Has anyone in your life ever made an impact on you? Have you ever looked up to someone? Possibly a hero? A hero could be many things, whether that be a fictional hero, a serviceman, or maybe even a teacher. Throughout history, the idea of a hero has transformed, relatively built upon the cultural values of each distinct time period. This concept essentially can delineate why a quintessential hero in Beowulf’s time (700 AD) would differentiate from a modern hero (21st century.) This is because the societal values from one time period to the next are constantly changing. Nevertheless, even though heroes from different time periods may differ, there are still some key traits that are possessed by many heroes–no matter the time period. A great example of prodigious heroes are Beowulf and Harry Potter. Despite a rough 1,300 year gap between these two heroes’ time periods, certain values of these two cultures have inspired these stories to have striking similarities, though also huge differences. In both the Harry Potter series and Beowulf, bravery and loyalty are characteristics that both protagonists possess. Although in Beowulf’s time period, physical strength and boasting about one’s abilities are treasured above all else. In Harry Potter’s time period, humility and wit are the true essence of what a hero is. These similarities and differences not only describe Beowulf and Harry Potter but also the cultural values in the story as well as the setting in which they were created.
One characteristic that Beowulf and Harry Potter share is bravery. This bravery allows them to achieve the victories that make them heroes. This sets them apart from other average people. Beowulf’s bravery allowed him to become such a prominent hero. If Beowulf wasn’t brave enough to sail to Denmark to help Hrothgar, Grendel may have never been slain. Grendel, a villain who terrorized the mead hall and Denmark, was wounded and died by Beowulf, who did this by his bare hands. Grendel was feared by all. Beowulf’s bravery allowed him to look past everything Grendel did and see him as every other villain Beowulf has killed. During their battle, Grendel was the one who was frightened and wanted to leave. This battle changed Beowulf from a warrior to a respected hero, whose story has been passed from generation to generation. This is ultimately due to his bravery which led to him being remembered as a hero. Not only did Beowulf defeat Grendel but also Grendel’s mother. Grendel’s mother was a feisty warrior who wanted revenge for her son. Instead of being worried or scared, Beowulf was brave and fought Grendel’s mother in her own home. In her lair, Beowulf killed her and brought back some trophies, the hilt of a magical sword and Grendel’s severed head. Beowulf and Harry are connected; both are thrown into frightful lives but their bravery allows them to be remembered and admired. In Harry’s story, he was not even old enough to talk yet he was expected nothing less than greatness. Voldemort, a villain who was terrorizing some of the greatest witches and wizards, was defeated by Harry as a baby. Harry was expected to be great from the beginning, but his bravery made him who he is — a hero for all to remember. Throughout Harry’s life, he was faced with many hardships whether it be being bullied by Dudley, facing Voldemort countless times, or even accusations of opening the Chamber of Secrets. His bravery caused him to overcome these obstacles and come out victorious. Harry set himself up for bravery when he asked the sorting hat to be a member of Gryffindor, the house known for bravery. This bravery set himself up for his years at Hogwart as well as the rest of his life. Bravery is a characteristic that is valued by everyone, no matter the time period. This is evident in both Harry Potter and Beowulf. Brave men are remembered as heroes.
Bravery is not the only trait shared by both men. Loyalty is another characteristic that helped both Beowulf and Harry become the heroes they are remembered as. Beowulf and Harry would be nowhere if it wasn’t for their loyalty to their friends and companions. Beowulf wouldn’t have accomplished his greatest feats if it wasn’t for his fellow warriors. When Beowulf goes to fight the dragon that is attacking the kingdom, he finds that it will be impossible to defeat the dragon alone due to his old age. Beowulf brings some of his men along on this fight. One of them, Wiglaf, aids his Beowulf while he is injured during the battle. Beowulf ends up dying but his loyalty to his men is what allowed the dragon to be defeated. Beowulf’s loyalty to his container, and in return their reciprocated allegiance to him, is what secures his legacy as a hero. This is also seen in Harry Potter’s story. Harry would not be able to get through the obstacles that he did without the aid of his friends. Throughout all of Harry’s victories, his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, were there by his side. Their friendship and loyalty to each other allows them to bring together their strengths and defeat the most terrifying villains. Harry constantly relies on the support of his friends to defeat Voldemort. Whether it be the 21st century or 700 AD, it can be seen that loyalty to friends is an advantageous trait that allows these heroes to be triumphant.
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Among several similarities, there are also many differences between these two heroes. Harry and Beowulf are known for their triumphs and feats. Both are renowned heroes and well-respected. Beowulf and Harry deal with this in different ways. In Beowulf’s time, boasting about who you killed and your victories is what got you power and strength. This is seen through Beowulf talking about all the monsters he slayed. In contrast, Harry’s humility is one of his key characteristics. Whenever Harry is praised for his victories, he claims that he couldn’t have done it alone and that it isn’t as heroic as it may seem. This says a lot about the type of heroes both men are, but also the type of culture they are influenced by.
The way these heroes react to victories is not the only thing that sets them apart. The type of strengths they portray and the way they deal with their foes also differs. Beowulf relies on his physical strength to take care of his tasks. This is seen when he hurts Grendel with only his bare hands. His physical presence is a part of him that commands respect. In comparison, Harry relies on his wit and intellectual strengths rather than his physicality. Harry uses his wit to outsmart his opponents. This is seen when he finds all of the horcruxes and destroys them. Due to his intellectuality, Harry is able to determine that he needs to destroy the horcruxes before ending Voldemort’s reign. The way villains are dealt with and the way they are defeated is a difference between Harry Potter and Beowulf as well as their society.
Beowulf and Harry Potter are well-respected heroes during their time periods. What marks Beowulf and Harry Potter as profound heroes is their bravery and loyalty. The similarities in morals in these two distinct cultures is what helped define what a hero is. The difference among these heroes and their respective societies also makes a huge point. During Beowulf’s time, physical strength is something that is valued above all else, but in our time, a modern hero like Harry conquers his enemies with his wit. Beowulf and Harry Potter are both prominent heroes during their time periods. Some notable characteristics of heroes are shared in both of these time periods as well as clear differences. Over thousands of years, moral values and hero characteristics change. Cultural beliefs and influences is what shapes a hero and how they become praised.