Beowulf and Roland: The Heroes Journey College

Beowulf and Roland are two of the most well-known heroes found within literature. While many know their names and their stories few realize what it is that qualifies them as literary heroes and the ways in which their hero stories compare. Joseph Campbell in his book A Hero with a Thousand Faces illuminates the stages of a classic hero arc. This information is very useful for helping us to articulate the true value of these characters in their premodern societies. In describing his work one writer says, “Campbell outlines the Hero’s Journey, a universal motif of adventure and transformation that runs through virtually all of the world’s mythic traditions.” Campbell’s work in conjunction with literary analysis of the texts will help us to understand whether or not Beowulf and Roland can be considered fallen heroes. For both heroes we will be looking at two particular stages of their heroic journey: the belly of the whale and supernatural aid. We will start by taking a look at Campbell’s belly of the whale stage and where it can be found in the timeline of Beowulf and Roland.

Campbell describes the belly of the whale stage as, “The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized...

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