Ms. Thompson Honors Brit. Lit.; Block 3, Skinny a february 17, 2015



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Nigel Nderi

Ms. Thompson

Honors Brit. Lit.; Block 3, Skinny A

February 17, 2015

Modern Heroes vs. Beowulf: How Much Have Heroes in Entertainment Really Changed?

When one thinks of heroes, he or she usually thinks of heroes such as Superman and Batman separately from Beowulf, but are they truly that different? Beowulf is the tale of a hero that travels to another land to save the people there from a terrifying monster known as Grendel. Beowulf arrives and tells the king that he will help his people fight off Grendel. At night, Beowulf fights off Grendel when he, Grendel, attacks. Grendel’s mother then seeks revenge which leads to Beowulf killing her as well. Beowulf then returns to his homeland where he gains the affection of his King, and when his King died, Beowulf became the king of his land. Beowulf was a fair and loved ruler that protected his land with his might. His final adventure was killing a dragon and then dying due to the battle. Even though Beowulf appears completely different from modern heroes, heroes have not changed much in their definition and characteristics, but the life of a hero has changed drastically.

Firstly, the definition of a hero has not changed significantly since the time of Beowulf. Modern heroes, such as Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr) from “The Incredibles”, share a similar makeup to Anglo-Saxon heroes such as Beowulf (Dickison). Beowulf is a hero defined by his fortitude and his courage, and Mr. Incredible, or Bob Parr (his alias), is also defined by strength and courage. These two heroes are especially strong and courageous when it comes to protecting the things that they love: when Beowulf died fighting the dragon that threatened his kingdom and when Mr. Incredible fought Syndrome after his family and city were endangered. Mr. Incredible also uses similar battle tactics to Beowulf in that he fights without weapons and goes to fight their adversary on their, the adversary’s, own territory in some situations. A hero like Beowulf is defined largely by his violence (Muni), and this has not altered almost at all. In modern entertainment, heroism still revolves as largely around violence as it did in Beowulf, and the hero’s ability in battle defines their heroic abilities. Heroes such as Natsu Dragneel and Deadpool are defined by their abilities in battle. Without their abilities in battle, these two heroes would not be heroes at all. These defining elements of a hero are not the only things to have remained the same.

Also, the characteristics of a hero have remained the same. Heroes during the Anglo-Saxon time gained glory through their battles (Scully), and modern heroes are not different. Almost every hero gains acknowledgement and fame with the public through their heroic exploits. When Spiderman begins stopping crime and defeating villains alongside the New York Police Department, he catches the public’s attention. Some heroes, such as Iron Man, gain fame for themselves as a whole, even when they are not being a hero. Many heroes during the Anglo-Saxon era had specific end goals, or quests, in mind as they were fighting for humanity (“Heroes”); modern heroes in entertainment also have these styles of goals in mind. For example, Thor has the goal of developing the kingdom of Asgard into a peaceful kingdom that is allied with and helps all worlds that they encounter. Another such hero is one that almost all and sundry is acquainted with is Superman. Superman has set himself the difficult task of keeping the Earth safe from harm, and whenever he begins a heroic campaign against evil, he begins fighting with bravely and resourcefully, much-like Beowulf does when he battles Grendel’s mother (Raffel 40-51). Even though modern heroes in entertainment share several similarities with heroes such as Beowulf, there are also quite a few differences.

However, modern heroes obviously exist in a different time period than those such as Beowulf, so there a quite a few differences between modern heroes and Beowulf; one such difference lies within the development/background of a hero. Most Anglo-Saxon heroes were warriors, such as knights, and kings (“Heroes”), but current heroes have a more variable background. While Beowulf was born a warrior and destined to be an opulent and remembered hero, modern heroes in entertainment tend to have humble, and sometimes dour, background. These heroes usually then experience something major in their lives that allows them to become the heroes of which they are known. For example in Attack on Titan, Eren Yeager was the child of humanities greatest doctors, Dr. Yeager. He lived a life similar to most other children in the show: gathering firewood, going to school and constantly contemplating his future. Since a young age Eren wanted to fight titans, the monsters that are terrorizing humanity in his world, but he never began to feel as strongly about this until a fateful day changed his future forever. The titans managed to break through one of the walls that humanity cowered behind, and they destroyed his city and ate his mother in front of his eyes. From that day, Eren vowed revenge (Isayama 1-25). Many modern heroes face these kinds of dilemmas and differentiate themselves from older heroes. Although some, such as Superman, are destined to be heroes from the time of their birth, most modern heroes face an experience that shapes them into the hero they become.

In conclusion, while many similarities exist on with the characteristics and the definition of a hero have remained roughly the same, modern heroes in entertainment and Anglo-Saxon heroes such as Beowulf differ in areas such as in the background/development of hero. Heroes have to maintain some things, such as bravery and courage, in order to continue to be called heroes, and most heroes will maintain this by being defined through violence. Modern heroes do not have the same warrior/king background that Beowulf had, so modern heroes come to be based more on circumstance than being born into heroism. Yet, the quintessence of a hero remains the same. The fact that heroes have remained so similar shows that human ideals have remained the same, and if that is true, is there much of a difference between people now and people during the Anglo-Saxon era?


Works Cited

Dickison, Kenton. "The Incredibles vs. Beowulf." Prezi.com. Prezi, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.

"Heroes." Myths and Legends of the World. Ed. John M. Wickersham. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. N. pag. Student Resources in Context. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.

Isayama, Hajime, and Sheldon Drzka. Attack on Titan Chapter 2. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2012. Print.

Muni, Ashish. "Beowulf vs. Modern Society." The Beowulf Gallery. CSIS, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

Raffel, Burton, trans. "Beowulf." Prentice Hall Literature: The British Tradition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2010. 40-64. Print.

Scully, Margaret. "MY HOMEPAGE." MY HOMEPAGE. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.


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