Out of all the important values followed by the Anglo-Saxons, heroism is a trait every individual strives to have. Heroism is far more than simply physical courage, it is the goal to fulfill any of his/her obligations to a group of individuals he/she is a key member in. For example, the king in the epic is shown to have the obligation of being generous to all his people especially his thanes whom he must reward with valuable gifts for their defense of their people. Beowulf, on the other hand, is the most valued and respected individuals among the Anglo-Saxons due to his actions.
Beowulf is not just another man looked up to because of his wealth or fame, it is because he is a warrior and compassionate human being that makes looking after his people a number one priority. Beowulf is one of the greatest heroes depicted in the people not only because of his great power in battle but because he also fulfills his social obligations. He has virtues of a civilized man and the strength of the greatest warrior known to man.The three basic traits a true hero must have is strength, courage, loyalty, and fame.
However, if those are the only qualifications in order to be known as a well-known, respected hero; would Grendels mother be a hero as well? Throughout the epic, the readers are able to know the three basic traits and understand how exactly a villain and hero are two different individuals.
Grendels mom was strong, loyal to her son, and well-known through her huge battle with Beowulf. The catch is, the readers later learn that an Anglo-Saxon hero is not solely defined by his/her traits but by their appearance through God himself. As said in the epic, Beowulf is seen as good from the eyes of the lord therefore he is a true leader many individuals must respect and learn off of. On the other hand, Grendel and his family are all seen as horror to all by the lord therefore they are evil. Even though both characters have the three basic traits of a hero, God is the only person that can differentiate one from good or bad.
God plays a huge role in the Anglo-Saxon community especially when it comes to knowing which individuals are true, good heros from evil villains however the characters action also play a key role as well. Beowulf has also carried the mindset of being fair in any battle he has been in. Beowulf only relies on his God given strength and his war gear that protects him from any weapon his opponent may use. However, even though the only way Grendels mother could be defeated was by a blade in her armory, Beowulf still continued to use his strength to eventually tear off the monsters arm.
Grendel, on the other hand, only depends on his weapons when in battle. Even though he is physically stronger than his own mother, his weapons play a key role in the battlefield fighting his opponents. Unlike Beowulf, Grendel is portrayed as a monster who does not respect the people he should protect at all cost. Beowulf selflessly fights to defeat any threats that may step into their circle of security however Grendel is seen as a very strong and powerful man that eats his victims; practically anyone that steps in his path which is very unhero like.
As though it may seem as if all the heroes mentioned in the epic are the same due to the individuals having the three basic traits of a hero itself, Beowulf is illuminated in the story in order to learn off of and be a prime example as to what a real hero chosen by God himself looks like and values. Beowulf is a fearless defender of his people whereas Grendel is a perfect combination of both isolation and violence which is a recipe for disaster. By illuminating Beowulf, the reader is able to see the similarities and differences between the different heroes and villains to fully understand what it means to be a true hero to all.
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