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The Hero’s Death in the Epic of Beowulf

The Hero’s Death in Beowulf

Some literary scholars maintain that Beowulf developed character flaws through the course of the long narrative poem, and that at the time of his death he was a victim of pride, avarice, selfishness and an inordinate craving for glory. The purpose of this essay is to show that he was a tremendous hero from beginning to end.

Towards the end of the poem, when the fire-dragon ravaged the Geatish land and burned down King Beowulf’s mead-hall:

To the good king

it was great anguish, pain deep in mind.

The wise man believed he . . .

had broken the old law; his breast welled

with dark thoughts strange to his mind (2327ff).

What was “the old law?” “When the dragon’s ravages begin, the poet makes the aged Beowulf fear that he has transgressed ofer ealde riht (against ancient law) (2330): pagans have their own moral code, separating them from the author and us” (Frank 52).

The last thing said of the dead hero was that he was lofgeornost (most eager for fame). Is this a Christian quality? This scholar says No: “To say with your last word that the hero, above all men, desired to be praised, wanted a glory bestowed by his fellows, is to insinuate that the hero is wanting, by Christian standards”(Bloom 3).

In Beowulf, the hero possesses extraordinary qualities: “He was the strongest of men alive in that day, mighty and noble.” Upon spotting Beowulf approaching, the sea-guard of the Danes says, “Never have I seen a greater man on earth…” King Hrothgar of the Danes says of Beowulf, “Seafarers who took gifts to the Geats …

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…owulf has become a king who is now confronted with an enemy over whom he is not able to win a victory by himself. Even with Wiglaf’s assistance our hero loses his own life in the contest. It is an heroic death, with no moral decay involved, which crowns an indisputably heroic life.


Bloom, Harold. “Introduction.” In Modern Critical Interpretations: Beowulf, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

Fry, Donald K.. “Introduction.” In TheBeowulf Poet, edited by Donald K. Fry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Ogilvy, J.D.A. and Donald C. Baker. “Beowulf’s Heroic Death.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998.

Destiny, Fate and Free Will in Homer’s Odyssey – Self-Determination

Self-Determination in The Odyssey

Self-determination is a strong characteristic that Odysseus portrays in The Odyssey. The three traits that Odysseus portrays as evidence of his self-determination are: endurance, perseverance, and courage. Odysseus, like most humans, has his doubts of confidence, but seems to overcome them. Odysseus sometimes doubts his courage and passion for living. He shows this as he asks, “but Circe, who will be my pilot on this journey?”(100). Here, Odysseus questions his ability to lead his crew onward. He then overcomes this barrier and triumphs with self-confidence.

Zeus thinks that Odysseus is courageous and gallant. He therefore commands that, “Odysseus shall go forth upon his homeward way, not with gods’ guidance nor with that of a mortal man; but by himself…” (45). This is ironic because later on, Odysseus receives help and is presented challenges from the gods. Without the interference of the gods, Odysseus would have sailed home ten years before.

To be courageous, you must contain great wit within the walls of your heart and the cells of your brain. There is no better example of this than when ” I [Odysseus] then formed the plan within my daring heart of closing on him, drawing my sharp sword from my thigh, and stabbing him in the breast…” (85). Here the Cyclops faces his doom at the hands of Odysseus’ guile. Although Odysseus displays guile, other’s does not fool him.

Now, although courage is a strong and important aspect it is nothing without endurance or Stamina. This aspect is represented when,”… I [Odysseus] by swimming forced my way through the flood, till at your coast the wind and water brought me…but I turned back and swam until I reached a stream where the ground seemed most fit…[then] gathering my strength, I staggered out, and the immortal night drew near” (67). By not giving up and refusing to join his crew some of his crewmembers in the hall of Hades, Odysseus endures what we would wake up crying from. If Odysseus had lacked this quality, the novel, The Odyssey, would have had a great deal less pages to read.

Odysseus often fools and deceives his enemies into their own dreadful doom by using the guile that he is so renowned for. Without endurance, he would have no nerve to beguile his foes while not being disillusioned by them. Odysseus receives inspiration and motivation as he is told “.

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