Why Beowulf is not an Anglo-saxon Hero

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About this sample


Words: 567 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 567|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

The heroism portrayed by Anglo-Saxon heroes was defined by many different and diverse qualities. Most importantly, heroic figures in German history all shared one trait — they are all extremely selfless and put others before themselves. While some may argue that Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon hero considering his selflessness demonstrated by fighting against the dragon, nevertheless, throughout the story, Beowulf continuously exemplifies his conceited nature of selfishness, making him a hero to a small extent.

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First of all, due to his greed to secure his name and fame, Beowulf impulsively decides to fight against the dragon, bringing a bleak future for the Geats as they lost their beloved king of the past fifty years, thus proving he is not a hero. After he is told that the dragon was brutally attacking his people and the throne room of the Geats burnt down into ashes, Beowulf speaks, “Now I am old, but as king of this people I shall pursue this fight for the glory of winning”. Without taking the serious consequences into account, Beowulf immediately gathers the best weapons and armor he could find for preparation, announcing that he is going to fight once more. By doing so, he would be able to gain his wanted fame by killing the dragon, as he states “fight for the glory of winning”. This highlights Beowulf’s strong desire to maintain his legendary appearance as a heroic figure.

However, he underestimates the dragon’s ability to fight. Although he kills the dragon and brought the people peace and treasure, he is bitten on the neck and died from the dragon’s poison. To secure his glory, he orders his comrade to bring back the treasure to share with his men. Instead of enjoying the treasure their king brought them, the Geats burnt his last gifts, “they let the ground keep that ancestral treasure [...] as useless to men now as it ever was”. As evidenced, Beowulf’s decision of fighting the dragon disappoints his people. Although the king himself thinks that his treasure would be helpful towards his people, it claims that the treasure is “useless”, suggesting Beowulf’s sacrifice is unnecessary from the Geats’ perspective. After Beowulf dies, the kingdom is immediately led to an unknown future without their experienced king who ruled for fifty years. As illustrated, Beowulf’s selfishness blinds him from taking the responsibility of leading his people. Instead, he fought the dragon for his desire for glory, resulting in a collapse of his kingdom.

Opponents may suggest that Beowulf should be categorized as an Anglo-Saxon hero due to his selflessness expressed as he cut off Grendel’s corpse in memorial for the fallen comrades during his battle with Grendel’s mother. Admittedly, Beowulf does determine for revenge for Grendel’s acts he committees and later cuts off his head to settle scores. Yet, as Beowulf returns home and celebrates his victory with his people, it is stated that Beowulf's “courage was proven” and “his glory was secure”.

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By presenting Grendel’s corpse to the people and Hrothgar, Beowulf elevated his fame and secured his glory as he did not only kill Grendel’s mother, he also got revenge on Grendel for all the innocent lives Grendel took away. Evidently, instead of bringing Grendel’s cut corpse in memorial of his lost comrades, Beowulf puts his ambition before his people. The demonstration of his self-centered nature once again proves his disqualification to be considered an Anglo-Saxon hero.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Why Beowulf Is Not An Anglo-Saxon Hero. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“Why Beowulf Is Not An Anglo-Saxon Hero.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
Why Beowulf Is Not An Anglo-Saxon Hero. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 May 2024].
Why Beowulf Is Not An Anglo-Saxon Hero [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2024 May 28]. Available from:
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