An epic hero is someone who posses brave and noble traits within a story. Epic heroes are normally characters from ancient stories and are almost always the main character. With that being said, the main character in Beowulf is the perfect example. Beowulf is a warrior and prince who possesses certain traits that make him a hero to Anglo-Saxons and to readers that study his story today. According to an article by Rebecca Ray, there are seven main characteristics that make an epic hero. Noble birth, superhuman capabilities, vast traveler, unmatched warrior cultural legend, humility, battles supernatural foes are all traits or carried out actions by epic heroes. The main characteristics shown in the poem are his superhuman capabilities, Beowulf gives blatant examples of Beowulf having superhuman abilities, being a vast traveler, and battling supernatural foes which makes him an epic hero.
Beowulf is seen having superhuman capabilities by his superhuman strength and notoriety for being the strongest warrior in the world. His strength is shown in lines 739-748 where it says, “Grendel snatched at the first Geat he came to… and was instantly seized himself” (Beowulf 31). Beowulf is seen as having superhuman strength because out of all the victims of Grendel, he was the only one who could stop him. His characteristics that separate him from other mortals makes him a hero, along with the reason he was even in contact with Grendel in the first place.
In addition, Beowulf is also what is described as a vast traveler. “An epic hero is known for making travels to exotic locations by choice or chance, usually to battle against evil” (Ray, 2019). The original reason that Beowulf encountered Grendel is because he sailed from his kingdom to help King Hrothgar of the Danes. Beowulf explains that he felt he was called to save the Danes from Grendel which was his own choice to “battle against evil”. He states it on page 19 saying, “Now Grendel and I are called together… that I, alone and with the help of my men, may purge all evil from his hall” (Beowulf 19). The calling of them together provides context to why Beowulf is considered a vast traveler. He decides out of his own will, that he will fight against evil, Grendel, and claim more fame for himself.
As has been said , the battles against supernatural creatures are actions taken by epic heroes. The first battle Beowulf fights is against Grendel. Grendel is a monster who killed men in King Hrothgar’s kingdom which made him the antagonist and an evil creature in the poem. In Beowulf’s fight, he ends up ripping off Grendel’s arm and causing the monster to run away while bleeding out. In his battle, Beowulf also vowed not to use any weapons against the monster to run away while bleeding out. In his battle, Beowulf also vowed not to use any weapons against the monster which could also be a symbol of his humidity. Lines 172-174 say, “… my hands alone shall fight for me, struggle for life against the monster”. Beowulf basically said that because Grendel did not use any weapons that he wouldn’t either. Therefore, he decided to use his bare hands and let fate determine what would happen. Beowulf also fought Grendel’s mother which is another supernatural evil creature. In this battle, Beowulf kills Grendel’s mom. Grendel’s mom came after Beowulf to avenge her son’s death and ended up being defeated by him. The last supernatural creature that Beowulf fought was a dragon, and no one won that fight. The dragon was fatally injured and so was Beowulf.
To conclude, Beowulf possessed all the traits that makes an epic hero. He had superhuman abilities, like exaggerated strength and wit, felt as though he was called to journey to a place to defeat evil, and battled monsters and other supernatural creatures. Beowulf was the strongest in the world and killed monsters with his bare hands. He went straight to kingdom where he knew people were getting slaughtered in the night just to kill the monster who was taking lives, and he fought a large amount of supernatural creatures. Besides those factors he also was a prince, which is an example of a noble birth. Everybody knew who he was because he was an undefeated and skilled warrior, which made him a cultural legend. All these aspects is what makes Beowulf an epic hero.
- Alexander, Michael. Beowulf. Penguin Classics, 2013.
- “Epic Hero Definition & Examples | Characteristics of an Epic Hero.” Google, Google, www.google.com/amp/s/www.storyboardthat.com/articles/e/epic-hero/amp.
- Jankowski, Connie. “Why Beowulf Is an Epic Hero.” Pen and the Pad, 10 Jan. 2019, penandthepad.com/beowulf-epic-hero-20967.html.
- Sosnowski, Jana. “What Are the Characteristics of an Epic Hero?” Education, 29 Sept. 2016, education.seattlepi.com/characteristics-epic-hero-6460.html.
- Study.com, Study.com, study.com/academy/lesson/epic-hero-definition-characteristics-examples.html.