Beowulf vs Achilles Who’s the better hero?
February 18, 2015 The qualities of the main characters in both
The Iliad and
Beowulf follow characteristics of a hero in an epic. Both Beowulf, and Achilles are highly positioned in their societies, determine the fate of a nation, and have supernatural powers. Differences in
Beowulf and Achilles include their motives for battle, and their loyalty to their people.
Beowulf and Achilles were both born into royal blood. Beowulf was a loyal warrior to
Higlac, King of the Geats and also Beowulf’s uncle. Achilles was a supernatural being, born from a mortal and a goddess. Achilles was favored by both the gods and the mortals, readers see an example of this during his fight with Hector when Palla Athena helps Achilles turn the favor of the fight into Achilles’ hand’s (Iliad 105108). Not only were both heroes born into a higher power, but both proved their heroism through battles. Beowulf’s loyalty to keep his men and the Danes safe earned him the respect and reputation of higher power. Also, in return, his men were extremely loyal to him. Achilles was similar in that he earned his reputation from winning battle but he did not have the loyalty aspect that Beowulf and his men shared.
Achilles was a selfish man and decided which battles he got involved in. Although he was the greatest warrior of the Greeks, and was respected for his victories, he was not a well trusted man among his people. Achilles chose the battles in which he fought because they would better his name and he knew he would succeed; Beowulf fought because it was his duty to protect his people.
Beowulf represented two nations but determined the fate for the Danes. When Beowulf heard the trouble the Danes were having with Grendel, he traveled to their land and asked the king, Hrothgar, for permission to fight (Beowulf 126189). This scene is significant because it shows the courage, determination, and confidence Beowulf had in his ability to fight Grendel.
Achilles was born a Greek and was fighting for the Greeks in the Trojan War. Although
Achilles had a whole army with him, he was the leader of the Greek army therefore it was up to him to get Helen back.
The strength exhibited by both Beowulf and Achilles support the importance of supernatural powers in a hero. Beowulf was described as “The strongest of the Geats greater and stronger than anyone in this world..” (Beowulf 110). Beowulf relied on his strength as a
resource for victories in his battles (Beowulf 335339, 513523). Achilles was the greatest warrior among the Greeks because of his strength. In fact, his strength was unmatched. An example of Achilles strength is when Achilles throws Hector to the ground and shoves his spear into Hector’s neck. Although strength is an important characteristic of an Anglo Saxon hero, strength alone is not enough to define a hero.
Another similarity between Beowulf and Achilles include their prideful personalities.
Achilles was a good warrior, and he knew it. He made his own decisions regardless of the effects it’d have on others. An example of Achilles selfishness is when Achilles is talking to his mother and said: “Do not attempt to keep me from this fight, though you love