Is Beowulf an Ideal Hero and King? Was Beowulf a good king? The Ideal in "Beowulf" (2023)

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Every character in a play, poem, or a film has a strategic role to play allocated to him/her by the playwright or the filmmaker. Therefore, it is upon the novelists or poets to feature a variety of traits to the characters to ensure the manifestation of the intended roles, which on the other hand, make the vivid work appearing like a real-life situation. On many occasions, readers have identified characters as Heroes, Kings, and pessimists, among others, based on the way they stand out in the different works. Sometimes, poets feature more than one trait in the characters, a case that has often made it difficult for readers to identify either or both of the characteristics. Is Beowulf an ideal hero and king? The essay aims at answering this question. Beowulf is such a character in the poem ‘Beowulf,’ whom the reader might fail to determine whether he passes for an ideal king, hero, or probably both or none. Such a case may result depending on the reader’s interpretation of the terms hero and king. According to Arnold, the term hero refers to “…a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life” (Para.1). In addition, any leader will pass for an ideal king based on how well he/she handles the people he/she leads. As the paper unfolds, Beowulf depicts all the aforementioned qualifications of both an ideal king and a hero.

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

Heroic Ideal in “Beowulf”

The fact that Beowulf values the welfare of his people more than his own passes him for an ideal epic hero. The opening of the poem confirms this when Beowulf has to travel all the way to Denmark to set the Danes free of the monster. He sacrifices, not only his time, energy, and money, but also his own self only to ensure the safety of the Danes whom he views as his own people. In addition, after having served for fifty years as the Geats’ king, the retired old Beowulf realizes that there is a dragon upsetting his people. Disregarding his age, Beowulf decides to fight the dragon for the sake of his people’s security, a job that he successfully does. Further, Beowulf has his people at heart. For instance, despite living in his final days in the deathbed, the man longs for seeing the Geats enjoy the safety and hence providing the reason behind the erection of the tall lighthouse that purposely assists the group in locating its way back from the sea. The achievement of personal magnificence is a sign of ideal heroism. Many instances feature Beowulf striving to seek for such an achievement. For example, the noise that comes from the drinking spree erected by Hrothgar, the king of Denmark, becomes a tragic disaster to the Danes following the interference it poses to Grendel, the demon. Since none has managed to settle down the problem, Beowulf, as young as he is, believes that he can fight and defeat the demon and thereby gain fame and glory (“Beowulf” Lines 392-393). He does exactly as he says, as he gathers men and targets to sail up to Denmark purposely to fight the demon. The news of this bold step alone picks him all the splendor and hence, a qualified hero. Gerhard observes, “Beowulf is a Geatish hero who fights monsters, kills dragons, and is said to be the strongest and smartest warrior around” (Para. 1). Another instance that depicts him as an ideal hero is his inexplicable bravery. Even after realizing that a demon has attacked the Danes, he sets off fearlessly to fight it with his fellow men. The outcome of the fight does not matter much to him. Therefore, whether he will lose, win, or die is none of his business. He has all the determination to face the ghost at whichever cost and thus, this is what an ideal hero is. Beowulf, too, passes for an ideal hero based on his overwhelming physical strength. He says, “The strength of my body. Themselves they beheld me when I came from the contest” (“Beowulf” Line 786). His fight with the ghost is just one among the many he has involved himself. As a man of incredible strength, he wins all but the last one. The response from his people as he gathers them to go for the fight depicts him as a hero because they accept with no doubt to follow him since they know very well that he must win the fight. In addition, the way he kills the demon qualifies him as an ideal hero. He employs no weaponry but instead uses bare hands. In fact, he kills it by ripping off his hands. Further, upon the death of Grendel’s mother, Beowulf fights with the mother, who seeks revenge for her son’s death and slashes her using a huge sword that can only be lifted by physically strong men like him. Funny enough, the monster’s head alone proves too heavy for four men to carry, while Beowulf lifts it up and carries it like a light load, thus passing for an ideal hero. Another character that qualifies him for the perfect hero is his lack of fear of death. Before going for any war, Beowulf talks about his wishes concerning death. For instance, he wishes to see his assets given to his people if the end meets him in the fight. In fact, he says, “And if death takes me, send the hammered mail of my armor to Higlac and return the inheritance I had from Hrethel, and Wayland. Fate will unwind, as it must” (Garnett 18). He knows the paradox behind tragic heroes that glory has to go to them in their life or their death, based on their deeds. Therefore, either way, is not a worry to him. On their way to fight, he declares that he will either win or die for his people (Arnold Para. 10). In every encounter with a tough situation in his journey, he understands the two possible outcomes: doom or goodwill.

Is Beowulf a Good King?

Besides being an ideal hero, Beowulf is an ideal king. One expects a perfect king to ensure the welfare of his people. The entire poem features Beowulf accomplishing this task right from his youth age to his old age. Referring to Beowulf, Gerhard observes, “His ideal kingship was apparent by his excellent fighting skills as a warrior, his perseverance, leadership, loyalty, and generosity” (Para. 6). The king received many honors during his kingship, providing the reason as to why he was a king for fifty years. The poem depicts him as warrior based on the heroic moments he embarks on, of fighting the demon that has attacked the Danes. “Now Holy God has, in his goodness, guided him here to the West-Danes to defend us from Grendel” (Gerhard Para. 5). The reader, overwhelmed by his exceptional fighting tactics, will declare him an ideal king. The author, despite his/her concealed identity, makes the reader realize Beowulf’s strength following his fight with the monster. In fact, he claims to be as dangerous as the demon. Moreover, the issue of imperial munificence held a vital position in Anglo-Saxon society. Beowulf, a member, stands out as devastatingly generous based on the evident sacrifices he offers for his people. He respects king Hrothgar and even advises him on how he can fight his enemy, Grendel. When kings approach their retiring periods, they concentrate much on issues concerning themselves, leave alone those of others. However, Beowulf is not as such. He has his people at his heart to the level of forgetting his situation. He wishes to die assured of the security of the Danes and hence, Beowulf as king is a prominent character.


The paper analyzed the poem and answered the question whether Beowulf is ideal hero and king or not.The epic poem presents Beowulf as both an ideal king and a hero. He bears all the qualifications of ideal heroes and kings. For instance, as an ideal hero, Beowulf involves himself in fights, all of which he wins apart from one. He has the guts to face and fight a monster that has defeated all the other people who, in turn, fear it. In addition, he fears nothing, including death. Further, he possesses an extraordinary physical strength that enables him to lift a load that even four men cannot manage. As an ideal king, Beowulf always has the welfare of his people at his heart. He is quite generous to his people in that he sacrifices to assist them even after retiring despite his old age. The poem, despite its unknown authorship, passes for an informative piece of work through the way it exemplifies Beowulf as both an ideal king and a hero.

(Video) The Heroic Ideal in Beowulf

Works Cited

Arnold, Thomas. Beowulf. A heroic Poem of the Eighth Century. London, 1876. Beowulf. Boston: D. C. Heath & Co. Publishers, 1892. Garnett, Joan. Beowulf: An Anglo-Saxon Poem, and the Fight at Finns burg. Boston: Leslie Hall, 1882.

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Why is Beowulf an ideal 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).

Is Beowulf an ideal king or a hero Why explain in a paragraph form? ›

The epic poem presents Beowulf as both an ideal king and a hero. He bears all the qualifications of ideal heroes and kings. For instance, as an ideal hero, Beowulf involves himself in fights, all of which he wins apart from one.

What is the idea of good king in Beowulf? ›

A good king is generous with gifts and gold, provides a haven in which his people can eat and drink and socialize, is powerful and fearless in defending his land and people, and yet does not seek unnecessary conflict that might lead to death for either his people or himself.

Why was Beowulf not a good king? ›

According to the standards the text sets up, Beowulf does not qualify as a good king. He fails to provide for his peoples' future with any sort of heir, and he jeopardizes his people by thinking of his own glory and strength when he goes to fight the dragon instead of thinking of their welfare.

Was Beowulf a good hero? ›

He takes his best sword and slays the monster to death. Succeeding in his victory against Grendel's mother, Beowulf receives his treasure of gold. Beowulf was a brave man having to go through two battles not knowing if he would end up dead or alive. He is a prime example of a true hero.

What type of hero is Beowulf? ›

Beowulf is an epic hero and the protagonist of the Old English poem Beowulf. Like many epic heroes, he is of noble birth: his uncle, Hygelac, is the king of the Geats. As Beowulf ages and is crowned king himself, it becomes clear that he is a hero in the eyes of his countrymen.

Was Beowulf a king and a hero? ›

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. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland and becomes king of the Geats.

Is Beowulf an ideal epic hero essay? ›

Beowulf embodies a true epic hero throughout the entirety of the poem. This is made clear as he continues to demonstrate heroic qualities, despite the adversities he faces. He performed many acts of bravery and was persistent with every battle he faced, while also remaining loyal to his people.

Is Beowulf a good 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 3 reasons why Beowulf is an epic hero? ›

Beowulf is an epic hero of the Anglo-Saxon time period because he showed friendship, loyalty, bravery, and shared a common belief about the afterlife.

How is Beowulf described? ›

How is Beowulf described? Beowulf is described as tall, noble, and extremely strong. The poem is quite scant on physical descriptions of him, but goes into detail about his heroism.

How is Beowulf described as a character? ›

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 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.

Was Beowulf a good leader? ›

Beowulf as Charismatic Leader

He is absolutely fearless and supremely confident in his own abilities. The boasts he makes before the fight with Grendel (Heaney, 2001) signal a public, inspirational articulation of confidence in his own and in his companions' abilities to overcome adversity in the form of the monster.

How is Beowulf the ideal Anglo-Saxon 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 does Beowulf reveal about ideals of heroism? ›

Example Of Heroism In Beowulf

He shows his heroism through his bravery and acts of courage; but he is also being assisted through fate and God. From killing Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon he knows that he is doing great things for all of the people in his kingdoms.

Is Beowulf an ideal leader? ›

The epic Beowulf, contains various scenes of how the protagonist hero, Beowulf, shows great leadership. Beowulf portrays good leadership by his confidence, his physical strength, and his loyalty, which are important qualities of the Anglo-Saxon time.

Who is considered the ideal hero in Anglo-Saxon culture and why? ›

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.

Is Beowulf the ideal hero representing Anglo-Saxon values? ›

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.

Is Beowulf a better king or hero? ›

While Beowulf has retained his strength and bravery from act one, he has transitioned into a wise and reliable king in act two. The protagonist is now described as a selfless king who acts for the good of the people instead of for his own greatness as he may have when he was younger.


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