Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beowulf's Heros Shifted to Today's Heros

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Today’s heros shifted from courageous warriors who risked their life in battle, to ordinary people achieving a goal or helping someone out. In Websters Dictionary, a hero is defined as a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of purpose, especially if this individual has risked or sacrificed his life. It can also be used in reference to a mythological or legendary figure, often of divine ancestry, who is favored by the gods, endowed with great courage and strength, and celebrated for his bold efforts. However, the definition of a hero has seemed to change since early English literature.

A hero is a person that fits his society’s view of someone to be praised. The definition of a hero is dependent on that society’s beliefs and laws. Heroes have had changing roles since people have written stories, and all have been the personification of each society, each civilization’s ideals. Ideal heroes are described differently throughout periods of history.

In early English literature the hero performs outrageous and sometimes superhuman deeds. The hero is usually a person of high social status and who usually has great historical or legendary importance. Beowulf is a prime example of this type of hero. He volunteers to fight Grendel and when Grendel’s mother wants revenge, Beowulf goes to the lake and takes on the challenge. He shows the great qualities of strength and power when, after fifty years, he fights the dragon who has become a threat to his society. He always battles his enemies with pride. When Beowulf and Wiglaf fight the dragon everyone else becomes cowardly and runs off to the forest to hide. Here it is shown that Beowulf and Wiglaf are courageous, and are always ready and willing to help. The following quote shows how courageous Beowulf is

I count myself weaker in war or grapple of battle than Grendel

himself. Therefore I scorn to slay him with sword, Deal deadly

Wound, as I well might do-nothing he knows of a noble fighting,

Of thrusting and hewing and hacking of shield (L 507-51)

That quote shows that Beowulf understands that he has a fate. If he was intended to win the battle then he would, so he might as well do it without the use of weapons or shields.

In Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer described a deserving man. He is a chivalrous knight who prided himself on his own personal truth, honor, freedom, and courtesy. Chaucer’s view of a hero is one who is without fault, truly the epitome of goodness.

In the time period we live in now a hero is the personal point of view that a person has. Every person in the world has a different definition of a hero. Throughout English Literature, people have worshiped Heroes. Heroes are still in a way worshiped in modern day. The views of what a hero is have changed since then though.

A hero by modern day standards is a person who is looked upon as a role model. A hero can be a sports star to a working father. It just depends on a person’s view of what a hero is. In early English Literature, a hero was a warrior or king, by today’s standards it can be a firefighter.

In comparison of a modern day hero and a hero from early English Literature, you can compare Robin Hood to Michael Jordan. In the story of Robin Hood, Robin Hood fights many battles compared to Michael Jordan who doesn’t fight in battles at all. Another characteristic of an early English Literature hero was to boast about his feats. In the story of Beowulf, Beowulf makes sure of people knowing his strength and the following quote proves it. Beowulf on page 1, And I am stronger than anyone in the world. A hero by modern day standards, in contrast, should be a very modest person and should feel that they never have any reason to boast about anything.

Another characteristic of a hero from English Literature was to be a descendent from Royalty. A quote on page 1 in Beowulf shows his relation to royalty, Higlac is my cousin and my King. In contrast to today’s hero’s, a person can be a hero without being a descendent. For example Michael Jordan’s position in basketball had nothing to do with his family. He grew up in a bad neighborhood.

The characteristics of Anglo-Saxon and early English literature heroes were very different from those of a modern day hero. The first of them is that the Public eye likes the hero to be humble and have good sportsmanship. In comparison of the two time periods, Michael Jordan never went around taunting his opponents or talking about how good he was. But on the other hand Beowulf talked very highly of himself. The public would not have responded well to that.

Another characteristic of a modern day hero is his appearance. Michael was a clean looking person. He did TV commercials and made his own products. Beowulf was described as he didn’t have a good personal appearance. The third characteristic is to be a role model to the kids. During Michael Jordan’s playing time, many children wanted to be like him, but if you were to bring Beowulf into being a role model for kids, he would be described as a murderer. The time period between these two heroes are hundreds of years. They lived in two very different cultures but they were both portrayed as heroes in their own era.

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