Men throughout history have fought
many monsters, real or imagined.
With every culture and every
society, there is a hero
But, how do we define the HERO?
Is it some one with super human
Magic abilities or weapons?
Every day people doing everyday jobs?
The ancient cultures defined
Men who were given special abilities
and strength by the gods.
They could, themselves, be demi-gods.
How do you define a hero?
Think about what attributes you would
assign to a hero and jot them down.
Let’s see if they come close to
the Epic Hero!
The epic hero is defined as having some, if not all of
the following characteristics:
Super human strength
Has magical weapons that are often heirlooms
and made by gods or giants
Goes on a perilous journey, often to the
Is a boastful person who challenges gods &
goddesses to give him a challenge in order to
prove his mettle and to gain glory & honor.
Has the gift of eloquent speech with nobles and
How did your definition compare?
Are these people really heroes?
However you define the term,
hero, it doesn’t matter too much
Try to remember though, heroes of old
had epics told and sung about them.
This is how their glory and honor were
Without monsters, there would be no
Grendel was one such creature in
the epic poem, Beowulf.
Beowulf is an epic that is one of the
oldest written texts from the 600’s-900’s
found within the Anglo Saxon ruins.
The Anglo Saxons were a tribal people
comprised of Angles from Germany and
Saxons, the people who came from the
German lowlands and the Jutes, who
came from Denmark.
The language spoken by the Anglo-
Saxons was known as Old English and
had its roots in Germanic and Frisian
languages. Old English was spoken
during the time of the King, Alfred the
Great until the Norman Conquest of
1066. At this time, the language evolved
because of the conquest.
Old English was written with a system of
runes that somewhat resembled ancient
Greek letters. There are some vague
similarities between some of the runes
and Greek letters.
The common people did not write, but
everything was passed down from
generation to generation in the oral
The Anglo Saxon people were
Christianized between the late 6th
century until the late 7th century. At this
time, many scholars believe that
Beowulf was transcribed by monks to
include allusions associated with
Christianity. The original epic would not
have included these allusions because
the people were pagans, believing in
As you read the epic, Beowulf, look for
the allusions to Old Testament events
and people. You should also pay careful
attention to the use of alliteration.
Alliterative verse often indicates
something of importance to the author in
the retelling of the tale.