The pilgrimage that the epic hero discovers is filled with mystery, challenges, and emotional struggle. During the hero’s journey, the hero encounters many types of characters. All epic stories contain common archetypes. These recognizable characters play important roles in shaping the hero’s thoughts, actions, and test the courage of the hero. Villains, shape shifters, trickster, mentors, heralds, threshold guardian, and the heroes themselves are customary to a hero’s journey. These archetypes relate to our everyday life because, as Mrs. McLaughlin stated in a class lecture, “life is our story, our journey.” The site will hopefully bring a better understanding of the archetypes of a hero’s journey and its relation to the epic poem, Beowulf.
Stages of the hero's journey:
-The hero is usually taken out of their typical world into a world they are not familiar with. The reason is that the hero is called into a mission or adventure. The hero is hesitant because he/she is afraid of the mysteriousness of the unknown. But at the same time, the hero wants to find answers to the mystery. He/She seeks this not only for himself/herself, but also for his/her people.
-The hero then requires encouragement and mentoring. This is where the advisor of the hero enters the story to prepare the hero for his quest. After this period of preparation, the hero is confident and concedes with the mission. The concurrence of the hero is the first big step the hero makes in the journey. He/She faces challenges, makes new friends and enemies, and begins to understand the new environment that surrounds him/her.
-Soon the hero approaches his ultimate challenge: meeting his greatest enemy. At the same time he/she faces his/her greatest fear. But the key is that answers lay hidden within the danger of this unknown world. The hero plans, approaches and comes across one of the darkest moments of the journey. The hero’s life is at stake, which brings up the questions of mortality.
-The hero wins the ultimate challenge with “flying colors”. He/She receives the reward (such as treasure) and is able to find the answers the hero was searching for. But the way back home is not safe yet. The hero faces more challenges consequent to surviving the ultimate challenge. He/She returns to his/her home. The hero presents to the people what he/she has brought from the unknown world.
Application of the Stages to Beowulf:
Apply the stages to Beowulf
Many of the stages apply to the epic poem of Beowulf. First Beowulf receives the "call to adventure". Beowulf knows that the kingdom of King Hrothgar needs his help so he willing to go to Denmark. This is a bit different from one of the stages. In one of the stages the hero is supposed to refuse the call, instead Beowulf is confident in himself and wants to go.
Almost immediately, Beowulf gathers his men and they leave for Denmark. The next stage After the journey is the "Tests, Allies, Enemies". The first night Beowulf arrives he faces a test. Unferth is jealous of Beowulf and tries to make him look ridicules in front of the Danes. Beowulf responded with dignity and ends up insulting Unferth for killing his brother. That same time Beowulf meets his allies which are King Hrothgar and Welthow. They greatly appreciate the great deed Beowulf is doing for their kingdom. Later that night in the mead hall, Beowulf meets his enemy Grendel and is able to kill him.
After this encounter, Beowulf stills has to "approach the inmost cave", which is his fight with Grendel's mother. This is a dangerous moment for Beowulf because his helmet and sword fail him. Beowulf finds the magical sword and is able to kill Grendel's mother. After this battle, Beowulf returns to his people.
Time passes by, and yet Beowulf takes "the road back" and fights one more battle. The battle proves to be fatal for Beowulf. He dies because the dragon had fatally wounded him. The "Resurrection" stage is seen by the way Beowulf wants to be remembered. He wants a tower by the sea next to the dragon's treasure so that all will remember him. The treasure is like the "elixir"in the last stage of the hero's journey.
The epic poem of Beowulf is a perfect example of the archetype and the stages of a hero's journey. The poem show the wide range of characters that can be found in a hero's story. We already showed you how the stages apply to Beowulf, but to make things simpler. It can be broken down into three main parts.
1. Beowulf gets the call to adventure. He accepts the call and is off to fight Grendel.
2. Beowulf has his big battle with Grendel and is able to kill him. Grendel's mother was seeking revenge which forced Beowulf to fight against her. This battle was more difficult than the battle with Grendel but Beowulf is victorious again. The last battle is with the dragon, and even though the dragon die so does Beowulf.
3. Lastly a great hero needs a memorial site. Beowulf wanted to be cremated. Near the sea, Beowulf ashes were placed with the dragon's treasure for all to see and remember his wonderful deeds.
Hopefully our website has helped you further understand a hero's journey and also helps you see why Beowulf is such as a famous poem.
Vogler, Christopher. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters.
1. Studio City, California: Michael Wiese Productions, 1992.