It is very common that a favorite tale told to a small child before he goes to sleep is actually a great epic story that has lived on for many centuries. The tale of Beowulf is just that. Beowulf was written during the Anglo-Saxon era, when heroic deeds and loyalty to one’s leader were traits of a person that lived on forever, by means of poets and writers. Beowulf tells the story of a hero: one that faces many great battles with many great enemies, conquering one after the next only to finally face his death, in his battle against the dragon.
Up until the end of Beowulf’s life he was constantly looking to be the hero. Beowulf, through the years, has lived on as a legendary hero, conquering all obstacles as though he were immortal. However, his mortality is exposed by his death, the same death that makes him a superhero, working and fighting evil for the people, and as a person. Beowulf, by all means, is a hero. A hero fears not, death, nor destruction of his own being, but instead risks all that he is for what he believes to be right, moral, and just.
In the time of the Anglo-Saxons’ reign of England it was noble and expected for a person of high honor to be more than loyal to his king. In fact, it was considered noble to be loyal to anything that was significant to humanity. In Beowulf, Beowulf is loyal to Higlac. Higlac is my cousin and my king(142) says Beowulf in his preparation to do battle with the threatening monster, Grendel. Loyalty to the Anglo-Saxons was heroic; however, the tale of Beowulf has lived on so many years for a greater reason than Beowulf being a loyal individual.
Heroes today, as well as heroes of yesterday, such as Beowulf, all share the characteristic of their willingness to die in their attempt to accomplish their heroic act, thus making the act in itself heroic. Beowulf knows that there is a chance that he may die in his great battle against Grendel when he says, No, I expect no Danes will fret about sewing our shrouds, if he wins. And if death does take me, send the hammered mail of my armor to Higlac; yet he is still willing to attempt to conquer Grendel. Beowulf says, My hands alone will fight for me, struggle for life against the monster.
And with Beowulf’s saying this shows his confidence in his ability to do battle. A hero in both modern-day, as well as in the Anglo-Saxon time is always very confident, as well he should be. It would serve no purpose to face battle with doubt of ones ability to do so, and with fear of all that awaits him. Beowulf, however, takes this one step further and makes sure that everybody else knows, as well as himself, just how good he is in battle and just how confident he really is. Beowulf tells the tale of how Other monsters crowded around me. Continuing attacking.
I treated them politely, Offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword. Butthefeast,think,did not please them, filled their evil bellies with no banquet-rich food, thrashing there at the bottom of the sea; by morning they’d decided to sleep on the shore, lying on their backs, their blood spilled out on the sand to those listening in hopes that they too would realize just how great a hero he really is. As heroic as Beowulf is, he is still human. He still has doubts in his abilities, abilities to fight, but more so, doubts in his ability to forever live.
Beowulf knows that he is human, and in the end, after all his glory, he dies. God must decide who will be given death’s cold grip(174) is what everything always comes down to in the end. Beowulf knows this. He knows that he may not forever exist. Beowulf’s doubt of his physical existence is what motivates him as well it motivates all other heroes. If they cannot exist in physical being then they feel a need to exist in stories, in tales such as Beowulf that last through the years. As any person does, Beowulf also knows fear. He fears more than the reader actually sees. In every heroic quote said, fear is the hidden motive.
Beowulf must make everybody know how great he is by telling people; but before everybody else, he reminds himself for he knows that the next day could be his last. Beowulf looks for fights against anything and everything because he wants to know that he can conquer even the biggest things in life, because he is not sure whether or not he can. He is afraid that he may not be able to. If Beowulf does indeed conquer his next conflict then he is temporarily built with self-esteem derived from accomplishment; only to be taken away by the next battle he fears, for he may not be able to conquer the next.
Heroes in general have low self-esteem. They must do their heroic acts for everybody else in hopes to be known, because they really don’t know their selves. In the end, Beowulf dies. Death comes for everybody and Beowulf is no exception, thus proving his mortality, making him no more special or significant in life than the next person. Indeed, Beowulf is a hero. His desires to exist as important, in a world filled with unimportant people, succeeded, through time, as he desired. Beowulf’s story lives on, thousands of years after the actual days when Beowulf lived.
His battles against the monster Grendel, his mother, and the dragon, go down in history as heroic battles. The first two were victorious; however, in the third fate takes action and brings death’s cold touch to Beowulf. All of Beowulf’s heroic deeds and battles make him the superhero he desires to be. Perhaps what makes Beowulf live today, forever a legend of our past, is the fact that he did die, making him a mortal being; living and dying with the people, for the people, and as a person.