The epic poem, Beowulf, depicts the most heroic man of the Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, was an outstanding warrior with all the extraordinary values required by a hero. He was able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encountered terrifying monsters and the most ferocious of beasts, but he never feared the threat of death. His leadership skills were excellent and he was able to boast about all his achievements. Beowulf was the ultimate epic hero who risked his life countless times for immortal glory and for the good of others.
Common traits of an Anglo-Saxon warrior were physical strength, leadership skills and heroic stoicism, which Beowulf demonstrated throughout this poem. Beowulf was a hero in the eyes of his fellow men through his amazing physical strength. He fought in numerous battles and returned victorious from all but his last. One of those victorious battles, was the battle against Grendel, in which Beowulf fought against a monster that had killed many men.
"He twisted in pain, and the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder snapped, muscle and bone split and broke" (31.389). Beowulf showed his great strength by ripping Grendel's arm with his bare hands, which would be impossible for a regular human to do. When Beowulf fought Grendel's mother, who sought revenge for her son's death, he was able to defeat her as well. "From its scabbard, broke the chain on its hilt, and then savage, now, angry and desperate, lifted it high over his head and struck with all the strength he had left' (38.535). He was able to slay Grendel's mother by slashing the monster's neck with a giant's sword that could only be lifted by a person as strong as Beowulf. After defeating Grendel's mother, Beowulf decided to finish off Grendel by slashing the monster's neck with the giant sword.
"Then struck off his head with a single swift blow. The body jerked for the last time, then lay still" (38.560). After Beowulf chopped off his head, he carried it from the ocean to Hero mead-hall with ease. The head was so enormously heavy that it would take four men to lift and carry it.
Another trait of Beowulf was his ability to put his people's welfare before his own. "Heard how Grendel filled night with horror and quickly commanded a boat fitted out, proclaiming that he'd go to that famous king, would sail across the sea to Hrothgar, now when he was needed" (23.113). Beowulf was sent to help rid the Danes from the evil Grendel. Beowulf, asking help from no one, risked his own life for the Danes. He was conscious of the dangers, but feared nothing for his own life. Beowulf designed a plan to defeat Grendel, which was to catch him at night.
"Waiting to see his swift hard claws, Grendel snatched at the first Geats he came to, ripped him apart, cut his body to bits with powerful claws" (29.313). To defeat Grendel, Beowulf had to give up one of his men to catch the monster. While Grendel was eating his prey, Beowulf grabbed the monster and ultimately defeated it. Eventually, Beowulf became the King of the Geats. As he grew old, he decided to go on battle one last time to fight a horrible dragon, who frightened all of his people. "I've never known fear, as a youth I fought in endless battles.
I am old, now, but I will fight again, seek fame still, if the dragon hiding in his tower dares to face me" (40.624). Beowulf was old and tired but he defeated the dragon in order to protect his people. Even in death he wished safety for the Geats, therefore, he built a tall lighthouse in order to help the people find their way back from the sea. The most heroic of traits within Beowulf was that he was not afraid to die.
He always explained his death wishes before going into battle and requested to have any assets delivered to his people. 'Remember, Hrothgar, Oh knowing king, now when my danger is near, the warm words we uttered, and if your enemy should end my life... and the precious gifts you gave me, my friend, send them to Hi glac" (36.450-458). He was aware of the dangers that he was going to face, but he knew that he would be glorified in life or death for his actions. When Beowulf arrived at the Danish shores, Unferth, a Danish warrior questioned Beowulf's bravery before the battle with Grendel.
"And you, Unferth, let my famous old sword stay in your hands: I shall shape glory with Hunting, or death will hurry me from this earth!" (36.463). Even with the enormous amount of confidence Beowulf possessed, he understood that Fate or Word would work its magic no matter what and that he could be killed at any point in his life. He knew that when he fought an enemy like Grendel or Grendel's mother, he would achieve immortality as the victor or the loser. "But her guest discovered that no sword could slice her evil skin... for the first time in years of being worn to war it would earn no glory; it was the last time anyone would wear it. But Beowulf longed for fame, leaped back into battle" (37.495). Beowulf again showed his faith by showing no fear and by preparing for a positive or a fatal outcome.
Physical strength, leadership skills and heroic stoicism were a couple of characteristics that Beowulf demonstrated to show that he was the prime example of an epic hero. His bravery and strength surpass all mortal men. Beowulf came openly and wholeheartedly to help the Danes which was an unusual occurrence in a time of war and widespread fear. He set a noble example for all human beings relaying the necessity of brotherhood and friendship.
Beowulf was most definitely the ideal Anglo-Saxon warrior as an epic hero of epic proportions.