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Two Types of Heroes in Beowulf

Beowulf is the oldest poem written in England, although, the story takes place in
Scandinavia. It is one of the masterpieces of poetry. It can be analysed from all kinds of
different perspectives due to its profoundness. Concept of the hero is one of them.
There are many heroes in this poem. It is a heroic world and every day can bring
situations in which warriors have to prove themselves to their kings and the people they are
protecting. Beowulf is the greatest hero of them all.
There are two types of heroes in this poem. Beowulf in his earlier days represents the
first one. He is a heroic warrior who is young and strong and fears nothing. King Hrothgar
represents the second one, the heroic king who is wise and powerful, greatly loved by his
people.
Every action of Beowulf defines him as a hero. He is ready to help the Danes out of
respect for their king. He does not fear the undefeated enemy, Grendel, the monster from the
swamp. He risks his own life to help other kingdom. Men who accompany him are striving to
Beowulfs heroism, as they risk their own life as well. There is one shortcoming in all this,
and that is the fact that Beowulf can sometimes act rashly, as Unferth notices and admonishes
when he talks about Beowulfs swimming match with Brecca. Beowulf has much better
chances at defeating Grendel with his sword and shield but he refuses to use them. He is the
strongest of the Geats - greater and stronger than anyone anywhere in this world (Beowulf,
translated by Burton Raffel), and thus the most valuable to the Geats and also to the Danes as
he is their only hope. In spite of all the circumstances, he kills Grendel and his mother who
tries to avenge her sons death. As he grows older the development of his character is
obvious. He grows wiser and more careful. He becomes the king of the Geats and along these
lines he shows himself as a heroic king as well. He rules mightily for fifty years but then he

pays the price for still having that one small piece of youthful recklessness in himself, as he
tries to fight the dragon and the dragon kills him.
King Hrothgar is very noble and knows how to take care of his people, especially his
loyal warriors. He doesnt risk his life in battles, but rather accepts the help of someone who
offers it. He builds a mead-hall called Herot for them in which they can eat, drink and enjoy
after the battles. It is a safe haven for heroes, at least until Grendel comes.
In these times it is really important who ones father is. Sons of heroic figures are well
known wherever they go, they have more opportunities, they are eminently respected but
more is expected of them as well. In this way, the concept of the hero is intertwined with
patrilineal society. Shield Sheafson is a man who doesnt even know who his father is, which
suggests that he is an even bigger hero, since he is the first king of the Danes and he himself is
fully responsible for his success. Beowulf is left without a father as well in his younger days
which also makes him even more worthy of the word hero.
Gods are also very important for this heroic sphere because warriors believe that they
can grant them success in battles.
In sum, the heroic world is beautifully portrayed in Beowulf. Every line reaches to the
reader and he can almost feel the atmosphere of the world where life and death are looked
upon differently, where warriors must be prepared to die any day or night so as to protect the
innocent people and their kings territory, with the reward of eternal honour.