Beowulf was described as the best and the one and only hero of that time. He fought many different types of monsters and helped many kingdoms. That in many people’s eyes would be the best person for a hero. Heroes are usually someone that people look up to, if a child wanted to be a warrior than that would be fine but as an all around hero, I would pass him up on the list. Since Beowulf had slain Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon which lead to his death he would be chosen as the greatest hero. I think that Beowulf is completely over-rated, just because he did all of that doesn’t mean he could be the only person to be a hero in the stories. In the article “Reinventing the Hero: Gardner’s Grendel and the shifting Face of Beowulf in Popular Culture” the authors Michael Livingston and John Sutton express that in different interpretations of Beowulf, Beowulf is considered the hero. In the books and films that they decided to write the article on they explain, “…they still support the received interpretation of the poem: that Beowulf is the hero par excellence, and that Grendel is a fiendish monster (Livingston & Sutton, 3). No one challenged the characteristics on what a hero should be until John Gardner published his book Grendel.
Before reading Grendel, I would’ve continued to believe that Grendel is only a monster but John Gardner portrayed Grendel in a different light. Grendel was transformed from a horrible creature to a being with human emotions, which was only curious of the world (Livingston & Sutton, 3). In Grendel, the Shaper gives the illusion of his and Hrothgar’s Utopia (Grendel, 41). Grendel hearing this, he becomes conflicted about believing this dream or ignoring it. After he thought everything over, Grendel decided that he needed to go along with the Shaper’s ideas and do his part to help the universe. Even though Grendel ends up dead because that was what he was made to do, could his work be considered praiseworthy. Anyone can be praised for their actions and I think if Grendel didn’t play his part, then the “what ifs” begin to line-up. If Grendel decided to go against the Utopia then he really would have nothing to do and be in a state of boredom. Grendel could be seen as a hero because he did all of the horrible things so that Hrothgar and the Shaper could create their vision of a Utopia.
The women in Beowulf should be recognized for the work they did. In the article The Social Centrality of Women in Beowulf, Dorothy Carr Porter discusses all of the women in Beowulf. She first discusses Wealhtheow and Hygd and describes them as “hostess”. Hostesses were queens/women who basically follow the ways of their husbands but have influence on people that come into their halls. They were both involved in their societies and were sought out for their wisdom. Wealhtheow gave words of wisdom to Beowulf many times in the poem. Porter points out that Wealhtheow and Hygd were always illustrated with the use of positive terms. Wealhtheow is “mindful of customs,” (613), “of excellent heart” (624), and “sure of speech” (624), while Hygd is “wise and well-taught” (1927). (Porter). They were the typical women in this century; they never were selfish and did for others. Wealhtheow could be seen as heroine because of her being considered as an extension to her husband Hrothgar, and having an influence in politics. Women before couldn’t have a say in any of the kings issues but Wealhtheow did, therefore could be seen as a heroine.
Porter describes Hildebruh and Freawaru as “failed peace weavers” (Porter). “Peace weavers” were women that were supposed to marry into a different kingdom to “make” peace. Porter used the term failed because even though the women were set to ensure peace, it was a failed attempt. She believes that “peace weavers” are women arranged to be married to rival kingdoms. Women that are described as “peace weaver” should be considered heroines themselves because they were put into “sticky” situations. Porter may think of these women as failed but I don’t because even if the peace allegiance didn’t last for long, it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen again. None of these women, Porter analyzes wouldn’t be considered good if there weren’t the “evil” women, Grendel’s mother and Thryth.
Everyone is human; we don’t live in the world where there are people that have supernatural powers. Humans have flaws and no one is perfect, so mistakes will be made. Heroes are put on a high pedestal, and their followers are in denial that they are invincible. No one can avoid their inevitable death, us as humans were meant to live and die. Beowulf was considered the one and only hero but Grendel, hostesses, and peace weavers could all be seen as heroes/heroines. I believe that just because Beowulf was considered the main character of the story and poem that he shouldn’t be the only person considered as a hero. Women are always looked over especially in the past and present, I hope that this wouldn’t be the case in the future.
Carr Porter, Dorothy. "The Social Centrality of Women in Beowulf: A New Context." The Heroic Age August/September.5 (2001). Web. 18 Feb. 2011.
Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Vintage, 1989. Print.
Livingston, Michael, and John William Sutton. "Reinventing the Hero: Gardner’s Grendel and the Shifting Face of Beowulf in Popular Culture." Studies in Popular Culture 29.1 (2006): 1-16. Studies in Popular Culture. Web. 18 Feb. 2011.