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An epic tradition is customarily centered around larger-than-life men who are capable of great deeds of strength and courage. These individuals seek immortality by their deeds. They are national heros and great warriors. Beowulf is a narrative poem which justifies the ideal man of a heroic age.

The epic heros were generally born with great strength and able to overcome impossible feats. The hero, Beowulf, embodies every aspect of the typical epic hero. He is able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. His leadership skills are superb. He enters a land that has been plagued by a monster for years looking to save the nation and be remembered as a hero. He is boastful and proud. His accomplishments throughout his lifetime have surpassed anything a normal person could ever realize. He has fought many battles and returned victorious from all but his last. He is renowned for legendary and humanly impossible feats of strength and prowess.

Beowulf first establishes his reputation as hero by going against the monster, Grendel, unarmed.

I have heard moreover that the monster scorns

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In his reckless way to use weapons;

therefore, to heighten Hygelac’s fame

and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce

sword and the shelter of the broad shield,

the heavy war-board hand-to-hand

is how it will be, a life-and-death

fight with the fiend. (41)

Beowulf defeats Grendel in true heroic fashion. He uses his unimaginable strength and rips the arm from the hideous monster. Grendel then runs to his lair where he will die.

Beowulf has saved the nation from evil. There are celebrations which are common during the heroic age. One of the favorite pastimes of the nobility in heroic ages in different times and places has been to gather in banquet halls to hear heroic songs, in praise of famous deeds sung by professional singers as well as by the warriors themselves. Heroic songs also were often sung before a battle, and such recitations had tremendous effect on the morale of the combatants.

Beowulf’s celebrations are short lived. There is news of another monster attacking the land. Beowulf accepts the challenge, and sets off to defeat yet another threat. He again places the people’s interest before his own. Beowulf risks his own life for the Danes, asking help from no one. He realizes the dangers but fears nothing for his own life. Beowulf will face Grendel’s mother during this battle. She has come to revenge her son’s death and to take back the arm that Beowulf has proudly displayed in the hall. “Beowulf got ready, donned his war gear, indifferent to death; his mighty, hand-forged, fine webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater. It would keep the bone-cage of his body safe no enemy’s clasp could crush him in it . . . ”(64). Beowulf realizes that he could not fight every battle unarmed. The people of the nation still respect him for what he is able to do.

Defeating both Grendel and Grendel’s mother, the hero has gained immortal glory and proven his worthiness for others. He becomes King of the Geats and reigns for fifty years before he battles one last time. Even at an older age the hero will overcome great odds. He defeats the dragon, but in battle he received a fatal wound. “Then the wound dealt by the ground-burner earlier began to scald and swell; Beowulf discovered deadly poison suppurating inside him, surges of nausea, and so, in his wisdom, the prince realized his state . . . ”(0). Even in death Beowulf wishes to secure safety for the people of the land.

All throughout the epic, Beowulf is faced with many challenges. He boldly lives up to his name, but never once does he fear death. He always explains his death wishes before going into battle and requests to have any assets delivered to his people. If this combat kills me, take care of my young company, my comrades in arms. And be sure also, my beloved Hrothgar, to send Hygelac the treasures I have received ” (65). He is aware of the heroic paradox; he will be glorified in life or death for his actions. He knows that when he fights an enemy like Grendel or Grendels mother he will achieve immortality as the victor or the loser.

Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, said

“I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea.

As I sat in the boat with my band of men,

I meant to perform to the uttermost

what your people wanted or perish in the attempt,

in the fiend’s clutches. And I shall fulfill that purpose,

prove myself with a proud deed

or meet my death here in the mead-hall.” (45).

Even with the enormous amount of confidence Beowulf possesses, he understands that Fate or Wyrd will work its magic no matter what and he could be killed at any point in his life. He faces that reality by showing no fear and preparing for a positive or a fatal outcome.


Beowulf is the prime example of an epic hero tradition. The bravery and strength that Beowulf exhibits surpass all mortal men; loyalty and the ability to think of himself last makes him respected by all. He set a noble example for all human beings relaying the necessity of brotherhood and friendship.

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