As I read Beowulf I was struck by many things about Beowulf the hero that I admire. The main thing that stands out about him is his strength. The narrator talks about Beowulf’s strength of course, but do does Hrothgar and Beowulf himself. It’s safe to say that Beowulf is strong, especially after Hrothgar’s comment about Beowulf’s grip being equal to 30 men. Another thing that stands out is his courage. We hear several stories of his courage and bravery – again, not just from the narrator but also from other characters. He’s killed giants and sea serpents and is ready to take on Grendel when the story gets started. He’s not afraid of the fact that Grendel has killed so many strong warriors; he’s ready to take the monster on. You expect a hero to be strong and brave, and Beowulf does not disappoint.

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Something that you don’t necessarily expect from a hero is politeness and courtesy. I like that Beowulf is not rude to the captain of the coast guard when the captain confronts them, or when he meets the herald Wulfgar. He chooses careful words to address these men instead of just saying “Don’t you know who I am?” and talking with his fists. Beowulf seems to respect etiquette and observes the rules of court. Even when Unferth is rude and makes accusations, Beowulf continues to be polite.

Another thing I like about Beowulf is that he is bold and daring – again, something that the narrator points out and that the characters point out. They say fortune favors the bold, and that certainly seems to be the case with Beowulf. He takes on Grendel without a weapon, which is pretty impressive, considering how many armed warriors had failed to kill the monster.

Beowulf also appreciates other people and their strengths, which I like. When the Geats hear about the Danes’ problem with Grendel, the wisest and worthiest people of the Geats urge Beowulf to help. Beowulf knows that the wisest and worthiest know what they are talking about; he agrees with them and goes to aid the Danes. He also takes with him trusted warriors because he knows that no matter how strong he is, it never hurts to have help. He recognizes the abilities of his compatriots. It would be easy for him to say that he doesn’t need help, or that others are weaker than he is, but he values the strength and skills of others. He routinely praises the skills of other people, including his own father and what he knows of Hrothgar.

Talking about his going off to help the Danes: I also like that about Beowulf. He hears that they are in trouble, and he wants to help. He also knows that his father owes Hrothgar a debt, and this seems like an excellent way to repay that debt. He doesn’t just do it to get more famous or get gold; he does it because they are in need of help. This shows that he’s selfless, and I appreciate that. It also shows that he wants to maintain the friendship between the Geats and the Danes; it’s not just about helping somebody out, it’s also about doing the right thing for friends. That’s another thing I like about Beowulf: he does seem to value doing the right thing. He doesn’t seem to kill people or monsters just because he can – the monsters he talks about killing were attacking people or causing trouble. He comes to kill Grendel because Grendel is killing innocent people and causing trouble, and that seems wrong to Beowulf.

These things show his strengths and why he is considered an ideal warrior. However, Beowulf also has weaknesses. The other side of being bold and daring is reckless, and the story that Unferth tells about Beowulf and Breca shows that recklessness. Though it is impressive that Beowulf goes off to fight Grendel without a weapon, it is also reckless. He also seems to like to act superior to people. He may not be rude, but he won’t really tell the captain of the coast guard or Wulfgar why he’s there to see Hrothgar; it’s like they aren’t good enough to talk to about it. He’ll only talk to Hrothgar, like royalty to royalty. You’d think that Beowulf would want to assure people that he has come to help them. Also, that Beowulf is boastful is kind of unlikeable. I get that boasting is part of Beowulf’s culture, and that it’s like daring himself or others to go do things. But sometimes he boasts when I don’t think it’s necessary to boast. He’s just tooting his own horn because he can. But I guess being humble doesn’t make you heroic.

The historical person I’m going to compare/contrast to Beowulf is Abraham Lincoln. I chose President Lincoln because I feel like he’s a hero to the United States. Unlike Beowulf, Lincoln wasn’t much of a warrior with his fists – but he was a warrior with his brains. Lincoln was brilliant and thoughtful. That doesn’t seem to have been Beowulf’s strong suit, though he was likely a brilliant battle strategist. Lincoln seemed to value the strengths and skills of others; he brought people into his Cabinet that he thought could do the job, just like Beowulf with his trusted warriors. Lincoln, like Beowulf, also seemed to want to do what is right. Lincoln disagreed with slavery and the suffering of the slaves; he didn’t want them to suffer, like Beowulf didn’t want the Danes to suffer.

So Lincoln did what he could to end slavery and the slaves’ suffering, like Beowulf did for the Danes. They both were bold – half of the United States disagreed with and stood against Lincoln about slavery, but that didn’t stop him. His policies and decisions were unpopular, but that didn’t faze Lincoln. From what I’ve read about Lincoln, he was a gentleman, so like Beowulf he appreciated courtesy. During his time, Lincoln did a lot of impressive things, even if he didn’t kill a dragon. And like Beowulf, when Lincoln died, he was mourned and missed by many people who had admired him and his strengths. Both men were heroes to their people.