A True Epic Hero
The old English poem Beowulf follows the main character Beowulf and his heroic deeds. Beowulf saves the Danes from a monster named Grendel. He then has to battle Grendels mother who seeks revenge for her son. Beowulf eventually becomes king and dies defending his people from a fire dragon. Beowulf accomplishes his hero cycle through heroic deeds, encounter with numinous phenomenon, and his death, proving he is an ideal hero.
To begin, Beowulf starts off the hero cycle strong by performing heroic deeds leading up to his challenge. He says, A monster seized me, drew me swiftly toward the bottom, swimming with its claws tight in my flesh, but fate let me find its heart with my sword, hack myself free; I fought that beasts last battle, left it floating lifeless in the sea (Beowulf 273-278). Once in a swimming race Beowulf had been attacked by a sea monster and had to save himself. He slew the monster and eight other seas beasts. He also says, I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one; death was my errand and the fate they had earned (Beowulf 176-180). Beowulf uses his past heroic deeds and his confidence to convince Hrothgar why he is a fit opponent for Grendel the monster.
Furthermore; Beowulf reaches his lowest point in the hero cycle when hes faced with three numinous phenomenons. First he encounters Grendel the monster who has been killing the Geats. His quest is to defeat Grendel and save the Geats. Although at first Beowulf appears to be losing the battle he is able to defeat the monster by tearing its arm from its socket. The second phenomenon Beowulf encounter is Grendels mother who desires revenge for her son. King Hrothgar turns to Beowulf and Beowulf decides to fight the monsters mother. He swings his sword at her head, but hrunting has no power against her. At last he overcomes her, and spying a magic sword, clutches it and with one violent stroke cuts off her head (Beowulf). At first when the battle begins Beowulf appears defeated by the monster until he gets hold of a magic sword and cuts the monsters head off. Finally, after years of Beowulf ruling as king of Geatland for many years, his land is destroyed by a fire dragon and he has to fight it. For the third time the dragon charges and fixes its husks in Beowulfs throat. During the battle with the dragon, Beowulf is attacked three times by the dragon and is wounded. Although Beowulf manages to kill the dragon, he dies shortly after from the wound.
Lastly, although Beowulf dies after his last battle, he reaches his highest point in the hero cycle through his death. For ten long days they made his monument, sealed his ashes in walls straight and high as wise and willing hands could raise them, (Beowulf ). After Beowulf dies hes stronger than ever as his name is praised around by the Geats. They build a monument for him as he had requested before he died. They also burry him with all the treasures he won from the dragon as part of fulfilling his last wish. The Geats are left mourning for their king and hero and praising his name. Even though Beowulf isnt physically there to rise to the top, he still manages to do that with all the glory he receives from the Geats after his death.
Beowulf is an epic hero because he completes the three main stages of the heroic cycle. He starts off strong by performing heroic deeds leading up to the big challenge. He then gets weak as he fights numinous phenomenons and finally he finishes off stronger than he was when he started. The Anglo-Saxons have what they consider being an epic hero and Beowulf qualifies to be one. Not only is Beowulf classified as an epic hero by Anglo-Saxons hed also be considered a hero in modern day. In modern day, a hero is someone who does extraordinary things like putting his/her life on the line and thats what Beowulf did for the Danes.
Unknown. "Beowulf."Adventures in English Literature: Athena Edition: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. New York: Austin 1996. 11-29. Print.