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Qualities of a Hero in Greek Mythology and Religion | Odysseus and Beowulf

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Heroes are a category of divine beings of Greek mythology and religion, who after their death were worshiped as divine beings. The definition of a hero varies from one society to another (Ogden 9). In most societies, a hero is a man revered for their brevity or courageousness among other deeds of integrity for the greater good of the society. This paper evaluates the qualities of a hero as demonstrated in epic heroes such as Odysseus and Beowulf.

When thinking about Greek epic heroes, among the characters that come to mind include Odysseus, the main character behind the popular poem The Odyssey by Homer. Through the descriptions of Odysseus’ adventures and obstacles, a number of aspects of a true hero can be pointed out. As demonstrated by Odysseus, before taking any action a true leader takes his time to use his reason and gift to calculate his course of action. To Odysseus, patience was one of his most crucial attributes as demonstrated when he masquerades as a beggar when he eventually reached Ithaca and waits for the time to reveal his true identity. Odysseus also reveals another aspect of heroism when he risks his life to save as many men as possible when they were trapped in the Polyphemus cave. In this incident, he remains behind before finally finding a way to get the remaining men out of the cave without being devoured by the Cyclops (Barnouw 98).

On the other hand, Beowulf, regarded as a great epic warrior of Geatland, also demonstrates some aspects of heroism. One of the qualities that Beowulf reveals as a true hero is a loyalty, a character that makes him admirable both to people in his original homeland a well as to the Danes. It is due to loyalty that he goes to help king Hrothgar of Hart, who had also rescued Beowulf’s father sometimes back, kill Grendel who had massacred a huge number of Danes. Beowulf was also extolled for his bravery especially when he goes ahead to kill Grendel fully aware that no weapon could affect Grendel’s robust nature all in trying to salvage the Danes from further atrocities from the monster.

In our cultural societies today, heroes are regarded as persons who have played major roles in matters that concern a country as a whole. For instance, in most societies, heroes are persons who have immensely contributed towards independence and general economic growth such as Nelson Mandela of South Africa and U.S.’s Abraham Lincoln.
As therefore seen, just like Odysseus, heroes are usually patient and take their time to consider the impacts of their actions and always ready and willing to put the lives of others before themselves. Similarly, as demonstrated by Beowulf, heroes are loyal to their societies and should remain by their word. Additionally, all heroes are brave and undeterred by their enemies’ immense powers as in the case of Beowulf and Grendel.

Works cited
Barnouw, Jeffrey. Odysseus, a hero of practical intelligence: deliberation and signs in Homers
Odyssey. Boulevard: University Press of America, 2004.
Ogden, Daniel. A Companion to Greek Religion. Massachusets: John Wiley and Sons, 2010.

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