Beowulf Characteristics: Analyzing the Unique Qualities of Beowulf

Beowulf characteristicsBeowulf is an epic poem that follows the adventures of the titular character as he battles three monsters to protect people. The poem highlights the many values that characterized Anglo-Saxon society and contain timeless lessons that are appropriate for every culture.

The epic hero, Beowulf, has been a subject of intrigue for decades with many scholars studying his unique qualities. This hero essay will dissect Beowulf’s characteristics with evidence and draw lessons we can learn from the epic hero.

Table of Beowulf Characteristics

CharacteristicsBrief Explanation
Extraordinary strengthMental and physical strength
Bravery and courageReady to face death by going to war
Hunger for gloryFighting for his kingdom
Desire to protectGoing against all odds to defeat the monster
LoyaltyShowing great loyalty for the Dane’s King

List of the Best Beowulf Characteristics of An Epic Hero

Extraordinary Strength

The Beowulf is the Prince of the Geats blessed with extraordinary strength which he uses to help people. According to the Beowulf summary, he is endowed “with the strength of thirty in the grip of each hand“.

In his first battle against the troll-like monster, Grendel also known as Nightstalker, the Beowulf hero decides against using a weapon. He believes that his strength is equal to or even outmatches the monster who had killed almost all of the warriors from the kingdom of the Danes.

When the monster attacks, Beowulf kills it by grabbing its arm and severing it from the rest of its body by sheer strength. The monster then runs off to its home where it dies from the injury inflicted by Beowulf.

In his second fight with Nightstalker’s mother, who had come to revenge on the death of her child, Beowulf cut off the woman’s head with a sword fashioned for giants. His ability to wield the sword and use it to kill a monster as fearsome as the mother of Grendel speaks of his extraordinary strength.

Another event that testifies to the strength of Beowulf is his swimming prowess. In his youth, Beowulf bravely fought rough waves on the open sea for about seven days.

Narrating the tale, Beowulf claims to have battled various sea monsters and endured the coldest temperatures of the darkest nights. His swimming across the sea from Friesland Beowulf and the slaying of the dragon in his final battle proves his extraordinary strength.

His Bravery and Courage

With Beowulf’s extraordinary strength comes from his unmatched bravery and courage even in the face of imminent death. His willingness to fight Nightstalker alone when everyone went into hiding proves his bravery.

What makes the duel more intriguing is his resolution to kill the monster without using any weapon. This is in stark contrast to the other warriors who came with weapons of all kinds to face the beast.

Beowulf’s bravery was on display once again during the second battle with the mother of Nightstalker where the epic hero swims the dark waters full of monsters looking for the Grendel’s mother. Though Beowulf knows that the hot blood of the monster will melt his sword, he pursues her nonetheless.

In his last fight which occurs 50 years later, the aging Beowulf goes to face the dragon alone. He does that to save his men’s lives and to prevent needless deaths.

He puts his courage on display as he fights monsters in the open sea enduring a swimming contest with his friend Breca. The contest took place over seven days with the character Unferth revealing that Breca won the race; however, Beowulf revealed he came second because he had to fight the sea monsters. Beowulf’s exemplary bravery left the Geats mourning at his funeral because the city has become defenseless due to the passing of their greatest hero.

Hunger for Glory

Considering the Beowulf hero analysis, we can deduce that one of the major character traits of Beowulf is his passion for glory hunting. This major characteristic is what drives his major exploits and battles throughout the epic.

It is his search for the glory that lands him in the Kingdom of the Danes and accepts the challenge to slay the Nightstalker. He doesn’t think that men should settle for mediocre achievements but must strive for the ultimate.

Beowulfs hunger for gloryThe quest for glory drove him as a youth to challenge his friend Breca to a grueling swimming challenge. He is even pained when Unferth recounts the tale and implies that Beowulf lost the challenge to Breca.

Beowulf blames his inability to win on the monsters he fought during the competition; furthermore, he claims that Breca won because he had no obstacles in the form of the sea monsters.

Beowulf’s hunt for glory is evidenced in his decision to fight the dragon even though he was old and not as strong as he was in his heydays. He wants to be remembered for his great feats after his death, so he goes to great lengths just to cement his legacy.

Some scholars believe that his love for glory outweighs his loyalty which is why he takes on the dragon challenge. However, most agree that Beowulf’s glory hunting is one of the major heroic characteristics that ultimately leads to his downfall.

Having the Desire To Protect People

Though Beowulf loves glory, he also desires to keep people safe and monsters at bay as he demonstrates to the Beowulf main characters. When he hears of the destruction and carnage the Nightstalker left in his wake at Heorot he goes to their aid.

The Nightstalker is a monster who hates sounds of revelry and joy so he attacks the party at Heorot. Beowulf isn’t a Dane but feels that the Danes need protection from the monster, thus he risks his to keep them safe.

Beowulf is handsomely rewarded by the King of the Danes and leaves but returns when he learns that the mother of the Nightstalker had come for revenge. His desire for protecting people drives him to pursue the monster to her lair where he slays her to prevent her from coming back to hunt the Danes.

On the journey to the lair of the beast, the crew is attacked by several monsters but our hero once again saves the day. Interestingly, that won’t be the last time Beowulf chases a monster into its lair to kill it.

His final battle is started by a slave who steals some treasure belonging to a dragon. Beowulf is now king and has the authority to order his men to pursue the dragon but his penchant for protecting people took the better of him.

Just like the Nightstalker’s mother, our epic hero follows the dragon to its home and kills it there with the help of his loyal warrior Wiglaf. However, his desire to protect lives results in a mortal wound he suffers at the hands of the dragon which leads to his death.

He Displays a Great Sense of Loyalty

Beowulf displays loyalty towards the King of the Danes even at the peril of his life. When the King meets the young Beowulf he narrates an incident of how he saved the life of Beowulf’s father. According to the king of the Danes, Beowulf’s father, Ecgtheow, killed a member of the Wulfings tribe and was banished. Ecgtheow then came to him, the King, for help to settle the matter between him and the Wulfings.

The King agreed and paid a ransom that allowed Ecgtheow to return home. Ecgtheow then swore an oath of friendship to the King –an oath that influenced Beowulf to pledge his loyalty to him. Before Beowulf decided to take on the Nightstalker, the King of the Danes warned him that lots of heroes have tried and failed but this does not deter the young Beowulf who was eager to prove his loyalty.

Beowulf is also loyal to his men and he proves this when he asks Hrothgar to take good care of them when he dies. Several times throughout the poem, Beowulf asks his men to stand down while he risks his life for theirs.

He also requests that all his treasures be taken back to his King as a sign of loyalty to him. Beowulf’s loyalty also stretched to characters like Mealhtheow, the Queen of the Danes whom he promised to take to protect her sons.

Conclusion

Beowulf character analysisBeowulf is an Anglo-Saxon hero whose character is worthy of praise and emulation.

In this Beowulf character analysis essay, this is what we’ve discovered so far:

  • Beowulf is a man of extraordinary strength who defeats the Nightstalker with his bare hands and slays all the beasts that he encounters.
  • He also has an unquenchable thirst for glory which drives his desire to run head-on into any encounter for he wants to be remembered after he is long gone.
  • Beowulf places the lives of others above his and makes sure they are safe.
  • He is a man of great courage who never backs down from battle regardless of the size, strength, or ferocity of his adversary.
  • Beowulf is a loyal man and a protector who remains faithful even until his death, making sure that his loyalists and subjects stay alive.

In this Beowulf characteristics essay, we discover that all his major characteristics lead to his ultimate demise. Yet, it doesn’t deter him from giving his all in his encounters with humans and monsters.

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