Beowulf Compared To Superman

Beowulf, a heroic poem written around 1000 A. D. , tells of Beowulf’s epic battles, his quest to kill monsters and beasts, his friendships with the Geats, and ultimately his descent into death at the hands of a dragon [1]. Beowulf was believed to have been passed down orally for over 300 years before finally being committed to paper in its present version [2]. Beowulf is widely considered a classic tale full of heroes and villains- one hero, in particular, stands out from the rest: Beowulf himself [3].

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933. The character was originally conceived as an alien superhero who could “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” “bend steel in his bare hands,” and who represented “truth, justice, and the American way” [4]. Behold Beowulf! Behold Superman! Beowulf and Superman are two heroes with nearly identical names and unfathomably similar abilities.

Their stories begin similarly: Beowulf and Superman both come from other worlds (their respective planets of origin) to Earth; they each bear a name that is given to them by their fathers; Beowulf and Superman both travel to distant lands where they battle evil creatures without fear for their own lives; Beowulf and Superman both die at the end of their adventures. However, the similarities only begin there. Both Beowulf and Superman share similar origins.

Beowulf’s father is Ecgtheow, a former Geat who has traveled to Denmark to take up the Danish king Hrothgar’s offer of land and riches in exchange for defending Heorot from Grendel [5]. Superman’s father, Jor-El, sends his only son off to Earth just before Krypton is destroyed because he believes that the planet will not survive much longer [6]. Beowulf and Superman both arrive on Earth as infants; Beowulf is found by the Geats and adopted into their ranks, while Superman crashes into a Kansas field near baby Ma Kent’s farmhouse.

The final similarity between Beowulf and Superman lies with Beo’s mother: Beowulf’s mother dies in labor whereas Superman’s mother, Lara, dies while giving birth to her son [7]. Beowulf and Superman are both orphans when the stories begin. Beowulf and Superman might share similar origins, but they do not share parallel journeys when Beowulf arrives on Earth. Beowulf is warmly welcomed into Hrothgar’s kingdom where the king showers Beowulf with gold; he also quickly becomes a favorite of Wealtheow (Hrothgar’s queen).

Beowulf develops strong friendships with four retainers: Wiglaf, Weohstan, Wigheard, and Unferth. Superman has a different experience upon arriving on Earth: he is met by Jonathan Kent who loves him as his own son but does not raise him as his own. Beowulf, Superman’s adoptive Earth father, forbids Clark Kent from revealing his powers to anyone or fighting crime because he believes that humans are inherently corrupt and unpredictable.

Beo’s friendships help Beowulf become a stronger hero- he is able to call on Wiglaf for aid when facing Grendel’s mother, Beowulf is able to trust Weohstan with the truth about slaying Grendel after returning from defeating Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair, Beowulf turns to Unferth for advice before fighting the dragon, etc. Superman never has the opportunity to reveal himself as an alien hero- even though Beo lives among his people, he keeps his Geatish heritage hidden. Beowulf trusted his Earth father until the very end of his life whereas Superman was never able to trust Jonathan Kent.

Beowulf is a hero in epic poem of Beowulf and Superman is the hero in comic books, radio dramas and film. Beowulf and Superman both show characteristics of heroism. Beowulf was a hero who fought monsters like Grendel and Grendel’s mother while Superman fights crime such as Lex Luthor and General Zod. Beowulf and Superman both show courage when fighting their enemies and Beowulf and Superman both show strength in fights against monsters or villains. Beowulf and Superman also each have a weakness: Beowulf’s is his own mortality while Superman’s is Kryptonite.

Beowulf was likely based on real life heroes who protected their societies from danger such as Grendel. Beowulf might be compared to Superman because of the heroics they performed, such as defeating dragons or saving people from disasters such as fires. Beowulf, though, isn’t without controversy: scholars disagree about whether he existed at all. The poem recounts memories of oral history but not everyone agrees that Beowulf was real or that Beowulf might have been based on an actual hero. Superman’s background is also controversial but less so since his existence is backed up by two comic books(1933) and radio dramas (1940).

Beowulf was a hero because he saved people from monsters like Grendel who attacked Heorot, the great hall of King Hrothgar. Beowulf fought Grendel’s mother after Beowulf killed her son Grendel. Beowulf also protected Hrothgar’s kingdom from other dangers such as fire-breathing dragons which Beowulf fought and killed. Superman is a superhero who fights crime with superpowers including flight, super strength, super speed and x-ray vision. Superman protects his home planet of Krypton and Earth from criminals such as Lex Luthor and General Zod whose evil plans threaten the whole universe.

Beowulf, for example, fought Grendel at Heorot where Beowulf killed him with a sword. Beowulf was not afraid to get close to Grendel because Beowulf was very strong and never felt fear in battle or when fighting dangerous creatures such as Grendel or Grendel’s mother. Beowulf did feel fear but he was able to overcome it: Beowulf didn’t run away from danger and fought monsters like Grendel instead. Beowulf also rescued people from dangers such as fires which broke out in Danish villages. Beowulf ran into the fire to save people who were trapped inside by putting out the fires with his bare hands and arms.

Beowulf could easily put out fires like this because Beowulf was very strong, able to lift heavy objects such as trees or an ox that Beowulf carried to Heorot for a feast. Beowulf didn’t fly but he did fight monsters in the air which Superman has done. When Beowulf fought Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair, Beowulf jumped into the water from a cliff and swam down without any scuba or diving equipment because Beowulf was a strong swimmer and excellent at fighting underwater against creatures such as sea serpents.

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