Beowulf as Heroic Archetype
Monsters, their mothers, and dragons! The epic poem Beowulf, author unknown, includes all these mystical creatures and an impervious protagonist after which the poem is named. As the main character in the poem, Beowulf exemplifies the heroic archetype physically, spiritually, and ethically.
Beowulf is superior to the average person in many areas, among them physical strength. Throughout the poem, Beowulf accomplishes feats that no other man would be able to survive and proves his boundless might. Beowulf is described to Hrothgar, king of the Danes, by a messenger as "...a mighty warrior, powerful and wise" (line 370). Beowulf himself challenges the insults of Unferth by saying, "...no strength is a match for mine" (line 534). Also, Beowulf tells Hrothgar and his company of a time when he had to face several sea monsters in the dark by himself, and still managed to kill them and swim to shore:
...nine was the number
Of sea-huge monsters I killed. What man,
Anywhere under Heaven's high arch, has
fought In such darkness, endured more misery or been
harder Pressed? (lines 574-578).
Furthermore, even Grendel, the evil monster who preys on the Danes, is struck with fear from the moment he meets Beowulf and realizes his great strength. Upon entering the Danes' hall, Herot, Grendel is confronted by Beowulf, who immediately seizes Grendel's arms and drives fear into the monster's heart, "... [Grendel] knew at once that nowhere on earth/ Had he met a man whose hands were harder..." (lines 751-752). Through his slaughter of Grendel, Grendel's mom, the dragon, and other monsters, Beowulf proves his amazing strength to the other characters and to the readers.
Beowulf also appears to be very religious and, unlike other proud warriors, he always puts his faith in God and gives Him the credit of his victories. Before facing Grendel, Beowulf exclaims to the others in the hall, "... Let God in his wisdom/ Extend his hand where he wills, reward/ Whom he chooses" (lines 685-687). In addition, after his fight with Grendel's...