noblest of all heroes.
Despite his new home in Denmark, he keeps his loyalty alive by serving Hrothgar for years, as his uncle had wanted him to do. Beowulf most clearly fits the hero demographic best out of the three characters because with his incredible strength and his will to do good, it makes nearly anything possible for the powerful warrior. In the original story Beowulf is described as superhuman “with the strength of thirty In the grip of each hand”. This power gives him an insane advantage against any foe, one that Gawain and Olaf simply do not have. Gawain is heroic because of his loyalty to King Arthur and willingness to lay down his own life to save the honor of his ruler. Although Gawain does this for honor, this does not necessarily make him a hero. The situation he was put in was clear that he must be the one to act as an exchanging of ax blows to the neck should result in the Green Knight’s death, which doesn’t show much evidence of his loyalty as there should be little to no risk. Beowulf however, shows great loyalty multiple times. The first is shortly after Grendel’s death in which the mother of the monster returns for revenge, killing without any regret.
Later Beowulf goes to her cave and is nearly killed, but the hero prevails winning the battle. Following the fight Beowulf returns to Hygelac saying “Given full measure and the freedom to choose From Hrothgar’s treasures by Hrothgar himself. These, King Hygelac, I am happy to present To you as gifts”. This great present from Beowulf to his uncle shows just how loyal he remained to his true king proving his loyalty to his King is extremely strong. 50 years after he is crowned King a new foe arises as a dragon attacks, killing many of Beowulf’s people. Despite being an old man Beowulf concludes he must fight the dragon showing loyalty to his people, and in the end giving his own life for them. Olaf is a hero because of his unwillingness to back down from his own opinion that differed from that of his peers. This may be a more updated version of what a hero appears to be, but this does not meet the true definition of what a hero really is. In his story, Olaf refuses to fight back against the men torturing him, showing loyalty to his cause. His bravery for not fighting back is clear, but at what cost does it come. Olaf’s sacrifice virtually does nothing without Edward Cummings writing about what happens to the formerly reluctant and now. Deceased soldier. Without a platform, Olaf’s death is meaningless, making him somewhat of a hero, but not one that the people that support him need.
On the other hand, Beowulf is sure his tales of bravery are recorded by fighting Grendel with his bear hands. This story can be used as an incentive for young warriors to have someone to look up to and aspire to be just like the man that saved Herot time and time again. Through many difficult challenges, Beowulf prevailed through each of them building his legend as a hero. Gawain is a hero because of his willingness to sacrifice himself in exchange for the honor of his king. Beowulf of course matched this loyalty from the injuries he sustained during combat against the dragon, leading up to his death. Olaf is a hero because he gave up his life for a cause he believed in, with Beowulf matching this be also giving up his life as well as inspiring others to become warriors and to do good. Knowing that he could save others, he helped those he was not required to help, using his powers as a way of assisting those in need. Overall, Beowulf is a great hero because of his natural strength, loyalty and bravery which the other two do not fully possess.
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