Websters defines the term hero as a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life. This definition of the term hero might as well have the old English character Beowulfs picture next to it.
Beowulf is a Geatish hero who fights monsters, kills dragons, and is said to be the strongest and smartest warrior around. He exemplifies all of the characteristics of the perfect hero; courage, strength, honor, discipline, and loyalty just to name a few. Beowulf shows these characteristics to be true in the story by constantly doing heroic things for himself and more importantly, others. While dining and relaxing at King Hrothgar of Denmarks mead-hall (a place to eat, drink, and share war stories), the extreme noise coming from the warriors awakens Grendel, and disturbs him greatly. Grendel, a monster who lives in the swamp, would terrorize the subjects and worse, kill them. All the warriors efforts did nothing to stop Grendel for years. That is until Beowulf arrives. When Grendel comes to the mead-hall to terrorize some more, Beowulf confronts Grendel and fights back heroically. He ends up killing the ugly beast with out using much effort at all. He cuts off Grendels arm and hangs it in the mead-hall as a trophy. The people of Denmark praise their great hero Beowulf and celebrate their good fortune with a feast in his honor. The conflict isnt over though. Outraged after hearing about the death of Grendel, Grendels mother becomes enraged and comes to Herot for revenge. There Grendels mother kills Aeschere. Aeschere was one of Beowulfs advisors. Beowulf is now understandably upset, and he takes his men to Grendels swamp for revenge of his friend. Beowulf dives down into the water and eventually kills her with a giant sword. This fight was a bit more challenging for Beowulf, but just like any brave and heroic warrior, Beowulf came out victorious. While in the swamp, Beowulf finds the remains of Grendel. He cuts off his head and brings that back to Hrothgar. Hrothgar and his subjects are thrilled to see Beowulf and they all celebrate the victory and praise their hero again. Now that there isnt any immediate danger anymore Beowulf decides to leave Herot. He returns to his home in Greatland. He is reunited with his King and Queen.
Eventually the King, Hygelac is killed in a war against their enemies. Hygelacs son is understandably upset and seems lost in his ways. Beowulf takes him under his wing and supports him instead of just running for the throne like any other warrior would do. This act shows Beowulf as a loyal and noble individual. Again showing characteristics of a great hero. Beowulf eventually ascends the throne after Hygelacs son dies. He reigns fair and just for fifty peaceful years. That is until a dragon starts causing problems in Greatland. Beowulf heroically travels to fight the beast and protect his people. He again succeeds in defeating the dragon, with his strength, bravery, and his determination to win. Once again these are all Heroic traits. This victory was bittersweet however. While fighting the dragon, Beowulf was bitten on the neck. The poison from the bite eventually killed the great hero Beowulf a few minutes after the dragon was killed. The people of Greatland had a massive funeral for Beowulf and buried him overlooking the sea, just as he wished. Beowulf did everything in his power to be the best person and the greatest warrior and King that he could be. These things show Beowulf to be one of the greatest heroes in English literature.
At the time when this story was told, there was a set of values that warriors followed. These set of values were known as the Germanic Heroic Code. The code consisted of the following traits: strength, courage, loyalty, generosity, and overall respect. Beowulf lived his life every day by these values, further making him out to be a great hero. He not only lived followed the code, but he went above and beyond the call of duty numerous times in the story by helping so many people.
Beowulf was also a very prepared individual. He didnt ever show fear or worry. He just wanted to complete the task at hand, and defeat whatever he needed to rid people of their troubles.
Beowulf got ready,
Donned his war-gear, indifferent to death;
his mighty, hand-forged, fine webbed mail would soon meet with the menace underwater. (Beowulf 1442-1445)
This quotation in Beowulf shows just how powerful and heroic Beowulf is. It states that he is indifferent to death, which symbolizes courage and bravery.
Beowulf may very well be one of the greatest heroes in English literature. He really does exemplify all of the characteristics of a great hero.