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Word Count: 876
Before recorded literature existed heroes dominated spoken tales of adventure As the human race grew older and wiser the definition of a heroic individual evolved Various qualities of a hero changed over time yet other details remain constant Consequently the main characters in works of literature set three centuries apart possess different as well as similar characteristics An Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf and a chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contain men with parallel and distinctive features A hero may not exist without physical combat The reasons why the heroes of these two works fight are antitheses of each other Beowulfs first battles are fought in defense of a whole nation because the protagonists duty was to go to the Danes great king to destroy the evil himself Raffel 46 Beowulf later takes on a dragon which menaces his kingdom to protect his civilians Therefore the Anglo-Saxon hero foremost must defend others Whereas Sir Gawains motivation is to stay loyal to his king Chivalry requires him to defend Arthurs honor Consequently Gawain volunteered to fight the Green Knight The pivotal characters in both legends act differently When Beowulf arrives at the court of King Hrothgar to slay Grendel he quickly boasts of his past triumphs in which he drove five great giants into chains Chased all of that race from the earth Swam in the blackness of night Hunting monsters out of the ocean Raffel 46 Sir Gawain demonstrates the ideal of chivalry by politely asking to defend his lord while belittling himself He stated I am the weakest Well I know and of wit feeblest And the loss of my life would be the least of any And for this folly befits not a king Borroff 146 While the epic hero is allowed to be boastful because pride is involved in his Pagan culture the
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