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Laura Kennard
Mrs. Tieman
English 12/Dual Credit
4 February, 2014
Beowulf: A Role Model in Every Time Period
The epic hero Beowulf is the epitome of a medieval role model. His actions and
personality were desired by many men. However, in this time period, we may see Beowulf as
boastful, overconfident, and idiotic to be going up against three deadly monsters. But, it wasnt
weird for the listeners back in Anglo-Saxon times. Beowulf is in fact just doing his job. The Hero
acts the way he does because he is just matching the expectations of the culture of the time
period. He was being the image of a good hero, along with others that were the same way.
Other heroes acted the same way, such as Brithnoth and Arthur, which shows that the time
period that the reader lives in does make a difference in how they analyze the attitudes of the
heroes we know and cherish.
The perfect image of an Anglo-Saxon hero was a warrior. They fought with all their
might and never gave up, even when death was on the line. They fought for the glory of their
Gods and their people, trying to help out as many as they could. Because of this they had great
courage and confidence after all of their victories. But, they are also humble, always thinking
back on why they are going on epic quests to help the people they love. According to
Christopher Garcia from, the Anglo-Saxon hero didnt need romantic
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relationships, having not the time and care for such things. Courage, strength, and intelligence
were more important for them; being able to fight for their kingdom and country was very
important. Physically, a hero had to be strong and muscular so that they can carry out the
quests that they need to do. Beowulf and many other heroes of that time have all of that, so
they are the perfect examples of the perfect Anglo-Saxon hero of the time.
In the story, Beowulf shows examples of some of these traits in his battles. In his duel
with Grendel, he was strong physically, tearing the arm off of the beast. He twisted in pain/
And the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder/ Snapped, muscle and bone split/And broke, (4:
8,lines 496-499). He was so strong, Beowulf snapped Grendels arm off, a feat not every hero
could do. He was brave and courageous, having defeated one of the most dangerous creatures
in the land. Slowly toward Herot again, retelling/ Beowulfs bravery as they jogged along/
Was there a warrior worthier to rule over men, (4: 10, lines 537-542). He fought for Hrothgars
mens safety, and everyone was thankful for it. He is confident before the battle, telling
Hrothgar of his noble feats and brave acts. No man swims in the sea/as I can, no strength is a
match for mine, (3: 6, lines 266-267). Beowulf was so confident and brave, he even faced a fire
breathing dragon when he was older. He is brave and confident, determined on the fact that
he will succeed and death will not swallow him. When he does meet death, he is humble and
gentle to his friend Wiglaf who came back to help him after all of his men fled. For all of this,
that His grace has given me,/ Allowed me to bring to my people while breath/ Still came to my
lips. I sold my life/ For this treasure, and I sold it well. Take /What I leave, Wiglaf, lead my
people, /Help them; my time is gone, (6: 16, lines 804-809). Even to his last day, he is brave,
strong, humble, smart, and a perfect image of an epic hero during the Anglo-Saxon time period.
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Since Beowulfs actions are due to the culture and time period, other heroes in stories
written in this period are just like him. Once of the most famous of these is King Arthur, the
Once and Future King. He is a perfect image of the idea of a warrior; hes brave and strong,
fighting off distant countries to save his. He fought for his people, and while being humble, he
was confident and courageous. Authors from generations have added on to this amazing
legend, making Arthur even more brave and willing to face danger in quests for the Holy Grail
and countless battles for freedom. But in the original story, History of the Britons, Arthur
was the image of the culture of the period, being confident and boastful and outgoing when
speaking and fighting, yet humble and caring for his people and country.
Another hero that gives us more evidence of the culture of Anglo-Saxon life was
Brithnoth, or Earl Byrhtnoth in the original story. He was a general that led his army against the
Vikings on the Essex coast. Brithnoth was brave and confident that he and his army would
succeed. They were going strong just like how he predicted at first; then, Brithnoth was killed
by a poison spear, and his army panicked and fled for their lives. Some stayed to hear the
heros last humble words of thanks and honor. Brithnoth was just like the others too; he was
confident and courageous that he and his army will not face death.
All in all, the Anglo-Saxon time period was the time of warriors. The perfect epic hero
was brave, strong, humble, intelligent, and overall a good role model. Beowulf acts like this in
his story, and many others do as well in their own epic tale. We live in a different society, so at
first we get the wrong idea, thinking all of the bravery and confidence and strength is negative.
But really, we just have a different mindset than the people living back then did. Beowulf and
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the other heroes listed were what the people of the Anglo-Saxon time saw as perfect, because
their society says so. That is why Beowulf acts the way he does; to try to meet the
expectations. It is up to the reader, both medieval and modern, to decide whether or not they
think he is as perfect as society says.