Anglo-Saxon Heroic Poetry

Essay by fond_of_theukUniversity, Master's February 2007

download word file, 23 pages 5.0 1 reviews

Downloaded 92 times

Old English poetry is divided into two types: the Heroic, the sources of which are pre-Christian Germanic myth, history and custom; and the Christian. Heroic, or Epic Poetry belongs to one of these two types and refers to long narrative poems celebrating the great deeds of one or more legendary heroes, in a grand, ceremonious style. In its strict use by literary critics, the terms 'Heroic Poetry' or 'Epic' are applied to a work that meets the following criteria: such a poem must be related in an elevated style, and centered upon a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race. The hero, usually protected by or even descended from gods, performs superhuman exploits in battle or in marvellous voyages, often saving or founding a nation or the human race itself. The main characteristics of the Epic Hero include the following:

1.The hero is introduced in the midst of turmoil, at a point well into the story; antecedent action will be recounted in flashbacks.

2.The hero is not only a warrior and a leader, but also a polished speaker who can address councils of chieftains or elders with eloquence and confidence.

3.The hero, often a demi-god, possesses distinctive weapons of great size and power, often heirlooms or presents from the gods.

4.The hero must undertake a long, perilous journey, often involving a descent into the Underworld, testing his endurance, courage, and cunning.

5.Although his fellows may be great warriors (he may have a commitatus, or group of noble followers with whom he grew up), he undertakes a task that no one else dare attempt.

6. Whatever virtues his race most prizes, these, the epic hero as a cultural exemplar, possesses in abundance.