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Beowulf And The Odyssey

Certain situations can make a hero out of a person.  One writer, Peter S. Beagle, tries to accurately describe the reasons why heroes are made.  He states that heroes are made through great sorrows and burdens.  While many heroes are discovered through these means, there are many other attributes that heroes can have.  Both Beowulf and Odysseus overcome major burdens that would have crippled the average person, but the burden alone did not make them heroes.  Other than sorrow and burdens, a great hero also needs to be strong, altruistic, and wise.

Beowulf is very strong in that he is muscular, but also because he knows that his village needs him.  This virtue is important because without the strength of mind, Beowulf would be too cowardly to defend his village from Grendel's mother, and Grendel later on, although it did not necessarily work out against Grendel's mother the first time.  Odysseus also has this particular virtue, which is shown time and time again when a new monster is encountered on the epic journey detailed in "The Odyssey".

Altruism, or selflessness, is a very strong attribute of many heroes young and old.  This is best portrayed in "Beowulf" when the protagonist, Beowulf, finally defeats the great threats of Grendel and Grendel's mother.  Although, in the beginning, Beowulf intended to defeat Grendel's mother, he was seduced instead.  After this seduction, Beowulf was convinced that the problem had gone away because the monster had not plagued the village for many years, however, to Beowulf's surprise, a son was sired, Grendel, and this was the reason for the monster's hiatus.  Once Grendel was of age, he began to terrify the townspeople, and once more Beowulf selflessly defended his village by once and for all killing Grendel and Grendel's mother.

Odysseus is probably the more wise of the two protagonists, considering how he deals with problems that he and his crew face throughout the journey.  One particular monster that Odysseus came across is the Cyclops, Polyphemus.  In this part of the story, Polyphemus accidentally captures Odysseus and his crew after Odysseus is caught in Polyphemus' home trying to steal some food at his crew's demand.  Eventually, Odysseus tricks Polyphemus in letting he and his crew go by getting him drunk and lying to Polyphemus about his name being Nobody, which later came in handy when the other Cyclopses did not believe Polyphemus when trying to get help during Odysseus' and his crew's escape.

While having a burden can definitely help a hero stand out more, strength, altruism, and wisdom, are very important for a hero to possess.  Any person can learn a lot from the different characteristics and virtues Odysseus and Beowulf have.  Perhaps the most important lesson to learn about these virtues is that not every hero will display them perfectly.  Although these virtues may not be perfect, each hero's story has an underlying moral to teach that far outweighs the imperfection of the virtue.


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