Hero Vs Monster In The Poem Beowulf: [Essay Example], 1302 words (2023)

In most people’s minds a monster is always qualified as hostile and ugly, while heroes are qualified as good and beautiful. Through mythology, ancient scripts, literature, movies and real life we see, hear and read about monsters and heroes all the time. Examples of “famous” villains are: Darth Vader from The Star Wars Trilogy, Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, The Joker from Batman or Grendel from Beowulf. But real humans such as serial killers and pedophiles can also be qualified as monsters since it is clear that a monster has cruel intentions and knowledge of the harm they are causing. The monster is evidently the “bad guy”, whereas a hero is the opposite. There are many examples of famous fictional heroes: Odysseus, SuperMan, Robin Hood, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes. However, firefighters and military forces for example are often also qualified as being heroes. The hero is evidently the “good guy” because he saves the people from the bad, by killing the monsters.

(Video) Beowulf Book One SG Questions

In the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf” we have studied the classic story where the hero “Beowulf”, unique, selfless, strong and courageous, fights the monster “Grendel” who is a demon who has been terrorizing the village, Heorot, and killed many for more than a decade. In this particular text there seems to be a clear distinction between the “good person” and the “bad person”: a hero versus a monster, where the good must conquer the bad. Through the study of Beowulf we shall try to determine what makes a hero and what makes a monster. But what if there were no monsters out there, would there still be heroes ? Moreover, can monsters become heroes and vice versa ?

A monster is someone, as seen is this poem, with cruel intentions. Monsters know exactly what they are doing; their purpose is to cause harm to others, to be evil and spread hate and darkness around them. In the poem Beowulf Grendel is presented as a “powerful demon”, an “outcast”, lines. He is described as someone coming from hell “a fiend out of hell”, a “God-cursed brute”, “merciless”, “malignant by nature” and “the Lord’s outcast’. The description of the darkness of the monster Grendel is very long and continues on many lines throughout the poem until his death (“his days were numbered”). For more than a decade (“for twelve winters”), Grendel attacks, kills and devours warriors and citizens in the Danish kingdom Hrothgar. He operates during the night “..after nightfall, Grendel set out for the lofty house,… suddenly then the God-cursed brute was creating havoc…”.

The explanations for why he is being so cruel are not clear nor is his background. However, if one takes a closer look at Grendel, one understands that he is a loner “so Grendel waged his lonely war…” and that he has been rejected by society (“he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain’s clan”), even by god “he was the Lord’s outcast”. In similar stories of villains, for example The Joker, there are similar patterns. Thus, one could believe that a person becomes a monster because of rejection.

Moreover, a character can also be pushed to become a monster because of grief. In the poem, Grendel’s mother griefs her son (”but now his mother Had sallied forth on a savage journey, Grief-racked and ravenous, desperate for revenge”) when he is fatally wounded by Beowulf and seeks revenge “desperate for revenge” for “her only child”. She goes to Heorot kills one of Beowulf’s warriors (“she had done away with a great warrior, ambushed him at rest” and “had snached their trophy” (her son Grendel’s hand) and later that night almost also kills Beowulf. However, it seems that divine forces “Had the strong links and locks of his war-gear not helped to save him: Holy God decided the victory. It was easy for the Lord, the Ruler of the heaven, to redress the balance once Beowulf got back up on his feet” gives him strengths and power to kill Grendel’s mother.

As stated before, a hero is the complete opposite of a monster. A hero is a genuine person who is completely selfless – he puts others before himself. A hero is strong and beautiful, loyal and determined. Heroes are willing to risk their own lives just to save others. In this poem, the main hero – Beowulf- saves the kingdom of Heorot in Denmark by killing (fatally wounding) Grendel, the monster that continuously terrorized the kingdom. Beowulf is described as being full of courage “the man whose name was known for courage”, “formidable”, “the strongest swimmer of all” , and he is called a “hero” even before he combats Grendel. Beowulf could have died at any point during the battle but he knew what he had to do to save his people. He is a unique person “proud and sure”, determined to do his best to get rid of the monster “I meant to perform to the uttermost, …. And I shall fulfill that purpose. Prouve myself with a proud deed” even to pay with his life “or meet death in the mead-hall”. Moreover, Beowulf is later after he is fatally wounded when fighting the dragon, described by his men and people as a hero “He worked for the people, but as well as that he behaved like a hero”, and he gets a heroic funeral “the Geat people built a pyre for Beowulf, stacked and decked it until it stood four-square hung with helmets, heavy war shields… and then his warriors laid him in the middle of it, mourning a lord far-famed and beloved” and he will be kept in their hearts and remembered forever “they said that of all the Kings upon the earth he was the man most gracious and fair-minded kindest to his people and keenest to win fame”.

There are obvious differences between a hero and a monster, but when both of them often kill one (the monster) is left to die alone in the dark without funeral and the other (the hero) gets a heroic funeral and is cherished for a long time.

Surprisingly, people can sometimes develop feelings for a monster. For example, in the Walt Disney movie Monster&Co the main characters are monsters and “mean”, their purpose is to “scare” kids. But in the end they turn out to be “good” and lovable Monsters, these characters changed because of “Boo”, a little girl filled with laughter and love that she gives to the main Monster “James Sullivan”. All the Monsters changes and instead of scaring kids they start to make them laugh. Another example where a monster becomes nice and actually turns into a prince is the story of “the Beauty and the Beast”. Similar scenarios can happen in real life too, where hostile and mean humans can become lovable and nice thanks to care and love from others. Unfortunately, in Beowulf, the monster Grendel has only know darkness and evil, he is “fatherless” and he was cursed by god. He has never experienced the good and as a result he never feels remorse. But if Grendel had been introduced to the good and to love, he would maybe never had killed all those people and become a monster.

If with love and care it was possible to convert monsters to nice/good characters, there would be no more need for heroes? But supposingly it is important to stress that there must always be “opposites” in order to create balance. And in order to show “the good” it is necessary to show “the bad”, thus all these texts, books and movies about the subject. The moral of Beowulf and many of the other texts and stories treating the same subject Hero vs Monster, being that “good conquers evil” and it highlights the importance of values, loyalty and honor in individuals.


How to write a Beowulf essay? ›

How to Survive Writing Your Beowulf Essay
  1. Examine Beowulf as part of the epic poem genre. An epic poem is a long poem that tells the story of a hero's journey, generally through battles with supernatural beings. ...
  2. Compare the poem Beowulf to other interpretations. ...
  3. Importance of point of view. ...
  4. Theme. ...
  5. Symbolism.
Sep 25, 2017

What makes a hero Beowulf essay? ›

Beowulf shows ability and bravery, lasting fame, and caring out his royal duties; all these personality traits show that Beowulf is an epic hero. By slaughtering Grendel and the Dragon, Beowulf demonstrated ability and bravery to his people by demonstrating his force of will and survival.

What does it mean to be a hero and monster in Beowulf? ›

In the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem “Beowulf” we have studied the classic story where the hero “Beowulf”, unique, selfless, strong and courageous, fights the monster “Grendel” who is a demon who has been terrorizing the village, Heorot, and killed many for more than a decade.

Is Beowulf a hero or monster? ›

After all, Beowulf is – at its heart – the story of a heroic man who kills three monsters and then dies.

What is a good essay question for Beowulf? ›

In Beowulf, how is the role of a warrior different from the role of a king? How are they similar? How are the monsters of Hrothgar's land different from the dragon of Beowulf's land? What prompts each one to attack?

How does an essay start? ›

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order: An opening hook to catch the reader's attention. Relevant background information that the reader needs to know. A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

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.

Is Beowulf a villain or 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.

How is Beowulf a hero examples? ›

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.

Who are the heroes and monsters in Beowulf? ›

In the epic poem Beowulf, characters Beowulf and Grendel represent the ideals of a hero and monster. Their qualities of courage and envy parallel with that of some of the most significant people today.

What is the difference between a hero and a monster? ›

Characteristics of a monster include: anger, hatred, ugliness, greed, fear, rebellion, and are usually frightening to some extent. To me, a hero is a person or group of people that have positive qualities that others can look up to and be inspired by.

What is the monster called in Beowulf? ›

Grendel, fictional character, a monstrous creature defeated by Beowulf in the Old English poem Beowulf (composed between 700 and 750 ce). Descended from the biblical Cain, Grendel is an outcast, doomed to wander the face of the earth.

Why does Beowulf fight the monster? ›

Beowulf sets off to kill Grendel because he has heard that Grendel is predating the men in Heorot and wants to assist. Grendel and the sea monster are largely trophy kills, a way for Beowulf to prove that he is the best warrior.

What are the three monsters in Beowulf? ›

Throughout the plot of 'Beowulf,' the protagonist Beowulf faces many obstacles that include fighting monsters: Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a Dragon. The monsters in Beowulf are present for a substantial reason to contribute towards the story, and they are symbolic of many qualities in the Anglo-Saxon culture.

What is an example of good vs evil in Beowulf? ›

Beowulf offers to kill the monster, in search of honor, glory. Being the true warrior he was, he succeeds by killing two monsters and a dragon, this exemplifies the archetype of good vs. evil. Because he is all good, fighting against all evil, he is an example of the Germanic hero, following the heroic code.

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.

What is the best theme or main lesson of Beowulf? ›

Some of the themes in Beowulf include courage, good versus evil, loyalty, generosity, reputation, and the heroic code. One of the major themes in Beowulf is courage. Beowulf is the epitome of courage, always charging into battle even though the odds are steeply against him.

Is Beowulf an ideal king or hero Why? ›

Answer and Explanation: Beowulf is very much an ideal hero and king; he has no character flaws to speak of, at least based on the standards of the time. He is strong, brave, boastful, and he values glory.

How many paragraphs is an essay? ›

Arguably the most common essay format is the standard five-paragraph essay. This essay devotes a paragraph each to the introduction, conclusion, and three different supporting details.

How long is an essay? ›

In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper or thesis. In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages).

What is a essay example? ›

An examples essay supports, develops, and defends its thesis in a series of paragraphs, each of which typically illustrates one way in which the thesis statement can be supported.

Who is the main hero in Beowulf? ›

The protagonist of the epic, Beowulf is a Geatish hero who fights the monster Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a fire-breathing dragon. Beowulf's boasts and encounters reveal him to be the strongest, ablest warrior around. In his youth, he personifies all of the best values of the heroic culture.

Is Beowulf a failed hero? ›

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.

Who is epic hero in Beowulf? ›

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.

How is Beowulf a hero and a villain? ›

For those that have read “Beowulf”, the distinction between hero and villain is likely obvious. Beowulf is the hero that conquers not one, but three monsters in order to protect the clans. The monsters are the creatures that have committed some type of crime towards the people – in the cases I will look at, murder.

Who is the main villain in Beowulf? ›

Grendel is feared by all in Heorot but Beowulf. A descendant of Cain, Grendel is described as "a creature of darkness, exiled from happiness and accursed of God, the destroyer and devourer of our human kind".

Is Beowulf Good vs Evil? ›

Beowulf himself embodies all that is good, but it's often expressed through his super-human capabilities. The monsters, including Grendel, his mother, and the dragon, all embody evil, and in fighting and defeating them, Beowulf is working to save not only the monsters' victims but the whole of humanity.

What are some examples of heroic code in Beowulf? ›

Possession of courage and strength, pride, individualism and dislike of humiliation, and a taste for revenge are attributes that embody the heroic code. Beowulf exemplified these characteristics in the epic named for him, behaving as a true hero and a model of the heroic code.

What is the hero quote in Beowulf? ›

You hold power with balance, with wisdom of mind. Now I shall fulfill our friendship as we earlier agreed. And you shall bring peace to your people for a long time to come, a source of strength to the heroes.

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 are the two monsters in Beowulf? ›

Beowulf learns that there were actually two monsters plaguing Denmark, Grendel and his mother. He and his men follow the blood-trail to a boiling and glowing lake.

How many monsters did Beowulf fight in the poem? ›

5. How many monsters did the hero fight in the poem? Beowulf killed three monsters (Grendel, his mother and the dragon).

What kind of monster is Grendel? ›

In many ways, Grendel is the most interesting character in the epic poem Beowulf. He is a mix of man and beast; his fury is based on very human feelings of resentment and jealousy. The ogre Grendel is a huge, powerful descendant of the biblical Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel out of jealousy.

What are examples of a monster? ›

Well-known monsters in fiction include Count Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, vampires, demons, mummies, and zombies.

How is the monster a tragic hero? ›

Answer and Explanation: Frankenstein's monster is a tragic hero in the sense that he carries a fundamental trait that will always prevent him from achieving his goals.

Who is the hero slaying the monster? ›

Perseus, in Greek mythology, the slayer of the Gorgon Medusa and the rescuer of Andromeda from a sea monster. Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danaë, the daughter of Acrisius of Argos.

Why is the monster angry in Beowulf? ›

Grendel is envious, resentful, and angry toward mankind, possibly because he feels that God blesses them but that the ogre himself never can be blessed. Grendel especially resents the light, joy, and music that he observes in Hrothgar's beautiful mead-hall, Heorot.

Who is the first monster Beowulf kills? ›

Monster or not, he is willing to lay down his life to defend his honor and protect his people. Beowulf first takes down Grendel, and then he kills Grendel's mother. After many years go by, he faces off with a dragon.

Who was the last monster that Beowulf? ›

The final act of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf includes Beowulf's fight with a dragon, the third monster he encounters in the epic.

What is the monster theme in Beowulf? ›

The monsters in Beowulf symbolize a foreign presence to the people, beings living outside of society. Monsters lived alone and were seen as dangerous and inhuman because, in the eyes of Anglo-Saxon culture, they did something so wrong that no one accepted them into society.

How will Beowulf fight the monster? ›

Beowulf states that he will fight Grendel without armor or sword, hand to claw, because the ogre does not use weapons. If Beowulf is killed, he wants his war-shirt (breast armor, mail) returned to King Hygelac. Hrothgar offers a joyful feast in honor of Beowulf's arrival.

Why did Beowulf choose to face the monster alone? ›

Beowulf wants to face the dragon by himself partially to protect his followers, who could easily be killed by the dragon. However, more importantly, he fights it alone because he wants to prove his strength one last time.

Is Grendel's mother a monster? ›

Of all the characters in Beowulf, Grendel's Mother is one of the most interesting and ambiguous – and therefore one of the most difficult to define. Her characterisation stems from the combination of seemingly contradicting aspects: she is a mother and a monster, undoubtedly female and a masculine avenger.

What two things does Beowulf bring from the monster's lair? ›

They hope for Beowulf's return, but they are sure they will not see him again. Beowulf takes no treasure from the monster's cave, only the decorated sword-hilt of the giant sword and the head of Grendel. He sets out swimming upwards, pushing on through the clear water. There are no sea-monsters now to slow him down.

Is Grendel a greedy monster? ›

Grendel represents evil, so the poet's Christian worldview turns him into a fiend from hell. The wicked creature, grim and greedy, was at the ready, savage and cruel, and seized in their rest thirty of the thanes. The poet describes Grendel's first attack on Hrothgar's men.

What is the main conflict in Beowulf good vs evil? ›

It's about the conflict between a courageous, mighty, loyal warrior and the demons and dragons of hell itself. The forces of good battle the forces of evil again and again, knowing that one day they will be defeated, but at least they'll die fighting.

What is the main conflict in Beowulf? ›

Major conflict The poem essentially consists of three parts. There are three central conflicts: Grendel's domination of Heorot Hall; the vengeance of Grendel's mother after Grendel is slain; and the rage of the dragon after a thief steals a treasure that it has been guarding.

What is an example of evil in Beowulf? ›

The poet describes two evils, the monster Grendel, whom Beowulf has just defeated, and Grendel's mother, whom Beowulf will soon fight.

What is the format of Beowulf? ›

Beowulf is an epic poem composed in Old English consisting of 3,182 lines. It is written in the alliterative verse style, which is common for Old English poetry as well as works written in languages such as Old High German, Old Saxon, and Old Norse.

How do you summarize Beowulf? ›

It deals with events of the early 6th century and was probably composed c. 700–750. It tells the story of the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, who gains fame as a young man by vanquishing the monster Grendel and Grendel's mother; later, as an aging king, he kills a dragon but dies soon after, honoured and lamented.

What are the main points in Beowulf? ›

There are three main themes found in Beowulf. These themes are the importance of establishing identity, tensions between the heroic code and other value systems, and the difference between a good warrior and a good king.

What is the main message of Beowulf? ›

As a work of art, it also serves its purpose of moral instruction, today serving as a demonstration of what values were important to the Anglo-Saxon people. Especially seen through the characters of Beowulf and Wiglaf, the poem Beowulf illustrates three important morals of its time: bravery, honor, and loyalty.

What are 4 major themes in Beowulf? ›

  • The Importance of Establishing Identity. ...
  • Tensions Between the Heroic Code and Other Value Systems. ...
  • The Difference Between a Good Warrior and a Good King. ...
  • Evil. ...
  • Treasure. ...
  • Mortality.

Who kills Beowulf? ›

Sensing his own death approaching, Beowulf goes to fight the dragon. With the aid of Wiglaf, he succeeds in killing the beast, but at a heavy cost. The dragon bites Beowulf in the neck, and its fiery venom kills him moments after their encounter.

What caused Beowulf's death? ›

Beowulf died because of his injuries when battling with the third monster, a raging dragon.

What ended Beowulf's life? ›

They ultimately kill the venomous dragon, but Beowulf is mortally wounded from a bite in the neck. Before he dies, he names Wiglaf his successor. Beowulf is cremated on a funeral pyre, and his remains are buried in a barrow built by the sea.

What is Beowulf's last request before he dies? ›

Beowulf's last request was to be remembered for his epic bravery, fearlessness, and gallantry. Wiglaf commands his people to build a funeral pyre in Beowulf's honor. The jewels from the dragon's hoard are buried with him.

Who becomes king after Beowulf dies? ›

The dying Beowulf tells Wiglaf to "watch his people's needs" (by which he means that Wiglaf is to become the next king.)

What are 3 themes in Beowulf? ›

Some of the themes in Beowulf include courage, good versus evil, loyalty, generosity, reputation, and the heroic code. One of the major themes in Beowulf is courage. Beowulf is the epitome of courage, always charging into battle even though the odds are steeply against him.

What general lesson can you learn from the story Beowulf? ›

Life Lessons (themes) We Can Learn from Beowulf:

Honor your King and Queen. Never Underestimate the power of Heritage and Reputation. Beware the Grendels. Every Grendel has a mother.

What lessons does Beowulf teach? ›

This eventually leads to Beowulf's death, when he realized he couldn't win the battle versus the dragon. This last adventure of Beowulf's teaches that although taking risk and being confident will prove fruitful to our goals, taking miscalculated risk and being overconfident can prove to be detrimental to our future.

What is the theme of heroism in Beowulf? ›

The theme of Beowulf is heroism. Beowulf himself represents the heroic ideal because of his features, strength, and courage, but also because of his intelligence and honor. Beowulf is proud of his strength and great his honor. When Beowulf goes to Heorot, waiting for Grendel, he refuses to keep a weapon.


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