Epic heroes are considered to be one of the most important figures in history and literature, who represent the best human qualities and traits, illustrate proper morals and values, and teach the reader of what it means to be fair, honorable, and respectable person. As a rule, epic heroes symbolize numerous cultural and religious beliefs of a nation. The hero under consideration is Beowulf, who represents a perfect picture of a courageous person, who wanted to gain recognition and fame by means of noble actions.
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This epic hero creates a splendid picture of how an image of a hero should look like. Abilities to prove own points of view, to appreciate friendship and external help, to comprehend the outcomes of own actions, and to distinguish moral and immoral principles - these are the main traits, the hero under consideration present (Bazelmans 115). It can be stated that gaining fame, fate and destiny is Beowulf's primary purpose throughout life and Beowulf did whatever was necessary to seek and achieve this purpose.
As Natalia Breizmann points out, Beowulf's journeys are not unlike quests in which he attempts to find his place in his society and to prove himself as the ideal hero of the Geats (Breizmann 1022). Beowulf's journeys begin with his swimming match with Brecca. As a young man, Beowulf's desire is to prove that he is braver and stronger than any other warrior in his society. As he tells Unferth, "But the truth/is simple: no man swims in the sea/As I can, no strength is a match for mine" (Breizmann 532-4). As Beowulf's adventures take him to Denmark where he battles Grendel and Grendel's mother and finally to his last battle as King of the Geats against the fire dragon, he achieves not only fame and glory, but also the respect and the love of his people. However, eventually Beowulf, like all people, has to confront his own mortality.
Consistent with the character of the true hero, even though he has a premonition that the battle with the dragon will be his last, Beowulf is determined to die in the manner in which he lived. As he prepares to fight the dragon, Beowulf declares, "No one else could do/what I meant to, here, no man but me/Could hope to defeat this monster" (Breizmann, 2532-4). To the end of his life, Beowulf lives his life according to the values of his society and the code of the ideal hero. Ultimately, Beowulf is a reflection of the values of his society. Life in the Dark Ages was uncertain; by necessity, people looked to their warriors to protect them from assault and invasion, and Beowulf represents the ideal warrior and king.
As Rivkah Kluger states, myths are "soul-matter"; therefore, if one considers Beowulf to be myths of its time, then like dreams, as Jung believed, they are "manifestations of the unconscious" (Kluger 1). The journeys of Gilgamesh are symbolic of the journeys all people take through life. Beowulf must struggle with external and internal forces and eventually accept his own mortality. These myths raise universal and timeless questions that are not only a part of their own society, but questions that must be answered by all humans. Kluger claims that myths are "like reflections or mirrorings of certain cultural situations of mankind." (Kluger 1) As Beowulf struggles to establish his identity within his own society, he reflects the journey all people must make to find their role within their own culture.
While the journeys of Beowulf are pleasant tales of adventure, the real value of the epic is the glimpse they provide of ancient cultures and peoples. In addition, Beowulf is link between the past and the present and between the values, all cultures seem to share. These epics are timeless myths because they remind us that life, for all humans, is an uncertain journey, often one a person must make, in part, alone, and that ultimately, the search for oneself defines the role one will have within society. Although the cultural and historical contexts change, certain human truths do not, and in the end, like Beowulf, all men leave their earthly existences, perhaps with the hopes that the myths they leave behind will provide lessons for those who come after them.
The aspects of fame and glory are juxtaposed with the parameters of the journey at the same time. The Beginning and finale parts of the poem depict the memorial service of a great king of that era. Under such circumstances the focal point of this paper deals with the aspects of fame and glory that determined the position of an individual in the society where "that the slayer-of-souls would succor give them / for the pain of their people" (Gummere, 2).
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