A hero may be portrayed in a variety of ways, depending upon the author or director of the story. Hero stories are not, and will never be culturally outdated. We see the theme of heroism woven throughout the literary narrative of man. Beowulf, an ancient text, contains the archetype of the hero. Some elements of the hero archetype that Beowulf embodies exhibits the heroes' quest by killing Grendel and slaying the dragon. Heroes come in different shapes and sizes, whether it be big and strong like Marvel's Hulk, or small, yet fast like The Atom. The ancient epic poem, Beowulf, is one of the original works that have a hero fighting evil and slaying an enemy. The themes of good vs. evil, along with religion, are heavily depicted throughout the story.
In this story, Beowulf is the protagonist, while Grendel, along with his mother and the dragon, are the antagonists. Beowulf saved the people of Heorot from Grendel, he went to save the people in other lands and fought a monster that was causing them nothing but suffering. He chose to risk his life in the face of the monster for the good of the others. 'The peerless hero, the honored prince' (89). He had been chosen to save and protect the world from evil by God. Beowulf declares himself as a good fighter when he informs King Hrothgar that he wants to kill Grendel. Beowulf says, 'With hand-grip only I'll grapple with Grendel / Foe against foe I'll fight to the death / And the one who is taken must trust to God's grace / If death shall call me, he'll carry away' (342-345). Here, Beowulf declares that he will slay the evil creature and expresses that he is not afraid of death, for he knows he is fighting against a dark enemy for the greater good.
From a religious point of view, the beginning of the story in the battle with Grendel contains the most considerable amount of Christian reference and influence used by the author, and the least amount of pagan influence. The beginning consists of Grendel listening in on the Danes singing about the creation of the earth, man, and all things residing in them, celebrating all that the Lord had done for them. Since Grendel is a son of Cain, the brother killer, he is forced by God to live a life of exile. The first conflict between religions is that Grendel is forced to live a life of exile, yet one of the central beliefs in Christianity is forgiveness. It is the Anglo-Saxon pagan belief that once a name is cursed, it is cursed forever. Hrothgar's throne being protected by God is another Christian element, along with God sending Beowulf to watch over Heorot as a guardian. It is not until Grendel sneaks back into Heorot that the pagan influences start to turn up again. 'Ere morning came since fate had allowed him/ The prospect of plenty. Providence willed not/ To permit him any more of men under heaven/ To eat in the night-time.' (24-27). Beowulf contains a mixture of pagan and Christian beliefs; the ideology of fate is tantamount. Ultimately, Beowulf represents the goodness of Christianity, overcoming the inherent sinfulness of Grendel.
Every poet, author, or director has their own way of portraying a hero. No matter the way they will never be outdated or have any of their roots changed. Beowulf contains all the characteristics of a hero, specifically the heroes quest. He killed Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a dragon, and saved many lives in the process. The biggest themes throughout the novel were religion influences and good vs. evil. The mighty hero was heavily influenced by his Christan beliefs, believing that anything is possible through the power of God, and he proved just that. He played the role of good, fighting against the evil of the devil.