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The English Epic Hero

Uploaded by Jeremeamia on Aug 18, 2002

In folktales, legends, mythology, and even the Bible, people are told stories of men with unimaginable strength. They perform heroic feats and give service to the people they love. In the Old English epic of Beowulf, by an unknown author, people are enlightened of another such hero. Beowulf, the main character of the epic, is very much an epic hero. Epic heroes are defined according to many parameters, but the two that most apply to Beowulf are supernatural powers and weapons and obstacles or heroic actions.

Throughout the story, there is evidence of Beowulf’s astounding strength and “war-gear”. When Beowulf arrives at Heorot, the narrator describes him by saying, “Of living men he was the strongest, / Fearless and gallant and great of heart” (132-133). This passage articulates that Beowulf is stronger than any other man, and that his strength is supernatural. Later it also states that he has the “hand-grip” of thirty men. His strength is like many other famous legends like Hercules and Samson. They were heroes and Beowulf is no different from them. Beowulf receives many special weapons to aid him. During the battle with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf discovers a sword among the extra gear. The narrator says, “Saw mid the war-gear a stately sword, / An ancient war-brand of biting edge, / Choicest of weapons worthy and strong, / The work of giants, a warrior’s joy” (1046-1049). This mysterious weapon proves that Beowulf is an epic hero. It is conveniently there for him when he needs it most, and Fate, or God, often favors the hero of a story. It is also the only sword or weapon that will even harm the Troll-Wife. Beowulf is also aided by his chain mail armor. The narrator describes the scene when he says, “Swift she grappled and grasped the warrior / With horrid grip, but could work no harm, / No hurt to his body; the ring-locked byrny / Cloaked his life from her clutching claw; / Nor could she tear through the tempered mail” (996-1000). It never states for a fact that his armor is enchanted in anyway, but it does withstand the powerful grip of the Troll-Wife. Every hero needs protection and Beowulf has the best possible. The armor that Beowulf wears enables him to gain the advantage in the battle. Beowulf’s strength and weapons indicate that he is a true hero.

Beowulf has to confront many obstacles and...

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Uploaded by:   Jeremeamia

Date:   08/18/2002

Category:   Beowulf

Length:   3 pages (781 words)

Views:   2090

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