Features of A National Hero As Reflected in “Beowulf”

The meat of an epic derives from the violent and social chaos, which is a central conflict often pitting the hero versus an unjust king.

Traditionally the hero is brave; of course, he is almost superhuman in strength, successful in battle, and contemptuous of his wounds – even of death. In addition, the hero is of noble stock, or sometimes he maybe even semi-divine.

Without the mentioned qualities, a man would never be recognized as a hero. Yet, within this traditional context, a hero becomes infinitely more attractive as a literary character when deviating from the usual heroic pattern.

Beowulf’s Philanthropy Makes Him A National Hero

Beowulf holds the position of a national hero for his concern with the national interests for the nation’s sake. He fights some adverse situations and finally faces a mortal wound in the fight with the dragon and dies. Thus he dedicates his life to his people.

Like a national hero, Beowulf has several high qualities, his power of action and suffering. He leads a venturesome rebellion against a man-eating monster called Grendel. He kills Grendel with great success.

Thus we see that Beowulf deserves the quality and symbol of national energy, rebellion, and heroic splendor. Beowulf has fluctuations in his boldness; he is as firm as a mountain and as sharp as a volcano who infuses new energy and hope into the veins of the English people.

Beowulf Shows Greek Heroism And Praiseworthy Masculine Character

As described by the poet, Beowulf has the dignity and splendor of the heroes of national epics. He fights for national prestige and is rewarded and thanked.

As we are acquired with Greek heroic ages through the brave description of their famous heroes, in the same way, Beowulf acquaints us with the manner of that time, the picture of society at the court of a warrior, the courtesies, the beer-drinking, the exchange of gifts.

Like the national heroes, Beowulf is a hero of masculine character inspired with the zeal to kill and get killed. Beowulf whole-heartedly sacrifices himself to the service of the people of the country. His glory is, indeed, based on the fact that he saves the people from the hands of the foe to God, and he readily offers thanks to his maker without whose favor he could not even challenge the monsters.

Beowulf Supposedly Surpasses Achilles Through His Benevolence

The national feeling acts as a supreme phenomenon to Beowulf, and the poet has emphasized that point mainly. National loyalty leads Beowulf to endanger his own life, and after his heroic death, his dead body has been buried with the same glory and pomp as the national heroes after their deaths.

Beowulf’s ultimate victory over the monster Grendel in Hrothgar’s hall Heorot shows us the success of Achilles over Hector in Homer’s IliadOne of the most critical evidence of identifying Beowulf as a national hero lies in the fact that he believes weird or fate like that of the people of that time.

In many respects, Beowulf eclipses even Achilles as Homer described Achilles – wrathful where Beowulf always proves sufficient benevolent and dedicated to people. Even at the final doom, he is not distracted from the care and welfare of his people.

Hence, Beowulf orders Wiglaf to look after the Geats. In Beowulf’s character, there is also a strong plea for the renunciation of private and core which alienate man from God.

Final Thoughts

Beowulf’s heroic features extend from the personal ambition to the social and national arenas as he takes on several threatening challenges during his endeavors.

Beowulf dedicated his manhood, strength, and compassion to save others from great dangers and sufferings.

To conclude, it would not be inappropriate to agree with Compton Rickett:

“What Achilles is to the Greek, Romulus to the Roman, Charlemagne to the French, Beowulf is to the Englishman.”

Compton Rickett, English Writer

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