English / Heroes In Anglo-Saxon Culture

Heroes In Anglo-Saxon Culture

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Autor:  anton  21 December 2010
Tags:  Heroes,  Culture
Words: 1172   |   Pages: 5
Views: 310

Heroes and their relevance in the past and present modern society

After the disappearance of the Celts comes the emergence of the Anglo-Saxon era. Anglo-Saxon life is influenced by the need to protect the clan and home against foreign invaders. All groups, from kingdom to family, from adults to children, are organized around a leader who commands defense against enemies. This leader represents an epic hero, who has superior physical strength and is supremely ethic, who leads everyone to a better life, a life without fear. An epic hero is clearly described in an anonymous poem, Beowulf, which was composed between the years of 700 and 750 to glorify people’s desire for a hero. In modern society, nowadays heroes are somehow relevant to epic heroes, who live for one purpose, protect their countries with their lives. Beowulf, “a story of dream and legend, of monsters and of god-fashioned weapons, of descents to the underworld and of fights with dragons, of the hero’s quest and of a community threatened by the powers of evil” (page 19), paints the pictures of the Dane kingdom under King Hrothgar fighting for peace. The battles are triumphantly succeeded under the command of Beowulf, a hero of the Danes. Although Beowulf is an ancient poem, its heroic ideas are not completely alien to modern society. In fact, Beowulf, with its heroic code, demonstrates its relevance to modern society. Beowulf’s theme, portrayed through the battles for hope and dream, for peace and protection, and for future and a better life, establishes a sturdy pertinence to modern society through heroism.

A hero is destined to eradicate the outside enemies to maintain the peace of his country, to fulfill the needs of everyone. In Beowulf, Herot, under King Hrothgar’s rule, is under attack by Grendel, a ruthless beast, “He slipped through the door and there in silence/ Snatched up thirty men, smashed them/ Unknowing in their beds, and ran out with their bodies,/ The blood dripping behind him, back/ To his lair, delighted with his night’s slaughter/…So Grendel ruled, fought with the righteous,/ One against many, and won” ( line 36-60). Grendel rules Herot, making everyone flee from fear. Thus, a person is needed to purge the ruthless beast out of his kingdom and maintain the peace. Beowulf emerges as a hero with supreme strength who drives the beast away from his kingdom, “In the darkness, the horrible shrieks of pain/ and defeat, the tears torn out of Grendel’s/ Taut throat, hell’s captive caught in the arms/ Of him who of all the men on earth/ Was the strongest” (468-473). The battle between Beowulf and Grendel represents the battle for hope and dream, for protection and peace, a battle that continually takes place in modern society. For instance, Iraq, a belligerent country, is under war and is hoping for a victorious future. Beowulf’s emergence symbolizes a hope in the future, a hope that is accomplished by a hero. Heroes can be illustrated by infinite definitions, but they all have the same purpose, protect their countries and eliminate their enemies. Beowulf represents a hero in the past as well as in modern society who purposefully strives for his country’s peaceful future. Beowulf exemplifies heroes who use their supreme power to liquidate foreign invaders and maintain peace in their countries.

On the other hand, the thought of vengeance has relevantly connected the past and modern society. Vengeance has become a problem and miserable hardship faced by many heroes. In the poem, Beowulf is highly extolled for successfully killing Grendel. However, his subsequent battle with Grendel’s mother stirs up the importance of vengeance. Just as Beowulf eradicates Grendel for killing Hrothgar’s men, so too Grendel’s mother seek to slay down her son’s murderer, “…She welcomed him in her claws,/Clutched at him savagely but could not harm him/ Tried to work her fingers through the tight/ Ring-woven mail on his breast, but tore/ And scratched in vain” (577-583). The combat between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother delineates an eternal revenge cycle that persistently occurs from century to century. In modern society, revenge is a never-ending aspect that it is reflected in movies. For example, in “Spiderman”, Spiderman thwarts his enemy, Green Goblin and is greatly honored in New York. However, Goblin’s son tries to seek revenge upon his father’s murderer. Vengeance influences people’s thoughts and its ideas are echoed in daily life.

Unfortunately, death is destined to many heroes who bravely defend their countries. Beowulf underscores the fate of a hero, Beowulf who sacrifices himself to protect his kingdom. Death, an inescapable “wyrd”, is preordained to any hero who attempts to guard the one they love. Beowulf’s final clash with the dragon, he bravely embraces his duty as a king to shelter his people by sacrificing himself without regrets, “As Beowulf fell back; its [the dragon’s] breath flared,/ and he suffered, wrapped around in swirling/ Flames – a king, before, but now/ A beaten warrior…The old man’s mouth was silent, spoke/ No more, had said as much as it could/ He would sleep in the fire, soon” (743-746, 825-828). Many people nowadays valiantly die for the one they love. For instance, in The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, depicts the life of Jay Gatsby, who attempts to save his true love, Daisy by admitting a crime he does not do and ends up a meaningless death. Death is a sad ending that destined to many heroes who are reaching for hope and dream, for future and a better life.

In addition, loyalty is vastly glorified in the Anglo-Saxon. Loyalty can be illustrated by devotion through companionship. Loyalty is an invisible line that congregates everyone to reach for a goal. This immortal line exists for centuries even in modern society. In Beowulf, when Beowulf is at his last breath fighting with the dragon, Wiglaf, without thinking, fearlessly comes to aid his lord, “Our glorious king! By almighty God,/ I’d rather burn myself than see/ Flames swirling around my lord” (780-784). Wiglaf’s loyalty has turned into strength that together Beowulf and Wiglaf slay down the dragon. World War I is triumphantly succeeded because each nation in the Ally is loyal to each other. Loyalty is exceedingly essential in achieving a goal since it tremendously increases the power of a unit.

Overall, the theme of Beowulf is very relevant to modern society aspects. It is the battle for hope and dream, for peace and protection and for future and a better life which is achieved by heroism. Heroes, with supreme strength and a fearless heart, are able to save their countries and the one they love from destruction. Courageously, heroes lead dangerous lives which they are the victims of avengers, which death awaits them. Without regret, Heroes are ready to sacrifice themselves to persistently maintaining the peace within their countries. Heroes in the Anglo-Saxon as well as heroes in modern society are very pertinent to each other in courage, loyalty and fate.

Work Cited

Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Elements of Literature: Sixth course, Literature of Britain with World Classics. New York, 2003



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