• Epic: A long narrative poem in elevated style like The
• Traditionally, epics came from oral cultures, were passed
down orally, and were of importance to a nation.
• An epic hero is as meaningful as a legend or historical figure
• The epic hero’s actions take place on a grand scale and are
important nationally, internationally, or worldwide
• The action consists of a great deed( s) requiring
superhuman courage & maybe superhuman strength
• Supernatural forces (gods, angels, demons) are involved or
interested in the action
• The style is grand or elevated
Facts about BEOWULF
• Author is unknown
• Nearly destroyed in a fire.
• Authors like Shakespeare, Keats and Shelley
never knew about it.
• In 1936 Tolkien (author of Lord of the Rings)
published criticism on the piece and Beowulf
• Today it is considered the story that marks the
beginning of the English language.
Pagan or Christian?
• Pagan story
• Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavia invaders
experienced a large-scale conversion to
Christianity by the end of the 6th century.
• Oral story was finally recorded by a Christian
• We see evidence of this in the story.
• The characters in Beowulf behave in un-
• Were exceptionally loyal to their king and tribe.
• All followed a heroic code.
• Had to be brave even when facing death.
• Met in mead halls
• Received treasures, horses and weapons as
• Lived in constant fear of invasion.
“about a hero”
An epic is a story about a hero, so it includes
the characteristics of the heroic code:
• Bravery – our hero leads his men in battle and
is not afraid to take on the supernatural and
battle to the death
• Strength – the hero has become the leader
because he has demonstrated his prowess in
• Loyalty – he surrounds himself with a band of
retainers for whom he is prepared to die and
who are obligated to fight for their lord to the
• Generosity – he provides food, shelter, and
safety, and he rewards his followers with the
spoils of battle
• Protection – his protects his followers by Philip W. Wise Homepage
fighting to the death for them if necessary
Most epics deal with some
element of the supernatural.
The Greek epics included gods
and goddesses and their
interaction with humans.
Beowulf features monsters
which are demonic, and
Paradise Lost deals with God,
Satan, demons, and angels.
In Star Wars, in addition to the
host of other-worldly characters,
Yoda provides the supernatural
help that Luke needs to defeat Pictures from allposters.com web page
the Dark Side.
Most epics include at least one journey. Homer’s
Odyssey is one long journey for the hero, Odysseus.
Beowulf journeys over the whale-road to help an aging
king who provided help for his ancestors. In Paradise
Lost, Satan journeys across the great abyss to the new
world that God has created to wreak havoc on man. In
Star Wars, Luke and Hans travel across the galaxy in
search of people and equipment.
Pictures from allposters.com web page
Greek epics cataloged warriors in long
lists. In Beowulf, the poet gives lineages
first of Hrothgar, then Grendel, then
Beowulf. In Paradise Lost, Milton lists the
demons under Satan’s authority.
Similes are figures of speech that compare two
unlike things using “like” or “as.” An epic simile
is an extended comparison in which the thing
compared is described as an object in its own
right, beyond the point of likeness with the main
One simile occurs in line 218 when the poet tells
us that the ship went over the sea “like a bird.”