Beowulf: Anglo-Saxon Hero

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Beowulf: Anglo-Saxon Hero In most instances, a hero is a person who is distinguished for valor, fortitude or bold enterprise. A hero is regarded as having displayed great courage and exceptionally noble qualities like a policeman or firefighter. To others, a hero could also be an individual with unbelievable supernatural powers shielding the city from evil. Either way it is apparent that the definition of a “hero” has been altered throughout time. Even the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has immensely different definitions for the word, such as “a mythological figure, often of divine descent, endowed with great strength or ability” or simply “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities.” The poem Beowulf portrays the main character, Beowulf, as an exemplar hero in Anglo-Saxon times. He was courageous, proud, and valiant in battle. While the Anglo-Saxon ideals of heroism set forth in Beowulf have many superficial similarities to those of modern times, there are many subtler differences that show how the concept of heroism has evolved over time. In every time period, courage and bravery have been key characteristics a hero must possess. Throughout the entire poem Beowulf sustains these qualities with every monstrous encounter he faces. From the very beginning he triumphs over Grendel using merely his bare hands, then chops off the head of Grendel’s revenged seeking mother, and lastly battles the lethal dragon in his elder days, ultimately resulting in his death. On his way out to face the dragon Beowulf says to another soldier, “This fight is not yours, nor is it up to any man except me… I shall win the gold by my courage, or else mortal combat, doom of battle, will bear your lord away” (“Beowulf,” in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. I, 8th ed. Ed. Greenblatt, et al. [New York: Norton, 2006], p. 87, ll. 2532-37). The author uses words like

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