Hero-warrior in the world of Beowulf

What does it mean to be a “hero-warrior” in the world of Beowulf?  What are the values and beliefs that inform the conception of hero-warriors and that guide their conduct in the poem?

As a heroic poem, Beowulf celebrates its protagonist. Beowulf is a hero who seeks out challenges alone and unarmed, showing bravery and courage (xxii). The poem is typical of heroic poetry in a lot of ways in that it focuses on one central figure, one world and one set of values (xxii-xxiii). This heroic age centers on a lord who acts like the shepherd of his people during peace and war times. The lord gives his people shelter, food, drinks, shields, and helmets. Therefore, a “hero-warrior” in the world of Beowulf earns his keep and his armor using his bravery, loyalty, and courage in war (xxiii). Furthermore, hero-warriors spend all of their time fighting or feasting (xxiii). They are obsessed with the glory of war/battle and their only possessions are gold armor or gold cups, the external signs of their glory (xxiii). Exuberance during feasts (“to glee in the hall”) and bravery during battles (“glory in the field”) are the values and beliefs that inform hero-warriors and guide their conduct (xxiii).

Anonymous.  Beowulf: A Verse Translation.  Translated by Michael AlexanderNew York: Penguin Books, 2003.  Print.

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