Beowulf and King Arthur are defined as heroes but for different reasons. Beowulf our earliest hero is brave, but his motivation is different from any other hero. King Arthur the Authority figure of the medieval time period may have rushed home to protect what is rightfully his, but little bravery is involved here. Though several men obtain the special qualities that make them more heroic than others, it is important to see how these qualities are central to their respective stories and how it helps them in their journeys.
The ancient Anglo Saxon legend of Beowulf written by Burton Raffel was based on a hero coming to the rescue of poor little villagers being harassed by a horrible monster by the name of Grendel. That right there gives Beowulf the image that he is some kind of heroic figure with special qualities. Beowulf has super strength and uses his ability for the greater good. Together and Ive come grant me then lord and protector of this noble place a single request have come so far o shelterer of warriors and your people loved friend that this 1 favor you should not refuse me(Raffel 255). This quote is said by the King Hrothgar. After finding 20 of his soldiers killed he finally asks Beowulf for help, and any King going to somebody else for help usually means this situation is out of their control and they are in dire need. Beowulf successfully defeats Grendel but soon to come is Grendels mother and she is not happy with hero Beowulf and is looking for revenge.
Morte d Arthur written by Sir Thomas Malory was a section of the Camelot storyline and is based on the end or death of King Arthur. However the kings attempt to punish Lancelot are halfhearted and he is soon forced to abandon them altogether when he learns that his illegitimate son Mordred has seized control of England. Arthur leads his forces back to England and Mordred attacks them upon their landing. (Malory 176). This quote is explaining Arthurs reason for his troubled thoughts. Upon resting one night Sir Gawain who was just recently killed in battle comes to King Arthur in a dream and explains that if he fights for his kingdom he will die. Realizing this King Arthur decides to fight anyway. That right there is a great Quality of Heroism, knowing you are going to lose but fighting anyways. But King Arthurs Main reason for fighting was to defend what was, so he believed rightfully his.
Beowulf and King Arthur both display many great heroic qualities. Beowulf answered a cry for help while King Arthur fought knowing his death was to come. Which Character do you think should be defined as heroic? Too that the monster scorn of men is so great that he needs no weapon and fears none nor will I (Beowulf 260). That quote right there explains that Beowulf is going to battle his opponent, Grendel with no weapons. This fight is not just some easy win for him. He knows it is going to be a challenge but knowing so even so chooses to fight with no weapons at all. Fighting a worthy opponent with no weapons is a huge example of heroism and honor. It shows that you just do not want to win you want to win fairly. King Arthur in his last desperate attempt to win the battle had 3 warriors and Mordred had 1. Against these odds King Arthur had an advantage. Knowing so he chose to fight anyways but luck was not with him when he had fallen to Mordred last battle strike.
Both Beowulf and King Arthur display many examples of Heroism. But which one takes the cake? Beowulf as a fifty year old man fights a fire breathing dragon. King Arthur with his last breath attempts and succeeds to return the holy sword Excalibur to the place in which he found it from. Both Characters are defined as heroes. Not by the weapon that they possess or the super human strength they have. They are determined as heroes by the decisions and actions they make.
Malory, Sir Thomas. Morte D Arthur. Timeless voices, timeless themes. The British Tradition ed.
New Jersey : Prentice Hall, 2004. 176-84 Print.
Raffell, Burton, Trans. Beowulf. Timeless voices, Timeless themes The British Tradition ed.
New Jersey : prentice Hall, 2004. 39-60. Print