Beowulf Vs. Green Knight and all the Media in Between

When looking into the classical model of a Hero or a Hero’s Journey, many people think of most of media and many classical poems and folk stories. Most English or classical poem enthusiasts would immediately cite Beowulf as a prime example of a Hero’s Journey. However I am here to make the opposite case using examples from multiple different forms of media and past examples. Beowulf is no Hero and his story certainly does not embody that of a classical or iconic journey.

To begin this Argument we must first delve into what a classic Hero’s Journey should look like and the characteristics of a Hero. Take Shrek from Shrek (2001) for example, A true Hero through and through. While his personality does lack some of the senses of a Hero, he has faced the trials and has the ideologies of a Hero once going through his story. In the beginning Shrek faces adversity due to his race and is understandably against leaving his original domain and adventuring. I will also admit that his motives in the beginning of the journey are entirely selfish. However after he goes through the hardships that he must endure to get to the princess at the top of the tower he has already gone through some transformations leading to a better person. By this point he had accepted someone who he originally believed to be annoying, this person being donkey. Because he had dealt with racial adversity on his own he accepts someone who deals with similar problems. As he journeys throughout the land he solves many peoples problems even if some are inadvertently. This here is a staple of the classic Hero. When looking at other Hero’s Journeys, mainly The Green Knight of Arthurian legend (the poem) Gawain

constantly makes stops not included in his end goal and they mainly are completely unrelated to finding and gaining his “punishment” one might call it for the game. The same goes for Shrek during his journey, he is stopped by hunters, merry men, Puss in boots, and other obstacles generally helping some if not most of the people he meets somehow. Another staple of the Hero’s Journey is chivalry. In this case the example of Shrek is not the best case study considering he lacks many social skills and is quite rude. However, besides his rudeness he still does the right thing whenever It seems to matter. The final part of a Hero’s Journey that I will be comparing with Shrek’s Hero Journey is the personality. While the personality of a Hero can be almost anything, there are definitely personalities are fitting and unfitting for them. For example, Beowulf is far too prideful to be a true hero. Beowulf believes himself to be chosen by god and because of that he believes that he can kill many of his adversaries without consequence and often does not think of the repercussions or very rarely thinks of the deaths that he causes inadvertently. While Beowulf does die a hero in the terms of fighting for his country and dying a death he does not seem to think about much past his own glory and his god given gift, no justice is in his thoughts. In comparison to this, Shrek believes himself to be lower than others at first. After his journey and his hardships he finds himself to be equal to that of anyone else no matter the race or status. One could call him a green knight.

The next green knight we will compare to Beowulf is our main example and argument against him. The Green Knight, otherwise known as Gawain of the round table. To me Gawain is one of the classic versions of the Hero’s Journey, only second to that of the quest for the holy grail by King Arthur himself. Throughout Gawain’s journey he grows, helps others, overcomes hardships and makes decisions that show true spirit in chivalry. In some iterations of Gawain’s journeys he even comes to wield Caliburn which is often regarded as the sword in the stone.

Someone pure of heart and truly chosen by god but not prideful enough to boast about it and uses their strength for good can pull it from the stone. Besides this though we will focus on his feats in the story of The Green Knight. During the poem of “The Green Knight” Gawain is lent the sword Excalibur by King Arthur to strike down The Green Knight in a game that he imposed. One this is done he is informed he must travel to the green chapel and take the strike that he blew to the Green Knight back to complete the game. Throughout his journey Gawain deals with many problems and solves other peoples problems. Always dealing with them with great chivalry and model knight behaviors, this is a large contrast between that of Gawain from the movie and Beowulf.

Citations

· Weston, Jessie. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Sir Gawain and the Green Knight | Robbins Library Digital Projects, https://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/weston-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight. ·

“Caliburn.” Mythos Wiki, https://mythos-academy.fandom.com/wiki/Caliburn#:~:text=Caliburn%20is%20the%20Sword%20in,King%20Arthur%20Pendragon%2C%20of%20Camelot.

· DreamWorks. “Shrek: Official Site.” DreamWorks, https://www.dreamworks.com/movies/shrek.

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Assistant Prof @PlymouthState. Excited by Teaching, Shakespearing, Gaming. (they/them) #neurodivergent, #ActuallyAutistic.

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