Heroes; we as a whole know them when we see them. The main question is, what makes somebody a hero?
To be considered an epic hero, a person must possess most or all of the seven traits of an epic hero. The first trait of an epic hero is a noble birth. This means that most epic heroes will have an above average station in life; they will be kings, princes, or nobles of some sort. The second trait of an epic hero is that they must be capable of deeds of great strength and courage. This includes having the potential of great deeds as well. The third trait of an epic hero is that they must be a great warrior. This means they have usually spent much time in battle. The fourth trait of an epic hero is that they travel over a vast setting. It’s not possible to be an epic hero by staying in your village your whole life. Distance makes the hero’s actions bigger because they aren’t selfish; they are for an additional country or individual. The fifth trait of an epic hero is national heroism. Before a hero can be celebrated by countries around the world, they must first be recognized in their home country as a great and heroic person. The sixth trait of an epic hero is humility. An epic hero is never a braggart, or even willing to take applause. They commit to their deeds because they know they need done. It also states that the fame and rewards that they receive are only a matter of course, not the reason for completing their quests. The seventh and final trait of an epic hero is that they face supernatural foes, or they receive supernatural help. Most epic heroes either receive aid from a god or goddess, and battle some superhuman enemy.
Beowulf is a character that possesses all the qualities of an epic hero. He is strong, fearless, brave, courageous, and arrogant. But are these qualities enough to think of him as a hero by the standards of today? Although Beowulf is idolized throughout the poem as a hero-figure, he shows his conceited nature by seeking glory only for himself and not giving credit to those who aid him in his battles. An epic hero not only needs to be physically outstanding, but they also need to have integrity, moral values, and needs to act without thinking in their own benefit. Beowulf watched one of his own men die in order to collect a deeper understanding of Grendel, to eventually fight him and collect glory only for himself. “No one else could do what I mean to, here, no man but me could hope to defeat this monster.” (Line 641 – 647) Beowulf is elevating himself above others in order to bring an eventual glory to his name. Beowulf is, without a doubt, a heroic character. However, I believe Beowulf is a selfish warrior and was driven to do justice purely for the fame and glory he would gain from it. The definition of selfishness is seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.
There is a difference between a regular hero and an epic hero. A regular hero is just a normal person who does right. An epic hero should be a person whose fortune is led to by his own admired characteristics. While Beowulf was brave and adventurous, he was also selfish because he did all of his heroic events in order to show his greatness.
While Beowulf may fulfill all of the requirements of an epic hero, Beowulf is not an epic hero for one main reason; his actions are driven by pride.