In Beowulf

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					• 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
  gained recognition.
• 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-
  Christian ways.
• 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
   “supernatural intervention”
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 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 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.
             “epic similes”
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.”

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