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Understanding Similar Concepts in Literary Work: Beowulf vs. Iliad

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A Comparison of the Epic Poems “Beowulf” and “Iliad”

The epic poems “The Iliad” and “Beowulf” meet certain requirements that make the features that they convey epic. In the impressive poems, the heroic actions that are described determine the fate of different groups of people, reflecting the values of the age. The two poems show similarities in the manner in which the hero interacts with the supernatural beings mentioned. The supernatural beings and events also determine the actions and fate of the heroes in the poems.

Both the epic poems “Beowulf” and “The Iliad” convey actions of the mentioned heroes that also determine the final fate of the people who depend on them. For instance, the poem “Beowulf” brings out the idea of the devilish acts of Grendel being stopped in order to save the people of Denmark. The idea of the existence of wicked actions is proof enough to conclude that there is the existence of the supernatural powers. Saving the people of Denmark by stopping the evil acts brings out the idea that there is a supernatural being that is not impressed by such devilish acts. Again, the people of Denmark are probably not saved by the heroes who are mentioned in the poem. It is the role of such heroes to stop the continued existence of the devilish actions in the society. By stopping the evil actions, the supernatural beings are apparently appeased; hence saving the people of Denmark. The fate of the people of Denmark is therefore determined by the actions of the heroes in the epic poem “Beowulf”. In analyzing the great poem, it appears that it is upon the heroes to decide on what is best for their community, based on the existing beliefs about the supernatural beings (Whitelock).

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Similarly, the poem “Iliad” notes that the people of the time believed in venerating a body of a person after the person is dead. In most societies in the real world, the dead are treated with respect since the people in some activities and events to be useful, depending on the religion. For instance, in Christianity, there is the belief in life after death; thus the Christians pray for their dead ones to wish them well and even seek for the forgiveness of their sins. Praying while attributing to an individual in the traditional setting was also meant to appease the spirits of the people who had passed away, indicating that the societies believed in supernatural beings. The spirits, themselves are supernatural, and they are being prayed interceded for from a greater supernatural being who is God. In the epic poem “The Iliad,” the people mentioned also venerated the body of the dead, indicating the existence of supernatural involvement in the community. In both the poems, heroic actions, therefore, reflect the values of the age. Those are probably the values that have been regarded by many generations as important and are as per the will of the supernatural beings. The reflection of the values of the age is an indication of a supernatural involvement in the poems.

The poem “Beowulf” indicates that the hero had to be fearless and not backing down from anything. For example, the hero would go down the lake so as to accomplish a mission based on the belief in supernatural powers. In actual existence, it is a rare occurrence for anybody to swim in the lake and get covered by the waves without fearing or backing down from anything. The hero in the poem “Beowulf” does so without fear and he gets discovered by a she-wolf as mentioned. The whole process does not seem realistic, proving the existence of supernatural involvement in the poem. It is factual that the heroes in the poems are more concerned with the communal duty than with personal happiness. It is for that reason that the hero in the poem “Iliad” wishes that the men and women may have his body back to accord him the decency of fire when he dies. The idea of a happy death and burial seems to be the happiness of the men and women of the community.

In the same epic poem “Iliad,” supernatural involvement is evident from the idea noted that the gods intervene by taking away Hector’s protection by Apollo. The gods and the mentioned heroes are probably also obeying the decrees of fate. It is the actions of the heroes, through the intervention of the gods that determine the fate of the people. The gods mentioned in the poem, therefore, prove the epic feature of supernatural involvement in the poem. The gods are involved in carrying out activities that are beyond the reach of human beings. The presence of gods is also dominant in the other poem “Beowulf” where there is a focus on a hero of extraordinary powers. As mentioned, the hero also performs feats that are beyond human ability. Several gods, as well as the Christian God are acknowledged in the poem. Beowulf to some extent exhibits superhuman strength and extraordinary bravery; an indicator of supernatural involvement in the epic poem (Homer).

In conclusion, the epic poems “Iliad” and “Beowulf” feature figures of great communal importance such as Achilles in the Iliad. The setting of the poems also appears to be ample in scale, representing some communities. The superhuman deeds that are controlled by the gods and other supernatural beings take the interest in the poems leading to significant actions as per the narrations of the ceremonial performances.

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