Essay about Smith 1

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Comparing Beowulf and Hercules

Many of the world’s myths and legends focus on a hero, a man or a woman who triumphs over

obstacles. The classic hero is not necessarily all-powerful and immortal. Heroes represent the

best of what it means to be human; they demonstrate great strength, courage, wisdom,

cleverness, or devotion. The hero’s quest is often seen as a symbol of the journey of self-

discovery, a quest to overcome inner monsters and finally achieve an understanding of

themselves. Beowulf and Hercules embody the positive and negative traits associated with

being a hero.

Two of the greatest heroes of all time are Hercules, the Roman name for the Greek hero

Heracles, who is the son of Zeus in Greek Mythology; and Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon hero of the

Geats in Norse Mythology. Hercules was born a god but he was stolen as an infant and turned

into a mortal by his father’s nemesis, Hades. Hercules got to keep his god-like strength, but had

to prove himself a hero so he could reunite with his family of gods. Hercules was a multifaceted

figure with contradictory characteristic, allowing later artist and writers much leeway in how

they represented him. Beowulf, from the epic poem of the same name, transitions from a fierce

fighter into a wise leader. Beowulf, the poem, illustrates the Germanic heroic code. Beowulf’s

warrior society valued strength, courage, and loyalty in warriors; generosity, hospitality and

political skill in kings.

Both of these men are two of the greatest warriors of their own times. Both men were fearless

and strong as they faced similar monsters, people, and adventures in their own journeys

throughout their lives. Each of them usually fights more than one foe in each of their battles as

well as facing similar enemies. Both characters take pride in ancestors who acted valiantly, and

they attempt to live up to the same standards as their ancestors. Both stories are essentially

records of heroic deeds, with both characters forging their identity and their heroic reputations in

order to live up to their ancestors’ glory.

Beowulf and Hercules similarities are so much alike that they are almost exactly the same sort of

character in their respective stories. They both must use strength, wits, or both to defeat their

enemies, or monsters, or demons. One of the best ways to compare the two in terms of their

similarities is their overall physical makeup. Seeing how powerful they were, how they fought in

battle against monsters, and especially the similarities in the weapons they used against each of

their opponents.

In combat, they both are so powerful that they can kill large and fantastic creatures either with a

sword, some other form of a weapon, or just with their bare hands if it comes to that point in

battle. Beowulf fought Grendel hand to hand, ripping off Grendel’s arm. Hercules fought

similarly with the Nemean lion. He knew his arrows could not pierce his skin, so Hercules put

the lion in a chokehold and snapped his neck.

Hercules and Beowulf have many friends, but Hercules has a hidden rage, and if released, he can

become more heartless towards friends and foes. Beowulf could be considered the perfect

friend. He traveled to a distant land to kill a monster that threatened the lives of people he never

met. When he was pushed to the limit fighting Grendel’s mother, he fought fearlessly because he

knew if he failed, there was no one else to stop her.

Both heroes have great honor. Beowulf helps people he does not know, and he was a great

warrior and a great leader. Hercules is a great warrior, but he was also a demi-god, so he has

obligations to the gods on Mount Vesuvius. While most of the gods did not trust humans and

played cruel jokes on them, Hercules was compassionate towards them.

Beowulf is an inspirational figure, but also tragic. Like Hercules, his strength and reliability

make him an…