Comparison Between Beowulf the Anglo-Saxon Hero and the Modern Day Hero | Free Essay Examples (2023)


The Anglo-Saxon culture required its heroes to be warriors. Therefore, a hero in the Anglo-Saxon Culture was a humble, kind, loyal, honorable, strong, and brave individual with the capacity to face all odds, including risking their lives, for the glory of their people. Beowulf, the epic hero of the heroic poem titled “Beowulf,” qualifies as an excellent example of an Anglo-Saxon hero. He possesses and exemplifies all the traits that the Anglo-Saxon culture requires of its heroes through his adventures and actions throughout “Beowulf,” the epic tale. In the Anglo-Saxon culture, a hero has to be brave, humble, strong, and intelligent, but most of all must keep their fears and sorrows to themselves. Heroes cannot appear weak or complain about their problems; they must always appear fearless and stoic. In the modern-day culture, the concept of real heroes does not necessarily involve physical attainment of strength or portrayals of the pop-culture superstars, but rather involves the portrayal of a selfless character of risking their lives without reward for the benefit of others. Examples of heroes in modern-day culture are people like Gail J. McGovern. McGovern is the American Red Cross Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has continued to carry the Red Cross mission of easing human suffering during emergencies for the past ten years (American Red Cross, pg 4). Another heroic person is the former American president Barrack Obama who saw the enactment of legislation to reform health care, a partial extension of the American Bush cut taxes, a major financial regulation reform bill, among other reforms (Dimock, p 23). This paper compares the similarities and differences between Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon hero, and the modern-day hero.

Similarities between Beowulf the Anglo-Saxon Hero and the Modern Day Hero

Beowulf, the main character of the epic tale, portrays some characteristics like loyalty, generosity, and bravery, which depict him as a hero. Beowulf is generous and protective to the people of Dane. He says, “Whatever it is, this danger abroad in the dark nights, I come to proffer my wholehearted help and counsel” (Heaney, p 277) as he arrives to fight the Grendel monster that destroyed the Danes. Similarly, Beowulf shows loyalty when he wants to protect Hrothgar’s kingdom willingly ” I can show the wise Hrothgar a way to defeat his enemy and find respite” (Heaney, p 280). He does this on behalf of his father, who was very loyal to Hrothgar. Beowulf says that whatever may happen during his fights, his body must be sent back to his leader, for his loyalty belongs there.

Interestingly, modern-day heroes show much of similar qualities as Beowulf. For instance, soldiers are thought of as heroes in the United States. They travel to different parts of the world where they face death, but instead of allowing their bodies to be buried in foreign lands, they choose to be buried in their homeland, indicating their loyalty to their country.

Additionally, Beowulf shows that heroes must be humble. When the people of Dane exalt him after defeating Grandel and Grendel’s mother, he rejects kingship and humbly returns honor to Hygelsac, the king of the Geats, and donates his hard-earned treasures to the Danes. Beowulf likes to constantly refer loyalty to Hygelac, his lord, which makes him a perfect example of an Anglo-Saxon hero renowned as “The mildest of men and the gentlest, kindest to his people, and most eager for fame” (Beowulf, 52). Beowulf’s humble nature can be compared to that of Firefighters. When firefighters head to rescue people from burning buildings, they gain great respect and feel great pride and honor inside them but do not outwardly express it. For firefighters, being respectable and having pride and honor only feel good but add more glory to their job than anything.

Moreover, whether it is to kill Grendels’ mother, the dragon, or Grendel himself, often, Beowulf has a driving desire to win and is up for the challenge. He boasts, “I risked my life often when I was young. Now I am old, but as king of the people, I shall pursue this for the glory of winning” (line2511). This quote lets the readers into the heart of Beowulf and enables the reader to understand how bad Beowulf wants to win the fight over the dragon. Beowulf’s desire to succeed can be compared with that of the American Red Cross’ Gail J. McGovern, who has overseen the organization’s response to several high-profile disasters worldwide and across the country. MacGovern has responded to some of the catastrophes that include Hurricane Harvey, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, 2017’s Irma and Maria, including several floods, home fires, tornadoes, and other disasters that affect America every year (American Red Cross, pg 14). McGovern and her rescue teams are involved in these missions because they need to succeed in expanding the reach for life-saving services offered by the Red Cross and in carrying on the legacy and mission of Clarissa Harlowe Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.

Notably, Beowulf makes references if he wants to acquire wealth on many occasions. He says, “I sold my life for this treasure, and I sold it well” (Raffel, p 820-821). Beowulf’s statement indicates that Anglo-Saxon heroes seek fortune. Modern-day heroes such as Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Beyonce Knowles, Tayler Swift, among others, are heroes and heroines that young people uphold in high esteem because of their prowess and success in their careers. However, apart from working hard to remain relevant and entertain their admirers, they work hard to acquire wealth.

Differences between Beowulf the Anglo-Saxon hero and the Modern Day Heroes

Modern-day heroes fight with their minds. For example, the military officers or the firefighters fight their battles using their minds, not fists. Also, Superman and Batman, who pass as heroes to children, rely on their wits and determination. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon Heroes and Beowulf fight with their fists as indicated in the film He raised his arms and seized her by the shoulder” (Raffel, 509-510). Furthermore, from the days of Beowulf, Heroes today have changed. In the days of Beowulf, heroes such as kings and warriors were the main protectors of their country. Today, the roles have changed, and heroes include sports players and celebrities. The roles of our heroes have changed because society has changed too.

Beowulf is known to be a man of strength. He is said ”to have the grip of thirty thanes.” (Heaney, 143). Beowulf fought Grendel with this strength, and Grendel’s mother died fighting Beowulf to avenge his death. Unlike Anglo-Saxon heroes who needed strength to perform heroic acts, modern-day heroes do not require strength. For example, in Queens, New York, a Colombian Migrant, Jorge Munoz, did not need physical strength to feed 70 000 people (Llorente). Munoz only required financial strength to fight the hunger monster and become a celebrated hero. The second example of a modern-day hero is North Carolina’s, Doc Hendley. Hendley started a foundation named ”Wine to Water” to give clean water to people who cannot easily access it (Hendley). The monster Hendley fought is the evil of intangible dirty water, an act that makes him a hero to the North Carolina residents. Therefore, although Beowulf needed physical strength to fight monsters literary about 1500 years ago, today, heroes do not need literal monsters or physical strength to be seen as heroes.


Although Beowulf has many qualities of a hero, he has some flaws that cannot make him a hero in the modern world because heroic concepts evolve with a culture. Hence, Beowulf has characteristics that the Anglo-Saxons regarded as heroic but misses several key qualities to the modern-day hero. Nevertheless, in the Anglo-Saxon culture, Beowulf remains their celebrated hero. Unlike today where the line between a hero and a role model has become closer, still society ingrains through media forums where lucrative celebrities and athletes show how exciting and glamorous their lives are. Unfortunately, people of high profile have done great things that impact people’s lives. Still, they cannot be viewed as leaders because heroes are people who concern themselves with others and exhibit complete selflessness in situations without having selfish motives or interests.

(Video) What are important characteristics within Beowulf that make Beowulf an epic hero?

Work Cited

Dimock, Michael. “How America Changed During Barack Obama’s Presidency.” Pew Research Center (2017): 26.

Heaney, S. Beowulf. Faber & Faber 2000. Accessed 24. Feb 2021

Hendley, Doc. Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World. United Kingdom: Hooklines Books. , 2012.

Llorente, Elizabeth. “The Work of Angels: Colombian immigrant Jorge Muñoz has distributed more than 120,000 home-cooked meals to out-of-work New Yorkers over the past five years.” AARP (2009).

Raffel, Burton. “Beowulf.” Elements of Literature, 1963. 6th Course.

The American Red Cross. (n.d.). “Gail McGovern; who we are leading.” American Red Cross (2019): 34.

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How can we compare Beowulf to a modern day hero of our time? ›

Superman is like Beowulf and fights with superhuman strength, while Batman is a superhero without any special powers who must rely on his wits and determination.

What's the difference between a modern hero and an Anglo-Saxon hero? ›

In terms of Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, the word “hero” has many associated ideas, including such themes as courage and honor, in and out of battle, whereas modern-day concepts of a hero do not necessarily entail physical feats of strength to validate one's status.

How does Beowulf compare to modern day? ›

Actions in modern America are parallel to those seen in Beowulf because although times have changed, people have stayed the same. Corruption, greed, and jealousy exist today, as do courage, bravery, and nobility. A struggle between good and evil existed then and will continue to exist for centuries to come.

What were being compared in the essay Beowulf heroes then and now? ›

The heroes of the past are protectors of the country such as kings and warriors while the heroes of today are like role models to people such as celebrities and sport players. They are similar in a way that they are important to people because they serve as their inspirations to get by with their lives.

How is a hero today different than a hero from the ancient times? ›

Modern superheroes struggle with their morality, whereas ancient Greek heroes were above human standards, he said. “Kids want the Greek heroes to be moral,” Chiasson said. They want them to be good human beings.” Power was more important, and the morality of a hero was beside the point of ancient mythology.

Is Beowulf considered a modern day hero? ›

He is very similar to superheroes in today's world but, Beowulf is to be considered the very first and greatest hero of them all. Beowulf exemplifies the characteristics of a Modern Day Hero.

What is the difference between modern day values and Anglo-Saxon values? ›

Beowulf And Anglo Saxon Values

The Anglo - Saxon Culture valued war, loyalty, honor, and riches. The American values are not the same as the Anglo - Saxon values. The Modern day values focus more on religion and equality.

In what ways is Beowulf a good example of an Anglo-Saxon warrior hero? ›

In Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon hero is well defined by the actions of Beowulf. It is obvious that Beowulf is the quintessential hero. His strength and courage are unparalleled, and he is much more humble (and honorable) than many of the corrupt warriors around him. Beowulf displays his great strength time after time.

What is a hero in modern day? ›

Heroes protect others by saving others, helping others, acting against danger or injustice, acting when others do not, and acting on behalf of vulnerable individuals or groups.

What qualities does Beowulf share with modern day heroes? ›

They share the common traits of courage, sacrifice, loyalty, and compassion. Over time, the desirable traits for a hero change. For example, the Anglo-Saxon culture of Beowulf's time had considerably different ways life than we do now.…

Why was Anglo-Saxon compared to Beowulf? ›

Beowulf is an ideal example of the true Anglo-Saxon culture, society and tradition. He is all-good, fighting for what's right and noble, in search of honor, and he wants to be both loyal to a king and to his people.

Why is Beowulf not a modern day hero? ›

In Beowulf, the epic poem translated by Burton Raffel, Beowulf is recognized as a hero who craves too much glory. In today's world, Beowulf is viewed as an irrelevant hero since he displays poor qualities of arrogance and selfishness.

What are some examples of Beowulf being a hero? ›

What are Beowulf's heroic actions? Beowulf acts heroically when he defends Heorot from Grendel and Grendel's mother. He comes to the aid of king Hrothgar and fights for the safety of Hrothgar and his people.

Do you think Beowulf would be a good leader and hero in our world today why or why not? ›

Beowulf is a good leader do to his decisions and qualities he made in the Epic Novel Beowulf. He shows many qualities including confidence, bravery, and being decisive. Also Beowulf's decision's helped save and protect a Kingdom. This shows just a glimpse of how good a leader Beowulf really is.

What is an example of modern hero? ›

A great example about a modern day hero is the Flash. Barry Allen, The Flash, protect central city for the security of other people fighting against a lot of metahumans that terrorizes the city. He is a good person and a powerful hero.

What's the difference between a superhero and a real life hero? ›

A superhero is a character with extraordinary powers that performs heroic actions. Unlike police, firefighters or doctors, all of whom are heroes in their own right, superheroes are defined by their unique capabilities, such flight, strength, speed or invincibility (to name a few).

What are the differences between epic heroes and modern heroes? ›

The biggest differences between an epic hero and a modern hero would be the characteristics needed. Another difference is that epic heroes have special strength. Also epic heroes usually have a need for attention and praise unlike modern heroes.

How do modern day readers view Beowulf? ›

According to "Beowulf Is Back!," how do modern-day readers view Beowulf? They consider it mysterious and fascinating.

Why is Beowulf important in today's society? ›

What Is the Significance of Beowulf? Beowulf helps scholars trace the evolution of the English language as well as study the norms and traditions of the Anglo-Saxons in the medieval period. Beowulf gives a glimpse of England's history and the earliest forms of literature of the people of England.

Is Beowulf a true hero essay? ›

The one major theme of this epic poem “Beowulf” is heroism. A true hero that goes to the end of his depths to fight for his own life just for the protection of others. A hero has many traits such as bravery, strength, and honor; Beowulf shows just that.

How is the Anglo-Saxons related with the modern day English? ›

The Anglo-Saxons spoke the language we now know as Old English, an ancestor of modern-day English. Its closest cousins were other Germanic languages such as Old Friesian, Old Norse and Old High German.

What are some qualities the Anglo-Saxons value in a hero that we value in a hero in Western civilization Why do you think those qualities are still valued today? ›

In Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, to be a hero was to be a warrior. A hero had to be strong, intelligent, and courageous. Warriors had to be willing to face any odds, and fight to the death for their glory and people. The Anglo-Saxon hero was able to be all of these and still be humble and kind.

What Anglo-Saxon words are still used today? ›

Some examples here include: aberration, allusion, anachronism, democratic, dexterity.

What 3 heroic values are present in the poem Beowulf? ›

Especially seen through the characters of Beowulf and Wiglaf, the poem Beowulf illustrates three important morals of its time: bravery, honor, and loyalty. Beowulf, the hero of the poem, exhibits great bravery in everything he does.

How is Beowulf an example of Anglo-Saxon culture? ›

Loyalty And Honor In The Epic Of Beowulf

Though it is fiction, readers can comprehend Anglo-Saxon thoughts and their concepts of heroism, life and death. Anglo-Saxon culture valued strength, honor, courage, loyalty, and fearlessness. Beowulf was a hero because he was strong, loyal, brave, honorable, and fearless.

What are 3 things that make Beowulf an epic hero? ›

Beowulf is synonymous with the concept of the epic hero. In this epic poem, we watch as he demonstrates his courage, strength, loyalty, and wisdom, and we see him have no difficulty letting people know who he is and what he is capable of accomplishing.

Why are modern day heroes important? ›

Heroes exemplify cherished values, display qualities we admire, show us how to overcome challenges – and call us to stand up for others. They help build a better world for us all.

How do you become a modern day hero? ›

6 Easy Ways You Can Be an Everyday Hero
  1. Always Be On Guard. You must first have the mindset of a hero. ...
  2. Help Your Loved Ones. Actions are the best ways to show your loved ones that you care, especially when they are unexpected. ...
  3. Be Kind to Strangers. ...
  4. Find A Cause You Believe In. ...
  5. Every Penny Counts. ...
  6. Inspire Other Heroes.
Apr 2, 2018

How is Beowulf presented as a hero? ›

Beowulf is presented as the ideal warrior. He is almost inhumanly brave and strong. He is loyal to his king, Hygelac, and he leaps to take revenge even against opponents who haven't harmed him personally (like Grendel and Grendel's mother).

How is Beowulf best characterized as a hero? ›

In his youth, Beowulf is a great warrior, characterized predominantly by his feats of strength and courage, including his fabled swimming match against Breca. He also perfectly embodies the manners and values dictated by the Germanic heroic code, including loyalty, courtesy, and pride.

What are five heroic qualities of Beowulf? ›

Beowulf: Character Traits
  • Physical strength.
  • Extraordinary courage.
  • Willingness to fight.
  • Desire to prove himself.
  • Loyalty to his people and allies.
  • The wisdom to be a great king.
  • And courtesy to others.
Nov 16, 2021

What is Beowulf connection to Anglo-Saxon? ›

The Anglo-Saxons valued bravery, perseverance, sacrifice, loyalty, duty to the tribe and king, and honor. These ideals, known as the Heroic Code in Beowulf, exemplify what they deemed important in their culture. They used stories to teach these morals to successive generations.

What makes Beowulf a hero and what values of Anglo-Saxon culture he embodies? ›

Loyalty And Honor In The Epic Of Beowulf

Anglo-Saxon culture valued strength, honor, courage, loyalty, and fearlessness. Beowulf was a hero because he was strong, loyal, brave, honorable, and fearless. He wanted to be remembered beyond the years of his life. These values in heroes has not disappeared like its culture.

What is the main Anglo-Saxon heroic epic Beowulf about? ›

The story is set in pagan Scandinavia in the 6th century. Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall in Heorot has been under attack by the monster Grendel. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel's mother attacks the hall and is then defeated.

What can you compare Beowulf to? ›

Beowulf has similar characteristics to Incredible Hulk, Superman, and Spider-Man. Although Beowulf shares many characteristics, he also has many that makes him unique. Beowulf is strong like Incredible Hulk, but does not hurt anyone unless necessary. Beowulf is brave like Superman, although he is not as big.

How is Beowulf an example of a hero? ›

Beowulf is a prime example of an Anglo-Saxon epic hero because he showed bravery, loyalty, friendship, and the Anglo-Saxon idea of afterlife. The first way he shows Anglo-Saxon beliefs is through his bravery. This is one of the most valued characteristics in Anglo-Saxon society.

What are some modern day heroes? ›

Modern Day Heroes: The Choices
  • Al Gore.
  • Alex Pacheco.
  • Arthur Ashe.
  • Angelina Jolie.
  • Barack Obama.
  • Barbara Jordan.
  • Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
  • Bethany Hamilton.

What makes Beowulf a hero essay? ›

He is a true hero by honoring his country and exerting his power and strength to protect others. Beowulf embodies the qualities of bravery, being powerful, and demonstrating his honor; therefore, he can be considered a true hero.

What are two characteristics that make Beowulf a hero? ›

' Beowulf is indeed a true epic hero, and we are witness to the very elements that contribute to his heroic status. We see that he's loyal, courageous, wise, and strong.

Is Beowulf a successful hero or a failed hero Why or why not? ›

Beowulf is considered an epic hero because his bravery has won many battles. This bravery also makes him a tragic hero because he is a great man with the tragic flaw of pride, which leads to his death.

How is Beowulf a good example of an epic hero? ›

Beowulf is one of the first epic heroes that can be found in ancient literature. His brave and noble character helps him defeat evil monsters that killed the Danes and Geats. Beowulf is strong and loyal to his kings. He does everything possible to improve the life of the people around him.


1. Beowulf: Analysis of a Hero
(CMI Tutoring)
(English with Abiha)
3. Evolution of the Hero in British Literature
(Adal Rivas)
4. Beowulf Analysis (Anglo-Saxons & Heroic Epic Poetry)
5. Write an essay on beowulf epic hero in english | Essay writing on beowulf epic hero in english
(Gyankaksh Educational Institute)
6. The World of Beowulf


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