“True Blue Revolutionaries or Tired Beowulf Reruns”


“Beowulf to Batman: The Epic Hero and Pop Culture” by Roger B. Rollins compares the design of the epic poetry to the design of today’s pop culture. The epic poem refers to Anglo-Saxon poems such as Beowulf. Pop culture refers to movies, shows, and comics of today such as Batman and Spiderman. The main point of Rollin’s essay is to show the significance of epic poetry to the modern day pop culture. He does so by showing the connections between the two, and the similar purposes the stories serve. One basic similarity that Rollins’ mentions is “Neither epic poets nor the creators of pop culture are true revolutionaries.”(2) Different plots, heroes, villains, and other details make the stories appear to be new and innovative. Though the heroes, villains, and story lines are never the same, it is apparent that the same basic recipe is used to create each different story. The main ingredients for these stories are actually quite simple; first a level cup of Good versus Evil. Then a jar of “fighting for righteousness and apprehending the wrongdoer.”(1) And of course a nice finishing coat of Good or Evil also known as “value satisfaction.” Add a little pinch imagination and two tablespoons of creativity, and a healthy helping on interesting details and there you have if an epic poem or a pop romance.


Good versus Evil is incorporated in virtually every epic poem and pop romance. The hero in each story is represents good he is the embodiment of what the average citizen should strive to be. These heroes represent the Good; they are usually honest, clean, upright respectable people an archetype for the model citizen should be. The Good also represents what we would like to be. For example they can be extremely intelligent like Batman, outrageously handsome like James Bond, or amazingly strong and brave like Beowulf. Many pop heroes of today usually posses all of the above qualities and much more. Apposed to Beowulf whose main asset was his amazing hand strength, not much mention was made of his wily good looks or his incredible intelligence. These differences do not really change the hero; they are just added to please society. To create the qualities of the hero is also quite simple; whatever the audience (society of the time) is preoccupied with the hero much has plenty of it. Whether it is good looks or great strength those details are only added to the hero to satisfy the reader/ viewer. None the less the heroes essentially grow from the same roots. The other half of this main ingredient is Evil represented by the bad guy or the villain. The evil person/ thing main focus is that he/ it goes against the values of the community. The Anglo-Saxons were religious people and had a strong belief in God. Beowulf believes he is protected by God, while Grendel the evil is “at war with God.”(4) Beowulf says “I would bear no sword nor weapon to battle with the evil worm if I knew how else I could close the fiend… (1488-1490.) Beowulf clearly states that he is fighting evil by referring to the dragon as the “evil worm.” Beowulf battle and his inevitable death depict him as a messiah, the legend of Beowulf somewhat mirrors the story of Jesus. Both the stories tell a tale of Good fighting against Evil and then dying for the people. The ideas from the Bible greatly shaped the Anglo-Saxon culture and helped shaped the epic poem of that time period and the pop romance of the future. The villain or wrongdoer always poses a threat to the community in someway causing him to be deemed evil.


The fighting of Good versus evil is the next major component to the story. This is where the focus of the poem of story usually lies. The epic poem Beowulf focuses on his three major battles rather than the rest of his reign. In stories like Spiderman the focus still remains on all his adventures saving people from evil and not his everyday life activities. The fight of Good versus Evil is where the creators can use the most imagination and creativity. The authors can display all the great qualities their hero