The Role of the Supernatural in Relation to the Hero in Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Supernatural creatures play an important role in defining the hero in both the eighth century epic poem Beowulf, and the fourteenth century British Romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Though both tales involve the hero's journey to find and fight these creatures, their battles serve distinct purposes. Whereas Beowulf's ability to overcome Grendel and Grendel's mother in battle serves to reinforce his status as a powerful epic hero, Gawain's relationship with the Green Knight tests the hero's ability to balance his courtly duties and his natural impulses. By undergoing testing in this manner, the romantic hero may learn and change from his experiences; Beowulf, on the other hand, remains a powerful static figure in the manner of a true epic hero.

In understanding the role of the supernatural in these works it is pertinent to also examine the origin of the supernatural in these works. Both works' supernatural creatures find their roots in the pagan Anglo-Saxon tradition. Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon poem, displays its Scandinavian roots throughout the text. The supernatural creatures featured in the text such as Grendel, his mother, and the dragon are clearly creatures based on Germanic tradition. In the...

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