How Is Beowulf an Epic Hero? Video

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  • 0:02 The Epic Hero
  • 0:35 Noble Birth
  • 0:55 Great Strength/ Great Warrior
  • 2:15 Travels & Hero for Countrymen
  • 3:00 Battles Supernatural Beings
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Mallett Smith

Jennifer has taught high school English for eight years and has a master's degree in curriculum and assessment.

This lesson will go over some of the common traits of an epic hero and reveal how the character Beowulf is an epic hero. Epic heroes are usually strong individuals who are admired for their bravery and heroism.

The Epic Hero

Many of us enjoy the tales of epic heroes in today's popular fiction. Iron Man is one example of a modern day epic hero. His character is a wealthy man and a great warrior for a noble cause. Beowulf is the protagonist of old English epic poem called Beowulf, and he is one of the original epic heroes. With his brave and noble nature, he defeats many dangers that have harmed his people.

In this lesson, we'll identify some of the common traits of epic heroes and explore how Beowulf fulfills the role as an epic hero.

Noble Birth

Epic heroes from older literature tend to be of noble birth. Noble birth simply means that they are related to kings and people of power. We learn that Beowulf fulfills this requirement because his uncle Hygelac is king of the Geats and we know that Beowulf is an heir to the throne because he becomes king later in the poem.

Great Strength & Bravery

Epic heroes must possess superhuman strength. It's obvious when we meet Beowulf that he is a strong man. He is described as the strongest of the Geats, and we're told that nobody is stronger. We see evidence of his strength when he battles Grendel with his bare hands. The poem explains that Grendel, a powerful monster, has never encountered such strength.

Beowulf is also very brave. We see his bravery when he says, '. . .the monster's scorn of men is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none. Nor will I.' He defeats Grendel and then takes on his mother by himself. In his final battle, he also tries to defeat a dragon alone, an act that many would find brave and daring. Beowulf's strength and bravery make him an epic hero.

Great Warrior

Epic heroes are typically great warriors. This would make sense given their bravery and strength. Beowulf has been a successful warrior for some time before he battles Grendel. He explains it himself by saying, 'They have seen my strength for themselves, have watched me rise from the darkness of war, dripping with my enemies' blood.' He goes on to defeat Grendel and Grendel's mother, further adding to the idea of him being a great warrior. In his final battle, he still kills the dragon, even though it kills him. This evidence suggests that Beowulf was a great warrior.

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