Archetypes: Hero and Beowulf

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A hero is commonly seen as someone who displays moral integrity and a strong ethical compass. They are known for consistently opposing evil and immoral behavior while working to eradicate it. Heroes are selfless individuals who are always ready to put their own lives on the line for the well-being of others. Conversely, villains or monsters represent an opposing force driven by malicious and self-centered intentions. While they may be viewed as the darker side of a character, they play a crucial role in illustrating the extremes of human nature.

The shadow-self of a character represents the complete opposite of their traits. It reveals both the positive and negative qualities of the character. When someone learns to control the positive aspects of both their character and their shadow-self, they can experience personal growth and self-discovery. In literature, the shadow-self is often used as a formidable challenge for the protagonist. A notable example is found in Beowulf and Grenade. Beowulf is a heroic figure driven by good intentions and strong morals, whereas Grenade is a merciless creature whose sole purpose is to inflict suffering and death.

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Another example could be found in the characters Guard and Reign. Guard is somewhat naïve and physically strong, while Reign, on the other hand, is extremely intelligent and persuasive but lacks physical prowess. Monsters are often mistaken for or associated with the shadow-self, but they can possess similar qualities, values, and goals as the protagonist. Typically, monsters are portrayed as beings or individuals who are not restricted by societal norms. In literature, monsters often have a figurative veil cast over them, enveloping them in mystery and uncertainty.

The reader’s fascination is captivated by these aspects as they offer a means of escape. Consequently, the reader is able to free themselves from the monotonous, unvarying routine of their everyday lives and explore an unfamiliar and exciting new world. By presenting this alternative reality to the reader, the role of monsters in the narrative becomes significantly more significant. By blending heroic traits with villainous characteristics, a harmonious equilibrium is achieved. Nearly all literature incorporates some sort of clash between heroes and villains. Without conflict, the story would lack a discernible structure or objective.

Without purpose or design, the story would meander aimlessly until it reaches a desired conclusion. This ties back to the balance between hero and villain as their existence depends greatly on each other. The reason is straightforward – a hero is unnecessary without a villain, just like a villain has no purpose without a hero to oppose. The journey and mission of a hero are often filled with challenges and betrayal, such as facing the slick-skinned dragon that casts fiery streamers across the night sky.

People living on the farms are fearful of the dragon, as it is compelled to search for hidden hoards and protect pagan wealth. Trouble erupts when the dragon awakens and discovers footprints of an intruder who disturbed its slumber. Fortunately, a man not destined for misfortune can avoid exile and sorrow through God’s mercy. This passage from Beowulf demonstrates that pursuing treasure is always difficult. The journey to find treasure is filled with challenges and tests meant to assess the hero’s skills and wisdom.

When the location of the treasure is reached, there is always a final obstacle in the way. A common example is a sleeping dragon guarding its treasure. Beowulf’s final fight with the dragon is a clear illustration of this. In the story “Theses and the Ridden Thread,” Theses uses a thread given to him by Ridden. “He had no problem with this, and she gave him the clue she received from Deals, a ball of thread that he was to attach to the inside of the door and unwind as he progressed.”

This he did and, confident that he could find his way back, he boldly entered the maze in search of the Minotaur. “Shushes” 776) The thread was used by Theseus to remember where he had already been and guide him back to his starting position, preventing him from getting lost in the maze. This thread serves as a valuable reminder that it represents a connection to something or someone that brings us back to reality when we need direction. The slaying of the dragon is seen as the triumph over an obstacle: After a few minutes, he thought, I must take the risk now.

With a display of strength, he straightened his knees and forcefully drove the sword upwards. The sword tore through the cloak, dug into the loose earth, and continued its trajectory with the power of his arm until it was fully embedded. The monster emitted a great cry. (Who is being quoted in this statement?) Overcoming obstacles holds significant importance as it enables individuals to experience transformation and personal development. As modern spectators, we have the privilege of reading this and utilizing the acquired knowledge in our own lives. The epic poem Beowulf exemplifies the presence of archetypes in a narrative.

The story of Beowulf revolves around a Scandinavian hero who possesses great strength and cunning. Beowulf embodies the archetype of the classic hero that comes to mind for many people. Grenade, Beowulf’s shadow-self, serves as a clear example of an archetypal villain. Beowulf’s various quests depict the common search for treasure. His final adventure, which ultimately leads to his demise, is undeniably the most archetypal of all his undertakings as it encompasses the last few stages of the Hero’s Journey. The poem Beowulf encompasses a significant amount of psychological depth within its narrative.

In preparation for the battle with Grenade’s mother, Beowulf must descend to the depths of a lake, reaching the underwater lair. Beowulf spends hours sinking to the bottom, which highlights the fact that his mental strength is just as strong as his physical strength. Upon arriving at Grenade’s mother’s lair, Beowulf swiftly disarms his ineffective sword, named Hurting, and replaces it with a giant’s sword conveniently found in the lair. This occurrence emphasizes the concept that useless items should be promptly discarded, as they only serve to hinder one’s progress.

By releasing the things that slow you down or hold you back, you can progress in your life’s journey. Once obstacles are removed, new opportunities arise. The final battle between Beowulf and the dragon represents two stages: The Resurrection and the Return with the Elixir. When Beowulf defeats the dragon but dies himself, it symbolizes his resurrection.

Beowulf contemplates his past heroic deeds and comprehends their significance as he nears the end of his life. The twelfth stage is symbolized by Wigwag, the only loyal companion of Beowulf who retrieves some of the treasure won by him and presents it to him. Ultimately, when Wigwag returns to inform the people about Beowulf’s demise and predicts what lies ahead, they fully understand their leader’s sacrifices and feel sorrowful and repentant. The literary works Beowulf, “Guard the Dragon Slayer,” and “Theses” remain pertinent in contemporary society.

The admirable and desired heroic qualities of these heroes continue to be admired and sought after by people today. By reading these stories, readers can gain a deeper understanding of how our society forms its moral values. The morals of any society are influenced by the archetype that society considers to be the ultimate example of “good”. The timeless struggle between good and evil persists in our daily lives, with each person playing a role in the ongoing drama of human history. We all crave heroes because we all recognize the presence of evil or villains in our lives.

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Archetypes: Hero and Beowulf. (2018, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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