Three Roads To One Hero
Throughout the two epics, Beowulf, and Gilgamesh, and the novel Grendel, we see
certain heroic characteristics of the main characters. Although Beowulf, Grendel,
and Gilgamesh all come to a heroic end, they differ in way in which they came to
that end. In Beowulf we read of a great warrior who cares about nothing but
honor and his people. In Gilgamesh, we see a man who comes to a realization of
his mortality, and then does all he can to overcome that "weakness."

Finally, in Grendel, we see a "monster" that was born in a cruel
world, and comes to a cruel ending. Throughout the epic poem of Beowulf, we not
only read of the heroism of Beowulf himself, but the guile of the antagonist,

Grendel. By the fifth chapter, Beowulf is showing a characteristic that was
vital to a Greek hero. He is boasting of his accomplishments. He tells of how he
once fought a serpent in the open ocean. This might not seem to heroic, but you
must attempt to become an archeological reader to begin fully understanding why
this is so heroic. During the fist century of this millenium, one of the many
things that scared people, and continues to do so today, is the unknown. Beowulf
braved the unknown on not only land, but also where man has never belonged. He
braved the unknown in the ocean. Grendel throughout the poem is, however, shown
in a different light. He is a monster. He is a descendant of the first murderer,

Cain. He kills simply for sport. He relishes in the blood of mankind. He is a
monster who knows no bounds. In Grendel however, the point of view of the reader
has changed. We now read from the point of view of the "monster." We
see how he has been born into a world where he understands next to nothing, and
does not even have the comfort of a true mother. He can talk to no one, save for
a dragon that sees everything, past, present and future, and he is alone in a
world of humans. There is no place of refuge where he can escape the world of
hate that he lives in. He is something that is unknown to humans, and is
therefore unwanted, frightful, and must be either eliminated or banished form
view. Although in both of the epics, one an English and the other a

Mesopotamian, we read of heroic qualities of one main character, and through
that main character the ideals of that culture as a whole, in Grendel, we read
of an outcast, who is killed simply because he is an enigma to the people. This
is where these three stories break down, in the way, not only in which they
become "heroes," but the way in which the author accomplishes this
feat. In both Beowulf and Gilgamesh, we read of people who are highly esteemed,
and emulate everything that those respective cultures hold dear. In Grendel, we
see the cynicism of the twentieth century, and we read of all the ways in which
our society and culture has become incongruent with that which we say we hold
dear. In Gilgamesh, we read of a man who is stronger than all that are in the
land, and his adventures to prove that to the world. He is a symbol of
everything that his country and culture regards as praiseworthy. Not only,
though, is he a physically strong person, but he is also given the gift or
blessing of being able to reason. He is a man of not only sound body, but also
of a sound mind. In addition to knowing how great and powerful he himself is,

Gilgamesh also knows when to stop (sometimes). When he is fighting Enkidu, he
discovers that his foe is his equal. Therefore, he does not become
over-prideful, and deny that someone could be as great as he himself is, but he
makes one of the best decisions that can be made by man. He makes his enemy his
friend. The greatest interpretation of these three stories comes not only in
seeing how well they are congruent, but also how they begin to differ when you
begin to dig deeper. Although both Beowulf and Gilgamesh agree upon the abstract
things, such as honor, hope, pride, success, where they begin to differ is in
the concrete details. Both Beowulf and Gilgamesh are prideful, and form today's
perspective they may even seem over-prideful. Both Beowulf and Gilgamesh are
able to boast of their