Beowulf Essay Example: The Epic Tale of an Anglo-Saxon Hero
Beowulf is classified as an epic poem. Epic poems are a long narrative poem that contains a series of adventures that are essential to the development of a nation or race. Beowulf was first written between the 8th and 11th centuries by monks. The story made its way to the British Isles (England and Ireland) by word of mouth (similar to how Beowulf found out about Grendel). Anglo-Saxons regarded their heroes as standards to live by. Beowulf is one example of an Anglo-Saxon hero. Throughout the epic, Beowulf exemplifies himself as this through his great strength, his leadership, and his courage/bravery.
The first characteristic of an Anglo-Saxon hero that Beowulf portrays is his great strength. A perfect example of Beowulf’s great strength is the battle against Grendel. During the battle, Grendel barges into Herot Hall, hoping to kill. Beowulf watches him intently as Grendel snatches the first Geat he sees and devours him. Grendel then clutches Beowulf with his claws. Beowulf overcomes Grendel’s grasp, where Grendel discovers Beowulf’s great strength. Never had Grendel “met a man whose hands were harder”(327). Grendel becomes terrified like a cornered animal; “Grendel’s one thought was to run”(330). Beowulf then defeats Grendel by ripping off his arm. Another example of Beowulf’s strength is how he rids Herot of Grendel using only his bare hands: “[h]e needs no weapons and fears none / Nor will I” (263-264). Beowulf wants to slay the monster, but more importantly, he wants to gain glory for himself and King Hrothgar. The last example of Beowulf’s showing great strength is the last battle. It has been fifty years since Beowulf has defeated Grendel and Grendel’s mother. Despite Beowulf’s age, he is willing to fight for his kingdom: “I am old now / But I will fight again” (625-626). Beowulf shows great strength of an Anglo-Saxon hero.
Another essential element of an Anglo-Saxon hero that portrays Beowulf is leadership. One example of Beowulf being a leader is how he made alliances with the Danes. Even though the Danes do not want to; “On the Danes, keeping the bloody feud / Alive, seeking no peace” (68-69). Beowulf is also a leader by defending his people. He defeated Grendel for his people: “My duty was to go to the Danes’ Great king” (245). Beowulf’s last example of leadership would come with his decision to fight with the fire dragon. Many people thought he should not, because of his age. But ultimately, he decided to fight the dragon for his people: “ I am old, now / But I will fight again” (625-626). Beowulf shows leadership of an Anglo-Saxon hero and is well defined by his actions.
The last characteristic of an Anglo-Saxon hero that portrays Beowulf is his bravery. Beowulf came to help Hrothgar on his own free will. Hearing of the nights of horror and his mead hall. Beowulf bravely offered his help; “Now when help was needed, None / Of the wise ones regretted his going” (116-117). Beowulf did not ask anything in return for his bravery. Also, Beowulf is called upon to rid mead hall of Grendel the monster, who has been on a rampage for the past twelve years. He lets it be known that he will do it with his bare hands:
The monster’s scorn of men
Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none
Nor will I. (262-264)
Beowulf then announces to all who will listen that he will only use his strength and bravery to defeat Grendel. Beowulf’s acts of bravery and feats of strength are the mark of a true Anglo-Saxon hero.
In conclusion, Beowulf exhibits all the great qualities of an Anglo-Saxon hero. Beowulf shows his great strength by defending his city from the monsters: he is very significant and glorified by others. Beowulf never hesitates to put himself in danger for others. Through all of his grand quests he did nothing but prove to others that he truly is an Anglo-Saxon hero.