In The Odyssey and Beowulf, my opinion is that in both epics the two main heroes share some similar components of characteristics and different components of character traits. The stories also reflected on the importance of their cultures and how this shaped the heroes. In The Odyssey, the historical context of this epic is about a Greek hero named Odysseus and his 10-year long journey getting home after the Trojan war. At that time Odysseus had to face many monsters along the way. His wife Penelope and son Telemachus avert the suitors that were wanting Penelope’s hand. In the other story, Beowulf the historical context of this epic is about a warrior that comes to the assistance of the King of Danes, Hrothgar. Hrothgar’s realm is frightened by a monster, Grendel. To eliminate Grendel Beowulf uses his strength and bravery. Beowulf kills Grendel’s avenging mother as well. Then Beowulf returns home with lots of treasure for his king. Later, he becomes the king of the Geats and rules for a long period. Beowulf and Wiglaf defeat a dragon that tries to danger the Geatland. As Beowulf slays the dragon he then gets bitten by the dragon’s venomous bite and he dies.
The similarities between these two stories, The Odyssey and Beowulf are Beowulf and Odysseus both have heroic qualities because Beowulf battled off Grendel and put an end to Grendel devouring more men. Beowulf was brave and had substantial battling skills. In addition, “ When we crossed the sea, my comrades and I, I already knew that all my purpose was this: to win the goodwill of your people or die in battle, pressed in Grendel’s fierce grip. Let me live in greatness and courage, or here in the hall welcome my death!” ( Page. 12, lines 632 – 638). While Odysseus had his mind to help him during his fights and his fast thinking helps him escape from certain situations. He displays bravery in blinding Cyclops Polyphemus by tricking him. Moreover, “ I drew it from the coals and my four fellows gave me a hand, lugging it near the Cyclops as more than natural force served them; straightforward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it deep in his crater eye.”( page 765 lines 374- 382). Another similarity is in both stories the main characters, Odysseus and Beowulf both had to fight mythical creatures such as in The Odyssey, Odysseus fought Charybdis, The Sirens, Calypso, Scylla, Circe, etc. Furthermore, the mythical creatures Odysseus has fought were very strong. He had to find a way to outwit them. When he was going through the sirens he had the brilliant idea to have his crewmates tie him up and to not listen to him when he says to untie him.
This is shown in the text, “ Therefore you are to tie me up, tight as a splint, erect along the mast, lashed to the mast, and if I shout and beg to be untied, take more turns off the Rope to muffle me. ” (page.780 lines 727- 731). In Beowulf, Beowulf fought Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. One of the battles Beowulf fought was with Grendel. Moreover, “ Then he stepped to another still body, clutched at Beowulf. But Higlac’s follower remembered his final Boast. Stopped the monster’s flight, fastened those claws in his fists until they cracked.” ( page 14, lines 745 – 761). Additionally, in both stories both men are arrogant and women are viewed as evil and cruel. For example in The Odyssey the sirens were shown as women who would use their voices to trap men it states, “ Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying beauty to bewitch men coasting by; woe to the innocent who hears that sound! He will not see his lady nor his children in joy, crowding about him, home from sea; the Sirens will sing his mind away on their sweet meadow lolling. There are bones of dead men rotting in a pile beside them and flayed skins shrivel around the spot.” In Beowulf, Grendel’s mother is shown to be vicious. An example is it states, “ She fought with the power and courage men fight with, smashing their shining swords, their bloody, Hammer-forged blades onto boar- headed helmets, slashing and stabbing with the sharpest of point. She swung their swords above the piles of benches. Her supper assured sheltered in her dripping claws.” ( page 16, lines 1284 – 1290).
The differences between these two stories, The Odyssey and Beowulf are that in both stories, Odysseus and Beowulf both had different reasons for battling. In The Odyssey, Odysseus was fighting to get back home to Ithaca to be with his wife Penelope and his son, Telemachus, but he faced many obstacles along the way. Some of these obstacles are Scylla, Charybdis, and Calypso who made his journey back home harder. Scylla and Charybdis made the journey harder because they are sea monsters and Odysseus and his crew were on a boat. Furthermore, it states, “ Hen Scylla made her strike, whisking six of my best men from the ship. I happened to glance aft at ship and oarsmen and caught sight of their arms and legs, dangling high overhead. Voices came down to me in anguish, calling my name for the last time.” (pg 783 lines. 816-820). Charybdis was also an obstacle that Odysseus faced because it was a sea- monster that created large whirlpools which were an obstacle. For example, it states “ A great wild fig, Shaggy muscle leaves, grows on it, and Charybdis lurks below to swallow down the dark sea tide. Three times from dawn to dusk she spews it up and sucks it down again three times, a whirling maelstrom; If You Came Upon her then the God who makes Earth tremble could not save you.” (pg.779, lines 697-703).
In Beowulf he was fighting to protect Herot and, he was selfless. He cared about people’s safety. Furthermore, “ In his far- off home Beowulf, stronger then anyone in this world heard how Grendel filled nights with horror and quickly commanded a boat fitted out, proclaiming he’d go to the famous king when help was needed. And we have come seeking your prince, Healfdane’s son, protector of these people, only in friendship.” ( Pages 5, lines 194 – 201 & page 6, lines 266 – 268). Another difference is in the stories the endings are contrasting because, at the end of the Odyssey, Odysseus returns home to Ithaca after his battles with the monsters. In addition, “ Then Lord Odysseus reappeared and his son was thunderstruck. Fear in his eyes,…” and “ Then throwing his arms around this marvel of a father, Telemachus began to weep.” (pg.793, lines 1028-1030). Whereas at the end of Beowulf, Beowulf dies showing pride, confidence and being fearless against the dragon so that people would remember him as a noble and brave warrior. For instance, “ And Beowulf uttered his final boast; I’ve never known fear; as a youth, I fought in endless battles. I am old, now, but I will fight again, seek fame still if the dragon hiding in his tower dares to face me.” ( Page 25, lines 2510 – 2515). The final difference is that both the main characters, Odysseus and Beowulf fight in different ways. Beowulf tries to battle without weapons and fights fairly and gives his most effort to win even if his life is at stake. To add on it states. “ He tossed his sword aside, angry. If weapons were useless he’d use his hands, the strength in his fingers. So fame comes to men who mean to win it and care about nothing else! He raised his arms and saw her by the shoulder anger doubled his strength he threw her to the floor she fell.” ( page 20, lines 1531 – 1538). Odysseus is very devious and he tries to trick the monsters into escaping them. He uses his mental abilities and skills to get away from his obstacles. For example, “ He tricks Polyphemus by offering him wine to get him drunk so he can sleep and they can stab his eye in his sleep.”
In addition in the text, it states, “ The pike of olive, green through it had been, reddened and glowed as if about to catch. I drew it from the coals and my four fellows gave me a hand, lugging it near the Cyclops as more than natural force nerved them; Straightforward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it deep in his crater, and I leaned on it turning it as a shipwright turns a drill in planking, having men below to swing the two handle strap that spins it in the groove.” (pg.765 , lines 372- 381).
The two stories, The Odyssey and Beowulf reflect the values of their respective cultures. In The Odyssey, Odysseus reflects the Greek culture by believing in Athena who guided him and helped him throughout the journey. For example, “ So Odysseus builds the raft and sets sail. But the sea god Poseidon is by no means ready to allow an easy passage over his watery domain. He raises a storm and destroys the raft. It is only with the help of Athena and a sea nymph that Odysseus arrives, broken and battered, on the island of Scheria. There he hides in a pile of leaves and falls into a deep sleep.” (page 754 lines 119-124).
Odysseus is very intelligent and creative which is what the Greeks valued and he used his skills against his opponents. In Beowulf, Beowulf reflected the Anglo Saxon culture by being loyal, brave and he fulfills his duties which is what the Anglo Saxons valued. This quote shows how he fulfills his duties, “ Our errand is a great one, our business with the glorious king of the Danes no secret: there is nothing dark or hidden in our coming. You know that your country is cursed with some strange vicious creature that hunts only at night and that no one has seen he has slaughtered your people and has brought terror to the darkness.” He also uses Anglo Saxon values in battle and Anglo Saxon efforts in life because he protects the people of king Hrothgar and his realm.
Overall, in Beowulf’ and The Odyssey, there were many similarities and differences between the two stories. Some of these similarities and differences have impacted the culture of the two. For example, in Beowulf, his culture revolves around honor and loyalty which in the story he was honoring and loyal was an example to others and Wiglaf. In The Odyssey, Odysseus’s culture revolves around intelligence and bravery, which in the story were very important qualities to have. They both are very skilled in battling and that they both believed in more than one god. Odysseus and Beowulf also have similar and dissimilar characteristics because, in Beowulf, Beowulf is very courageous and fearless. Odysseus is very self -confident in his authority and he was glorious and had sharp intellectuality.