Beowulf: The Selfless Hero
Beowulf is an epic poem that describes the heroics of a man with superhuman strength and bravery to go with it. The poem starts with a journey across the sea to defeat an enemy that has plagued the land of Herot for twelve years. The poem ends with Beowulf’s final deed of defeating a dragon that was plaguing his own land, but with the defeat of the dragon also comes the death of Beowulf. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a poem of bravery by one of King Arthur’s knights. Sir Gawain takes up the deed of playing a Christmas game with the challenging Green Knight. The Green Knight takes a blow from an ax at the hand of Sir Gawain, and in one year and one day, the Green Knight is to reciprocate the action to Sir Gawain. While Sir Gawain was heroic in his deed, Beowulf shows a certain selflessness in his bouts makes him a better hero than Sir Gawain.
Sir Gawain was heroic in seeking out the Green Knight to finish the challenge that was brought to King Arthur’s men. “Said Gawain, ‘Strike once more; /I shall neither flinch nor flee; /But if my head falls to the floor /There is no mending me!’” (lns. 2280-2283) There was no physical power that forced Sir Gawain to keep true to his word. Gawain sought out the Green Knight, just as he had promised, and was now about to receive the blow that would send him to his death. This quote shows that Sir Gawain was ready to be dealt his fate, and that he knew there was no way for him to survive as the Green Knight had done earlier in the poem. This shows a very human side to Sir Gawain as he appears somewhat afraid of death, but ready to face it nonetheless. It is this willingness and readiness to accept death at the hand of the Green Knight that makes Sir Gawain a hero; however Beowulf faces much more fearsome foes and shows less fear when confronted with death.
Beowulf faced many enemies in his lifetime, but even more importantly, with every enemy he faced, he was prepared for death. “If this combat kills me, take care /of my young company, my comrades in arms. /And be sure also, my beloved Hrothgar, /to send Hygelac the treasures I have received.” (lns. 1480-1483) This quote shows that Beowulf thinks first of his people, then of his possessions. The quote starts with Beowulf facing the fact that he may not come back from this fight alive, revealing that although he has superhuman strength, he is still human...