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Beowulf And Sir Gawain: A Comparison Of Two Heroes

1535 words - 6 pages

In Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight there are two heroes that help the present day reader gain insight into what the hero of the Middle Ages would have held as ideals and necessary triumphs. Beowulf and Sir Gawain each fill a different role within their unique societies. Beowulf is a leader and a savior in times of need, willing to go to any length to help another group of people as well as his own kingdom. Sir Gawain is also willing to rise during moments of trouble within his court but lacks the altruism that is inherent in Beowulf's leadership. Although there are many pursuable comparisons within the two tales, the most apparent between the two heroes are that of faith, the men who encouraged them, bravery and the adversaries they both faced.

Although Beowulf has themes of both Christianity and Paganism within the tale, Beowulf has a Christian faith that he often relies upon during his moments of combat. This juxtaposition of Christian faith within Beowulf and the ancestry and demonic characteristics between Grendel and his mother seem to be an intrinsic part of the fight that Beowulf has with each of them. Before the fight with Grendel it is said that Beowulf will win because "Almighty God rules over mankind and always has" suggesting that although Beowulf has the "strength of thirty" it is God rather than Beowulf's strength that will earn a victory over Grendel (46, 40). After Beowulf defeats Grendel's mother it is again attributed to divine strength. When Beowulf is knocked down and was about to be killed by the maternal avenger it is believed that "holy God decided the victory. It was easy for the Lord, the Ruler of Heaven, to redress the balance once Beowulf got back up on his feet" (66). The idea of God having control over one's mortality is also prevalent within Beowulf, leading the present day reader to surmise that common belief at the time was that God predestined death. Beowulf affirms this belief when someone got close to the dragon but didn't die; saying "So may a man not marked by fate easily escape exile and woe by the grace of God" (81). This idea of fate is carried through as Beowulf fights the dragon and dies. "That final day was the first time when Beowulf fought and fate denied him glory in battle" again attributing all his previous successes and his ultimate collapse to the power of God.

Faith is also a prominent figure within Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Gawain's faith in God is shown when he is regularly praying to God for protection and forgiveness before his trip or his challenge with the Green Knight. Sir Gawain is perpetually referencing to God, saying, "as God allows", "by the Lord's decree", and "in God's own name" to give the impression that he truly relies on God for guidance and strength (199-201). Gawain starts to reference to God much more the closer he gets to his face-off with the Green Knight. Finally turning over his fate to God, Gawain prays that "I shall not...

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