Heroes of Time Past: Beowulf and King Arthur

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About this sample


Words: 2385 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

Words: 2385|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Heroes
  2. Quest
  3. The role of women in the texts
  4. The role of the supernatural in the texts
  5. Modern Film: Beowulf
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works Cited

Heroic stories are critical in world literature, reflecting the daily life of individuals. Such narratives follow a particular structure to reveal the journey of a character towards success. Some of the stories represent heroic characters of the time past which include Beowulf and King Arthur. The heroes experience many challenges, but finally, they emerge strong and earn respect. However, the research paper includes discussion of the heroes, monomyth formula, the role of women in the selected texts. The role of supernatural phenomenon and modern films.

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A hero is an individual that gives his/her life to something bigger than oneself according to the definition by Cambell. For one to be a hero, the first step is to have a call for adventure or strong urge, and although at first somebody has fear and may refuse the request, the person overcomes the fear, crosses the threshold, and embarks on the journey (Cambell 2004). However, as they continue with their adventurous journey, they face several tests, meet friends and enemies, get ready for some ordeal, and difficulties. Sometimes, they may face more significant fear, and after such a trial one becomes a hero.

In Beowulf, the protagonist, Beowulf, is a hero that fights the monster Gredel, the fire breathing dragon, and Gredel’s mother. Thus, his journeys and encounters reveal him as the strongest warrior due to his unique abilities. In addition, he becomes an efficient leader, even in his old age. During his young days, Beowulf was a great warrior with courage and strength, as depicted in the swimming match against Breca (Liuzza 2000). Germanic hero code dictates that a hero must have some values such as loyalty, pride, and courtesy. He is unable to lead as a king for many years, but finally, he ascends into the throne. Beowulf seems to do something to improve the livelihoods of the people by taking challenges to defeat the vicious monsters Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.

In Higham, N.J. King Arthur: Making of a legend, King Arthur is a hero who saved the British from Saxons and became the king around AD 500. Celtic Mythology depicts King Arthur as a great king claimed by groups such as Scotland, Brittany, Wales, and Cornwall. There is also a theory that portrayed him as a Roman soldier with high mythical power being the central figure in legends, although there is a lack of convincing evidence. English authors and audiences have claimed Arthur as their hero, the romance originated from French culture. Arthur is typical in various works of romance in films and theatre. Arthur can be seen as forgiving in various romances, although Lancelot his most trusted knight betrayed him by having an affair with his wife Queen Geneverie. However, he is also a model for modern behaviors such as in Britain, where his ideas were used to represent medieval Chivalry.


Cambell argues that every story bears a particular structure with the beginning, middle, and end. The opening sets the hero and the story behind his progress. The next is to introduce some conflict that causes trouble to the heroin, which he must overcome and emerge the winner (Cambell 2004). However, the mythical sagas consist of a single-story, the monomyth giving the hero’s journey, which has three main parts. The parts include departure, initiation, and return, although each of them has its subsections. The hero behaves supernaturally and encounters several challenges that he keeps on defeating. The hero’s routine has various critical repeated individuals such as the hero, mentors, villains, and a goddess. In addition, there are magic potions, assistants, rogues, and tricksters, Besides, there is the struggle of good and evil or light and darkness.

The story of Beowulf is in the form of an epic poem involving a terrifying demon by the name of Gredel and his defeat by Beowulf. Beowulf follows Cambell’s identified parts which include departure, initiation, and return, each with its subsections. For instance, Beowulf’s separation is the call to his adventures. He leaves his home, and the called to venture out leads him to dark places where he experiences terrible incidences. The structure entails three main parts that include Beowulf’s ultimate fight with Grendel, fight with Grendel’s mother, and the fight against the dragon. The story follows the six elements of an epic, which are the plot of the hero, superhuman strength actions, vast setting, involving supernatural, sustained elevation style, and an omniscient poet. In the poem, Beowulf is an unbelievable hero with supernatural power and courage. The journey of Beowulf across the sea and land as he goes to Gredel’s place represents the vast setting of the poem. The supernatural being is Gredel, who is a demon while in the entire narrative, the author is objective and omniscient.

In King Arthur, the story also follows Cambell’s structure in narrating the heroic story of King Arthur. The story begins with an exposition, followed by conflict and rising action. In this stage, Arthur pulls a sword from a rock, which reveals him as a hero and the king of England. Conflict is also apparent in this story. Arthur faces several battles as he tries to protect his throne and using Merlin’s magic. He beats all his atrocities. At the round table, King Arthur marries the beautiful Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot becomes the mightest champion for Guinevere. The return is depicted when Arthur claims the throne for himself while Mildred and Morgana have a plan to strike. Mordred proves the existence of an affair Lancelot, and Guinevere thus feels heartbroken. This is the resolution, and in this stage, Guinevere is sentenced to death before being saved by Lancelot. Finally, Modred and Arthur end up in a Vicious circle, but later, Arthur succeeds in killing him. Arthur suffers a mortal wound and clings to life. Morgana reappears with the desire to heal Arthur in the Mist. However, from the analysis, Arthur’s story follows Cambell in analyzing texts. Therefore, the story follows the structure similar to Cambell’s in bringing out the nature of the hero in the narrative. As the story ends, Arthur is A hero. Although he can also be a villain since he suffered mortal injuries.

The role of women in the texts

Beowulf is an epic, and in the poem, women play different roles due to they’re unique characteristics. In the poem, women are depicted as reliable and play certain roles in society. Wealhtheow and Hygd are gracious, but other women, such as Gredel’s mother, are monstrous. However, women who represent the Angelo-Saxon culture in the seventh century, which represent women as peaceful and assertive. Women were men property and would play the role of peace-weavers by marrying them off to warring tribes. For instance, they performed the role of pass the cup from one warrior to the next during ceremonies. Wealhtheow is “queenly” and “dignified”. She is a respectable woman due to her courtesy, she represents the voice of the woman in that society. Women also provided entertainment as they assist in hosting celebrations and parties in halls.

However, some women were disastrous such as the two villains in the poem. For instance, Gredel’s mother was wicked and unhospitable. She uses violence to resolve issues and cannot welcome people in their halls. They use weapons and physical abuse instead of applying diplomacy and polite language. Modthryth is quite a manipulative and evil queen capable of killing anyone that comes to her hall. Although women from this region are under their men, they play some roles in the society. Some are good, while others are pure evil and can harm others in the community.

In King Arthur, women play a major role and have a significant influence on many of the events that occurred. For instance, the love of Lancelot and Guinevere reveals the definition of women concerning their men. Some women are loyal, while others have unacceptable behavior. For instance, Morgan le Fay is a queen who tempts Lancelot leading to conflict with Guinevere. Queen Guinevere helps to create suspense and develop the plot as she penetrates the men’s world, a trait that is uncommon in other women. Some ladies also accompany the queen to keep the knights in good company. However, women have no legitimate power simply because they are figures that can be discarded due to the male domination of society. Women suffer humiliation as seen at the round table since the bond among the knights does not leave any room for Guinevere. She becomes essential in the absence of the knights, her role is to provide company whenever needed. Queen Guinevere is the only one who never conforms fully to societal expectations. For instance, she rejects Modred’s desire to inherit her as his queen.

The role of the supernatural in the texts

Arthurian Legends utilize supernatural phenomena in developing the themes and the plot. Some of the examples include the use of magic and other scaring beasts. Supernatural contributes to the main themes of the narrative, such as heroism, revenge, and human nature. Merlin and Griffin are some of the examples of supernatural beings used in the text. The creatures facilitate story enhancement and force people to utilize imaginations to interpret the message. Magical events created witchcraft and wizardly are frequent in Arthurian Legends. Queen Morgause practices black magic, while Merlin engages in white magic. Merlin predicts challenging circumstances that King Arthur must endure in the future. He also transforms Arthur into different creatures, including fish, birds, and ant, which creates suspense. The story cannot be attractive without magic since some individuals like the Lady of the Lake, Morgan Le Fay, and Merlin plays important roles in developing the legend of the great King Arthur. Arthur was protected in battles due to magical protection from various characters such as witches. For instance, King Arthur received items such as the magic sword/Excalibur. The sword increased his stamina and courage to attack his enemies, including his son. He was always determined to achieve his objectives and never feared that he could be fatally wounded. Attacking monsters was cause for him to use magical powers since the supernatural beings were quite powerful.

In Beowulf, supernatural powers present itself in many instances throughout the text, for example, monsters such as Gredel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon represent mythological creatures that exist only in fiction. Without supernatural beings, development is challenging, affecting the story to flow in Beowulf. Beowulf likens the monsters to the biblical descendants of Cain due to their heinous characters. The creatures used their supernatural powers to harm the people and make life difficult for the villagers. Beowulf has to fight the dragon and the animals in the lake and sea monsters. The supernatural beings help to prove the heroic characteristics of the protagonist. The story fuses the supernatural with religion to depict evil. The monsters also reveal the supreme strength in Beowulf as he fights them all emerging the winning. However, by fighting and defeating the creatures, Beowulf proves to be a hero in the story and emerges a winner. The humans and monsters live together and engage in activities, although there is a lot of violence. Human beings are always prone to supernatural beliefs, such as monsters and other creatures. The presence of monsters and their interaction with human beings creates an unjust world. Gredel and his mother are uncivilized because of their magical powers and monstrous lifestyle.

Modern Film: Beowulf

Beowulf is a great warrior that must fight and defeat Grendel who keeps on terrorizing villagers. “The movie Beowulf directed by Robert Zemeckis, borrowed from the English epic poem Beowulf plays the role of a heroic warrior. Beowulf fights several battles, he develops the theme of the heroic code of chivalry due to his honorable behavior and manners as taught by the Anglo-Saxon culture. Some of his characteristics in the movie include courage, bravery, and the will to keep fighting. In the movie, the theme of good versus evil is clear to encourage the young generation to be courteous. Beowulf possesses superhuman powers and fights with monsters. For example, Beowulf and Hrothgar are good for their generosity and fairness to the people. Beowulf is courageous brave and wise as revealed during his encounters with his enemies. The movie also demonstrates the real characteristics of the great warrior such as the respectful behavior of Beowulf towards the king. The movie reveals that Grendel and his mother are evil creatures who disturb the peace of the villagers. Beowulf depicts great strength in the film which helps him in fighting his enemies.

Generosity is a theme in the movie as well from characters such as King Hrothgar that welcomes Beowulf and his army of men with open arms. Beowulf is full of vengeance as he wants to revenge the death of the Danes murdered by Grendel. Beowulf succeeds in defeating and killing Grendel, which sends Grendels mother in a rage. Grendel’s mother wants revenge against Beowulf and during the night she murders numerous of Beowulf’s soldiers. “That hostile flier would leave nothing alive”. When the battle is fierce, he adopts smart tips, including trickery. However, all supernatural beings are fierce in the movie. Beowulf and his closes friend Wiglaf leave in search of Grendel’s mother cave to kill her for slaying all his soldiers while they slept. Beowulf battles with Grendels mother but does not succeed in slaying her instead, she offers him the chance to be king. Beowulf returns to the village and announces he has defeated Grendels mother. The King had doubts of that not being true from his facial expression for he was once in Beowulfs position. Hrothgar gave his title as king to Beowulf shortly before his death.

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Beowulf and King Arthur are great analyzed heroic stories of the past time, despite some of the shortcomings they have. The individuals fought wars and achieved significant milestones. Their functions are essential, they commit themselves to promote victory. The movie Beowulf is an example of epic and is critical for analysis. Comparing the texts and the movie reveals some common characteristics in the heroes of the time.

Works Cited

  • Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • Labossiere, Jessica Trant. “Chosen Champions”: Medieval and Early Modern Heroes as Postcolonial Reactions to Tensions between England and Europe.” (2016).
  • Higham, N. J. King Arthur: The making of the Legend. Yale University Press, 2018. EBSCOhost
  • Liuzza, R.M. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Broadview Press, 2000. EBSCOhost,
  • Zemeckis, Robert, director. Beowulf. Paramount Pictures, 2007.
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Heroes Of Time Past: Beowulf And King Arthur. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
“Heroes Of Time Past: Beowulf And King Arthur.” GradesFixer, 09 Jun. 2021,
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