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Comparative Analysis of Beowulf and Achilles

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‘Beowulf’ and ‘Iliad’ are two popular literary works written in Old English and Ancient Greek. Both poems illustrates the fights between main characters and the stronger one is the winner. While Beowulf in ‘Beowulf’ won against Grendel – a disgusting cold-blooded monster- to protect Danes and show his respect to his cousin, the king. Achilles in ’Iliad’ killed Hector to revenge his beloved cousins death. Both of the characters owned outstanding traits to be an epic hero, including bravery, strength and supernatural abilities.

In the warrior society and Homer’s ‘Iliad’, bravery is believed to be the most important factor to evaluate a man or a hero. Even though Beowulf and Achilles both proved that they were brave, their courage and determination were illustrated in different situations from each other. Beowulf says, ”Now Grendel and I are called together, and I’ve come”. He leaves his people – the Geats of Scandinavia – to help Hrothgar, the king of the Danish people. Despite being apart from his beloved family and friends, Beowulf decides to start his long journey to fight with Grendel, a monster that attacks the king’s hall and devours the his men. Beowulf makes a decision without thinking much because he believes that his duty ‘was to go to the Danes’ Great king…they have seen my strength for themselves”. Meanwhile, Achilles’s courage is because he “vowed to take revenge for Patroclus after the Trojan prince Hector kill him. He chased Hector back to Troy, slaughtering Trojans all the way.” Even though Achilles knows it is not easy to revenge his friend death, he still chases Hector in order to finish his life. Achilles enters the territory of the Trojans forcefully, without fear and makes Hector feels unsafe and worried. Achilles performs many heroic deeds on the battleground and adds renown to his name among the Greeks.

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Besides courage, strength is also an important factor in assessing a hero. Beowulf’s strength has been recognized by everyone for a long time through his biggest accomplishments in life. “A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel/Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering/Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people/By a bloodthirsty fiend”. Beowulf wins the fight with Grendel and rescues everyone in Herot from being killed by powerful and fierce Grendel. While “the sharpest and hardest iron could not scratch at Grendel skin”, Beowulf uses nothing but brute strength to fight Grendel and rips his arm off before Grendel runs and painfully dies in the dirty swamp. Meanwhile, Achilles owns several victories himself. He shows his absolute physical power over Hector – Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War – in their solo battle. Hector tries to make a deal with him, asking for the loser to be returned to their family, but Achilles says no. He demonstrated his strength advantage by stabbing Hector in the throat and killing him is the most brutal way possible. “Beg me no beggary by soul or parents, whining dog!… You’ll have no bed of death, nor will you be laid out and mourned by her who gave you birth. Dogs and birds will have you, every scrap”.

Last but not least, Achilles and Beowulf both possess supernatural power that human beings dream of. In ‘Beowulf’, it says, “No Dane doubted./The victory, for the proof, hanging high/From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the/Monsters/Arm, claw and shoulder and all”. Although Grendel has rendered the weapons of the man useless, Beowulf is not afraid of it. Instead, he exhibits his superhuman strength in his ability to fight the monster Grendel with his bare hands. In addition, his victory is a resounding feat which illustrate not only his distinguish ability to fight but also his respect to his cousin- the King of the Geats- that he risks his life for another warrior society. Meanwhile, Achillies “was dunked into the River Styx, whose waters were said to confer the invulnerability of the gods. However, the water never touched his heel so Achilles was invulnerable everywhere but there”/ Not anyone can reach the River Styx because it is ony available for the gods; therefore, Achilles is distinguish for his priority to access magic water source when he was an infant. Achilles is special because his immortal ability helps him to win several fights and achieve glorious victories. While other young man at the same time can lose their live during any fight, Achilles experienced several battles without being afraid of being killed.

In conclusion, Beowulf and Achillies are both brave and strong heroes who own impressive achievements and supernatural power in the stories. Despite being written for a long time, their stories – ‘Beowulf’ and ‘Iliad’ – are now still be widespread told with respect and admiration. They are not only good models for bravery but they also illustrate great life style of heroes and stories about them have great spiritual value to humanity.

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Comparative Analysis of Beowulf and Achilles. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
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