Beowulf and Sir Gawain
English middle age literature, beside others, contains epic poems. Back in early literature, there were two great epic poems that became the fundamental format for future works. Between the most famous, for sure are this two:
Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
To understand the time that this two poems consider, the setting they took place, the characters and the differences between the characters, we have to understand the main idea of heroes, as they has been accepted at their time.
What makes a person a hero? His strength? His moral? Is a hero always a hero, or heroes could be switched? Heroes appeared continually in literature throughout the history. An epic hero is a character in community in which the poem was written. Is a hero a single person with the strength and qualities that put him above the whole community or perhaps above the whole world?
Also, is it that there must be a big manifestation to make a person a hero?
I think that a hero can be much more than these main characteristics.
A hero is a person who calls forth respect from others.
In this two epic poems, Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf is much like Sir Gawain, but the time that the two poems are written give them both unique characteristics. The narrative poem of the epic Scandinavian hero from the 6th century, Beowulf magnificent shows us the Anglo Saxon period.
During the one of the most turbulent periods of the English history, Anglo Saxon culture was a warrior culture, forceful, violence, and very often brutal and cruel.
They were introduced to Christianity and turned off their pagan ideals and believes in different gods and monsters. Beowulf is a model-role of Anglo Saxon values. He was celebrated because of his strength, victories and allegiance. Beowulf thanks god for his victories, but he does his workings because of the glory he gets.
The idea of hero is changing from generation to generation, fulfilling the needs that occur because of the change of the society. But also Beowulf strengths which leads him into the battles is the need to save the Danish people and defend everything good in the world from evil, a real Christian concept.
God has to choose whom to give right to rule.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight also had some pagan characteristics, so is for e.g.: the mentioning of the magic the Green Knight use in the moment he is entering the hall.
Both, Beowulf and Sir Gawain are fighting against the evil in their time, although they fight in very different ways.
During the establishing of the middle age, the epic hero is turning into a very pragmatic character, also his motivation.
Somehow the epic heroes became very believable characters, also the evil epic characters does. Every antiheroic figure is also representing his present time. Grendel is in Beowulf a horrible monster, monsters show pagan believes. Meanwhile Sir Gawain is fighting against the Green Knight, building up a story, which is far more believable. Sir Gawain follows the Code of Chivalry (Christian moral code), respecting the king, admiring the court ladies from distance and fighting honorable.
However, the story is based on Christian believes and consume for e.g. Christmas.
How Anglo Saxon time goes slowly into the Middle Age, characteristics and motivations are changing. The concept of a hero suffered from drastic changes during the time.
We can see clearly the differences that had occurred from the time when Beowulf was written until the time Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written. Although we consider both of them, Beowulf and Sir Gawain as heroes, they were both fundamental different characters questioning their personality, possibility and perspective.