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English Literature 261
Zorro, Lassie, Hercules, and Beowulf all have something in common, they are all
considered hero’s. It does not matter if the hero is a man, woman, animal or an intimate object
that springs to life. It does not matter where the hero comes from or how old he or she is. The
only thing that a hero needs to do to be a hero, according to Joseph Campbell, is follows a
predefined path of a hero and have some common characteristics of one, too. Joseph Campbell in
one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject of a hero. According to Joseph Campbell
many hero’s have completed the same deed over and over again throughout history. He points out
that a hero is not limited to one particular time or place. Campbell explains the details about what
makes a hero a hero in his discussion The Hero’s Journey. The story of the hero must have a
mystical quality. A hero’s characteristics should include doing something beyond the normal
range of a human and giving up one’s life for something bigger. A hero’s sequence of events is
began by the hero intentionally setting out on ones own to complete a physical deed for a moral
objective. The hero is trying to shape a savage world out of his existing world. The hero departs
from his home to fulfill his deed and then returns home again. The hero undergoes a mental
development throughout the story through different trials that he or she is facing. This transforms
the heroes state of consciousness. The hero learns to live in the system in which he or she is and
does not fall victim to it. Lastly whatever is accomplished by the hero is lost when he or she dies.
In the story of Beowulf the main character follows Campbell’s outline of a hero. It is an
Anglo-Saxon poem that recounts the life of the hero Beowulf and this poem is one of the oldest
existing poems in the English language.
First of all for a hero to be a hero he needs to be present in a story that has a mystical
quality about it, according to Campbell. The reader can see this mystical quality in Beowulf
everywhere he or she looks. First of all as the story begins it talks of a tribe of people, called the
Danes, rescuing a castaway baby at sea. The baby that the tribe rescues turns out later to be their
king. Another mystical quality that the story has is its monsters. Grendel, Grendel’s Mother, and
the dragon are all foes that intend on killing Beowulf in the story. Each monster possesses strength
and powers beyond the range of any human. The hero himself bring a mystical quality to the story
by also possessing strength beyond the range of any other human. The story even possesses a
mystical because of a sword that is in it. The sword that Beowulf fights Grendel’s Mother with is
stronger than any sword ever made by man because is forged by giants.
For a hero to be a hero he has to possess certain characteristics which make him one. One
of these characteristics is doing something beyond the normal range of a human. Beowulf does
this each time that he fights a monster. When Beowulf fights Grendel it says that while the two
were struggling Grendel “Knew at once that nowehere on earth/Had he met a man whose hands
were harder”(Raffel 46). A monster that no other man could fight before with weapons and win,
Beowulf fought without any weapon and won. When Beowulf fought Grendel’s Mother, he goes
into a lake that no other man has ever went into before and came out alive. While in the cave
under the lake Beowulf fight a battle with a sword forged by giants that no other man could lift
and wins that battle, too. Beowulf carries the head of Grendel, which was in the cave with his
mother, back to his men by himself. It takes four of his fellow warriors to carry the head of
Grendel that Beowulf carried by himself. Finally when Beowulf is fighting the dragon after being
bitten in the neck and filled with poison he still manages to kill the dragon and talk to his only
loyal warrior for a few minutes before he dies.
Besides doing something beyond the normal range of a human, Beowulf also gives up his
life for something bigger than himself. This is another characteristic
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Beowulf, Geats, English-language films, Anglo-Saxon paganism, English folklore, Grendel, The Dragon, Hrothgar, schere, Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Unfer
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