Beowulf is considered as one of the most pivotal characters and piece of literature in English literature. It is the title of an old English epic poem that comprises of more than 3182 alliterative lines. Cited as one of the most reputable and prominent works in Anglo-Saxon literature, the poem describes Beowulf as an epic and valiant warrior who has three main antagonists to combat with: Grendel, who has been attacking the warriors residing in the mead Hall of Hroogar, Grendel’s mother and an anonymous dragon.
After the first two victories he becomes the king of Geats, but the final battle takes place after a gap of fifty years, hence in this final battle he is fatally wounded which ultimately becomes the cause of his demise.
During the course of this discussion we will be analyzing the different attributes and characterstics through which we will be able to explore the multitude aspects about this epic superhero which has served as a harbinger and an icon for the advent of the current legacy of superheroes like Superman, Batman and Spiderman that we find in contemporary times.
Was Beowulf Conceited?
Upon closer analysis of the character it is not difficult to unearth that there are a number of flaws and loopholes that one can find in the personality and temperament which ultimately manifest it even in his trait of leadership. As far as the question regarding the conceited nature of Beowulf is concerned it can undoubtedly be said that he was largely conceited, greedy for fame and power and an arrogant fool. There are adequate reasons through which such defaming claims about Beowulf can be rationally supported. Every hero requires a certain amount of confidence either in the form of his courtiers and cronies or within his population in order to become a successful leader, but Beowulf is a much exceptional case in this entire scenario. It was his overwhelming overconfidence that actually turned out to be a pivotal reason for his downfall. It is also worth mentioning here that even though Beowulf was the best of his time and never found anyone stronger than him, but simply being physically strong does not provide a legitimate reason for his gloating arrogance.
A leader like Beowulf who was looked upon as an icon and a symbol of valor and courage must have remained humble and down to earth in order to enhance his image and reputation among his people. During his last battle it was this very overconfidence of Beowulf that turned out to be the key cause for his personal collapse. Another reason on the basis of which his conceitedness can be explained is that he never provided any other person or member of his combating team the credit or honor after being victorious in any major battle. Literary experts suggest that it was Beowulf’s blind lust for power, fame and conceitedness that brought his early demise.
In every competition he would ensure that it is he and he alone who attain complete prestige and fame at the end of every battle. He can also be regarded as selfish as he never wanted any other member of his force to either surpass him or be as popular as he is. Hence over all in a nutshell the character of Beowulf despite of all his courage and superheroic perfections falls short in terms of providing equality and shielding himself from discriminatory tactics. (Romines, N/A)
Was he too good to be true?
Even though there is no skeptism regarding the fact that Beowulf provides a flawless description of what an epic hero should be like, it is also important to mention that many of his positive characterstics were overshadowed in his other associated instincts which are not described encouragingly by literary proficients. Nevertheless, regardless of all the imperfections it can be said that he was a loyal, true and dedicated leader.
The dangers and threats that surrounded Geats during that time, a hero with extraordinary abilities and warrior skills was required to combat all these challenges with extreme vigor and zeal and no one other than Beowulf could have managed such dangerous and life-threatening circumstances.
Also, he always kept the word that he delivered to his people. In the mead-hall even when he is told that his opponent Grendel can swallow warriors Beowulf remains confident that he will be able to defeat him and he keeps the word that he has provided to his people by defeating Grendal in a fierce and ferocious combat. Even if he is considered arrogant and conceited at one end, his positive attributes and qualities such as loyalty to his people and land and unprecedented courage must not be marginalized.
Strengths and Victories
Although there are innumerable victories achieved by Beowulf some of the most prominent that are suggestive and expressive of his unparallel courage, determination and bravery include the battle with Grendel, his mother; the Troll Wife and the unnamed dragon. Regarding the strength and potency of Beowulf there are mixed views regarding different literary groups. One group believes that in terms of strength and power since Beowulf was something far greater and superior to any normal, ordinary man, it is more convincing to equate him with a divine creature similar to Jesus Christ also in terms of the loyalty and faithfulness that he exhibits towards his people.
Another school of thought group that negates this explanation claims that a person like Beowulf was perfectly mortal and had no divine influences or associations since he also possessed characterstics such as lust for power and greed for wealth and affluence which separate him from the image of a divine being especially with someone so pious and virtuous like the Christ.
This literary group does agree on the fact that a superhero like Beowulf could easily handle and defeat thirty men at a time, but his strength and victories cannot be justified or rationally legitimized because of the presence of godly attributes and qualities. He was a mortal being like any other, simply much more powerful and courageous than a normal human being can even imagine. (Gwara, 2008)