Top Special Offer! Check discount

Get 13% off your first order - useTopStart13discount code now!

The Hero _x001E_ Gilgamesh and Beowulf

A hero is a person of exceptional character who is revered by many for his noble characteristics. As a result, the hero must have proved these characteristics to society by a heroic deed. In previous works of literature, heroism was mostly linked with warriors; nevertheless, it has expanded to encompass a person of moral character in modern literary works. Not everyone can be a hero since the trait is not self-given but results from an outstanding deed performed by an individual. In epic works, most heroes are shown as epic heroes due to their characters and their ability to uphold the society in the time of war as demonstrated in the stories of Gilgamesh and Beowulf. The epic stories show different values imitated by the heroes in the Mesopotamia and ancient Anglo-Saxon cultures such as bravery, strength, and selflessness.
Epic Hero in Gilgamesh and Beowulf
The Anglo-Saxons� culture created an oral narration of Beowulf while Mesopotamians' culture described the traits of Gilgamesh through an elaborate story. The two heroes in the epic stories differed in the era of their existence and in the moral values they demonstrated and promoted. However, despite the differences, the stories of Gilgamesh and Beowulf depict many common traits of the characters, including the common view of a hero. The works of these cultures illustrate the concept of a real hero existing at the time of the creation of the literary songs and in addition demonstrates the human ideologies of the period. Judging by the epic narrations, an epic hero is typically a male person who possesses such qualities as superhuman strength, selfishness, and bravery.
The two heroes lived in the era of early centuries and belonged to the traditions and cultures that valued social morality. The cultures had their narrations of the qualities of a hero. There are similarities and some differences between the traits of the duo as depicted by the societies they lived. Digging deep into the characters of the heroes, the differences in their behaviors as portrayed by their cultures come out in various occasions.
Superhuman Strength
Beowulf, a Scandinavian warrior, showed the qualities admired of a hero during his reign. In the eyes of the people, he is a man with superhuman strength and can fight anything that needed to be challenged. The story narrates how he is received in Denmark when he went to save the people against the evils of Grendel. King Hrothgar says they have been told that, �the hero�s hard hand-grip has in it thirty men�s threat� (6). He was powerful enough to fight monsters such as Grendel, who was terrorizing the Danes many years (38). He further showed his strength by fighting another monster considered the deadliest. The monster was the mother of Grendel seeking revenge for her son's death. Beowulf �smote its soft smooth underside, singeing his hand when he swung the sword, but driving it deep in the dragon�s gut� (37). His ability to drive the sword deep into the dragon�s guts shows his mighty strength since no other man could do the same act during their time. The story further describes his strength according to the opinions of his people, �In that day of his life no earthly man had equal strength or courage� (3) as he showed while fighting many wars.
Showing the similar character of a hero as Beowulf is the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the first pieces of literature ever known. The literary work demonstrates the traits of a person considered a hero by the culture of Mesopotamians. The epic is based on King Gilgamesh, who ruled the city of Uruk many centuries ago. Like Beowulf, Gilgamesh had a great physical strength than any man of his time. He is described as �a Mighty net, protector of his people, raging flood-wave who destroys even walls of stone� (5). He fought many battles that were considered impossible to win. He demonstrated his power by fighting Humbaba, a monster feared by many people. His strength is confirmed when he overpowers the monster till it pleads with him �Gilgamesh let me go. I will dwel with you as your sservant� (5). When attacked by a pack of lions, �he slew the lions in the mountain passes to death� (1) killing most of them as others run for their lives.
In addition to superhuman strength, Beowulf was brave and was not afraid to die. When going for any battle, he could explain his death wishes and requested for distribution of all his wealth among the people if he never returned. He had an inner feeling to protect the people at all costs, defeat the evil in the society and achieve immortality for his people. While in the forest �dazed but conscious, Beowulf pulled a bright dagger, his sharp war-knife, from the sheath on his belt and sliced the smooth-skinned serpent in half� (37). He did not fear the wrath of the servant but �he was quite fearless and discounted the scathe�s skill in warfare� (33). He then fights the monster to death. This is an expression of his bravery.
Similarly, Gilgamesh's bravery is shown after killing Humbaba, a monster that was causing problems to the society. When taking his quest against Humbaba he shows bravery in his statement �you men of Uruk, who know I want to make myself mightier, and will go on a distant journey. I will face fighting such as I have never known. I will set out on a road I have never travelled. Give me your blessings� (2). He, therefore, receives the blessings of his people to go and fight. While in the quest against the monster, he meets his counterpart Enkidu and explains his plan, "I will undertake it, and I will cut down the Cedar / it is I who will establish fame for eternity!" (8). Goddess Ishtar then orders �The Bull of Heaven� to kill the people in their communities. Gilgamesh realized the number of people killed by the Bull and did not run away. Instead, he grabbed it by the tail and stabbed it to death. This shows the bravery by Gilgamesh. Furthermore, Gilgamesh�s decision to go against the monsters of the gods depicts him as a brave epic hero.
Beowulf�s desire to put the wellbeing of others first shows his selfless character as demonstrated in the poetry. When he was asked to get rid of the monster, he obliged and traveled to face the war against Grendel. He decides to go to Denmark to help King Hrothga and his people. �He asked for a swift seasoning ship, said he intended to visit Hrothgar over the vast waters, now that the war � king was in need of help� (3). He is shown risking his life to save the Danes from the monster and even later lost his life while fighting for the well-being of his people. When at his last breath, he says, �I have paid the prices for these priceless things, life itself. Look faithfully to the people�s needs; my part is finished� (38) . In general, Beowulf believed in winning the good will of his people or die in the battle (38). His selfless character was admired by many people and gave him praise as the people's hero as in the phrase about his reign and leadership styles, �It would come to pass that the crown of the Geats became Beowulf�s. He as a king of that realm for fifty years befriending its people and serving their interests� (31). Such traits are what make a selfless hero in epical works.
In contrast, Gilgamesh does not show the nature of selflessness and the desire to help people; he rather shows a selfish character. He is portrayed as an evil leader. Enkidu describes him as �wise to perfection but struits his power over his people like a wild bull� (4).
At the beginning of the poem, his behavior is seen as uncouth and cruel. He uses his position to acquire resources for his personal interest and not for the benefit of the whole community. The members of the community are seen questioning his morals due to his selfish nature. They complain about his character and say �his fellows stand (at the alert), attentive to his orders. He does not leave a son to his father or a daughter to her mother� (5).
The poem further shows how King Gilgamesh neglects his duties of a protector and commits injustice against his people (1). For example he threatens Tavern-keeper and tells her to open the gate or else he will deal with her. �If you do not let me in, I will break your door, and smash the lock� (5). This is an immoral show of a character of a hero. By relating this trait to Beowulf�s, there is a clear indication of the difference in their moral characters. Beowulf helps his people to have better life void of evil characters while, on the other hand, Gilgamesh, as powerful as he is, demonstrates a moral decay in his leadership since even his quest for the destruction of Humbaba was due to his dire need of becoming a hero, but not because he wanted to help the people.

In the two cultures, the heroes' superhuman strengths and courage enabled them to defeat many evils. Most of the heroes' characters were admired by the society and was the reasons for portraying them as the legends of the community. All in all, Beowulf became a prime example of an epic hero and in most cases was used as a model of reference.
It can be concluded, therefore, that epic heroes are those who showed extraordinary traits and skills that other normal beings did not have. The heroes mostly used those superhuman qualities either for the benefit of the entire society or their advantage. It is true that not every individual could have such qualities and thus the reason that not all people can be heroes.

_x000C_Works Cited
The Epic of Beowulf. Trans. Ringler Dick. Early World Literature. Soomo Publishing, Ashville, NC., 2007. Print.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. Trans. Maureen Gallery Kovacs. Early World Literature. Asheville, NC: Soomo Publishing, 2015.Web.

October 07, 2021




Subject area:




This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.