Friday, May 18, 2012

Comparing and Contrasting Beowulf and Achilles as Epic Heroes

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The three characteristics that I am about to mention are all very important for an epic hero, such as Beowulf or Achilles, who both exhibit the characteristics very well. Courage is a characteristic in Beowulf and Achilles, which all epic heroes must have for them to be classified as heroes. In addition, both of these characters affect the fate of nations, because if they did not, they would not have any significance, and would not have been written about. Finally, both of these characters interact with supernatural beings, who liven up the story, and make it more appealing to the reader.

Both Beowulf and Achilles have great courage and there were many similarities in how they used it, along with some differences. Beowulf and Achilles use their courage to defeat their enemies, as shown with Beowulf against Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon, and with Achilles against Hector. All of these instances could have resulted in the hero’s death, which is why courage was so important. Beowulf seems to have honor in his courage, such as fighting with no weapons, and leaving Grendel to die by himself, not while being humiliated. On the other hand, Achilles desecrates Hector’s body without any honor at all.

Beowulf and Achilles both greatly affected the fate of their nations and changed them forever. Beowulf saves the Danes’ kingdom from Grendel, saved his own people from attack, and influenced their lives, thereafter. Achilles helped the Greeks in the Trojan War and his homeland certainly honored him for this. The difference between the two was that Beowulf had a lasting effect on his people and was mourned and remembered for years to come; whereas, Achilles, although he was still remembered by his people, did not seem to foster such love and care from them. However, they both prevented years of turmoil and conflict within their land and abroad, and for that, their ability to affect the fate of nations is very similar.

Beowulf and Achilles both dealt with supernatural beings, although Beowulf dealt with them directly for most of the story; whereas, Achilles dealt with them indirectly, with the exception of his mother, Thetis. Beowulf fought with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon, who were all supernatural beings. Apart from his mother, who Achilles conversed with in the story, the Greek gods dealt with Achilles indirectly, such as Athena making Hector stop and fight Achilles. However, Beowulf knew he was dealing with supernatural beings, which he recognized as demons of Hell, and Achilles knew and believed in the various gods, so a similarity between the two was that they both knew they were dealing with supernatural beings.

As I have stated, Beowulf and Achilles are certainly epic heroes because of these characteristics. Although they are similar in many aspects, they also have many differences, which most likely arose because of the different surroundings in which the authors lived. These resulting differences give the epics the ability to entertain the reader in different ways, and they both undoubtedly entertained generations of readers, and may do so for even longer.

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