Beowulf as Epic Hero
Epic heroes usually exemplify the character traits most admired in their societies, and Beowulf is no exception. "Beowulf" is set in the Anglo-Saxon society, a time when war was rampant among the many peoples trying to take over the different kingdoms of England. In this dangerous, violent time people lived in constant peril and jeopardy. These conditions only allowed people of great bravery to survive and men of outstanding courage were admired the populous. These warriors fought for their leader and tribe in return for treasure and protection. This relationship between the lord and his men was the basis of the Anglo-Saxon society. The epic poem "Beowulf" is a perfect example of how this system worked in these trying times.
The warrior in the Anglo-Saxon civilization had many duties to fulfill. He was obligated to respect and protect his lord as well as defend his lord's honor. The demonstration of personal valor was also very important in these times. Beowulf is "Higlac's Follower" and works to please his lord. He is afraid that "My lord Higlac / Might think less of me" (l 191-192) if he uses weapons in battle. Not only does Beowulf work to please his lord, but he also works to protect Hrothgar, the lord of the Danes. As the poem shows, when
In his far-off home Beowulf...(l 131)
Heard how Grendel filled nights with horror
And quickly commanded a boat fitted out,
Proclaiming that he'd go to that famous king,
Would sail across the sea to Hrothgar (l 134-137).
Beowulf is going out of his way, "across the sea" to help a lord whom he is not obligated to. He is doing so out of choice to show his respect for Hrothgar, and to help the poor people threatened by Grendel.
Great personal valor is a necessity for a warrior. Beowulf shows such bravery in his battle with Grendel by saying, "I have heard / Too, that the monster's scorn of men / Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none. / Nor will I" (l 188-191). His saying this makes it evident to Hrothgar that he refuses to use weapons against this unarmed monster. Beowulf is also brave enough to battle a fire dragon which ultimately leads to his demise. Yet, Beowulf never let his own accomplishments exceed the praise of his lord. "But no one meant Beowulf's praise to belittle / Hrothgar, their fine and gracious king!" (l 514-515) Just as Beowulf defends his king, Beowulf's followers defend him when he challenges Grendel and Grendel's mother. In the battle with Grendel "All of Beowulf's /...