Epic of Gilgamesh: a Hero Essay
Now facing these challenges and rising to them is exactly what the Quest is all about and as such Beowulf is the perfect archetype for this definition of a hero, the virtuous warrior. Beowulf is also a polite and well spoken man. When he and his men arrive in Denmark Beowulf is accosted by the Coastguard who demands to know his business.
Beowulf introduces himself as a servant to a great King and the son of a famous father; he does not talk about himself in any way. Beowulf shows nothing but respect and openness, and his words seem to impress the Coastguard who allows all of the Geats to continue to the mead hall completely armed.
Later, while drinking with the men in the hall and being personable Beowulf gets called out by Unferth, one of the warriors who attempts to shame him, or at the least imply that Beowulf is an impulsive fool. At this point the story when Grendel, the monster, finally arrives. It is a life and death struggle that Beowulf almost loses, but through sheer strength and will, he wins the match and kills the beast.
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Again Beowulf is the epitome of the virtuous hero. He is a selfless man who lives his life right and defends others.
He uses his gifts to better those around him just as much as to better his own situation. Perhaps in the context of the time this story was written, anything that attempts to humanize a King to act better with his people is as much to teach the king how to be a better ruler, as to teach the general populace about being a hero.
The first challenge is to give him an equal, this they do with the creation of the wild-man Enkidu.
An Analysis of Gilgamesh as a Hero in the Epic of Gilgamesh | Kibin
Enkidu is equal in strength and stamina to Gilgamesh and the two come to a stalemate, and embrace as brothers. But it can also be equally argued that now that Gilgamesh had a friend and adventure in mind he was no longer harassing the people of Urik. This is the beginning of a series of challenges that Gilgamesh will throw himself into; at the start these smaller challenges are more selfish in motive, but the overall effect of successes and failures combine to humanize Gilgamesh and ultimately bring him to his immortality.
The first challenge the duo take up is to travel to the Cedar Forest and to defeat the Giant Humbaba. Despite their preparations and bravado, upon facing the giant Gilgamesh breaks down in fear, realizing for the first time that he could die. This story is meant to show both the taming of Gilgamesh but also to inform and change the reader.
This creates the first turning point in our hero from anti-hero. In other words the gods planned first to humble him with an equal in Enkidu and then to scare him with his mortality when he faced the giant. Afterward, Gilgamesh made a dangerous journey Tablets IX and X in search of Utnapishtim, the survivor of the Babylonian flood, in order to learn from him how to escape death.
He finally reached Utnapishtim, who told him the story of the flood and showed him where to find a plant that would renew youth Tablet XI. But after Gilgamesh obtained the plant, it was seized by a serpent, and Gilgamesh unhappily returned to Uruk. The epic ends with the return of the spirit of Enkidu, who promised to recover the objects and then gave a grim report on the underworld.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem, the most important work of Old English literature. The earliest surviving manuscript is in the British Library; it is written in the West Saxon dialect and is believed to date from the late 10th century. On the basis of this text, Beowulf is generally considered to be the work of an anonymous 8th-century Anglian poet who fused Scandinavian history and pagan mythology with Christian elements. The poem consists of lines, each line with four accents marked by alliteration and divided into two parts by a caesura.
Fifty years later Beowulf, now king of his native land, fights a dragon who has devastated his people. Both Beowulf and the dragon are mortally wounded in the fight. Both Beowulf and Gilgamesh are loved and are shown loyalty from their people. Although both Beowulf and Gilgamesh represent two different types of heroes, both achieve ultimate good through their actions. The need for love and loyalty is also manifested throughout both poems. Death merely becomes an incident in the lives of Beowulf and Gilgamesh. They both teach its audience and invaluable lesson: What matters is not how long, but rather how well we live.
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Bibliography Fry, Donald K. Englewood Cliffs, N. A collection of essays on the poem current up to the mid s. Fulk, R. Interpretations of Beowulf: A Critical Anthology. Indiana University Press.
Quest for Immortality, the Archetype of a Hero.
Indianapolis: The collection includes J. Greenfield, Stanley B. A new critical history of old English literature. Excellent overview of the history of Old English literature with a good chapter on Beowulf and heroic poetry. A good place to start for an orientation to Beowulf in literary historical context. View Full Essay. More essays like this:. Not sure what I'd do without Kibin. Exactly what I needed. Most helpful essay resource ever!
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