The epic Beowulf shows us how a mans? character is tested as he encounters
difficult situations. The unknown author of Beowulf, leaves behind a mystique, an
intriguing quality with which the character which hold our interest. The modern-day
hero, Superman, also possesses these same qualities. Their modest actions are what
helped these hero?s to become their peoples? ?ideal man.?
The first quality that earns a person?s respect between Beowulf and Superman is
wealth. Neither of these men had a considerable amount of money. This helps the every
day man relate to them more easily. In the epic, Beowulf?s home is far away from his
lord?s castle. We get the sense that Beowulf is an outcast because of the lengthy distance
to reach his kingdom. In stories such as these, the outcasts are perceived to be the poorer
of the people in the kingdom. Like Beowulf, Superman lives in seclusion from the
society in which he lives. He apartment is purposely set on the opposite side of town
from everyone he works with. In relation to the common man?s life-style, we can easily
assume that Superman does not make much money. This fact is defined by Superman?s
day job as a reporter for the city of Metropolis.
The ?ideal man? of past and present has to posses the quality of intelligence.
Beowulf shows great intelligence in his approach towards his battles. In his battle with
Grendel, Beowulf uses a soldier for a decoy to expose Grendel?s strengths:
Grendel snatched at the first Geat
He came to, ripped him apart, cut
His body to bits with powerful jaws,
Drank the blood from his veins and bolted
Him down, hands and feet; death
And Grendel?s great teeth came together,
Snapping life shut. The he stepped to another
Still body, clutched at Beowulf with his claws,
Grasped at a strong-hearted wakeful sleeper
-And was instantly seized himself. . .(Raffel 314-323).
This passage shows us how Beowulf?s planning ahead led him to victory. By exposing the monster?s strengths as well as his tactics, Beowulf was able to counter-attack the monster and win. The second time when Beowulf shows us his intelligence is when he goes fights Grendel?s mother:
She welcomed him in her claws.
Clutched at him savagely but could not harm him.
Tried to work her fingers through the tight
Ring-woven mail on his breast, but tore
And scratched in vain. . .(Raffel 475-479).
Although his armor did not ultimately stop her, it slowed her down and gave Beowulf
time to overcome her. For Superman, his intelligence comes from experience. Because
of his daily duty of ?protector of the Earth,? Superman reacts instantly to the problems he
faces. When he fights enemies, Superman tries to have the fight on his terms. He lures
the criminals out of the cities, away from the people. If that?s not possible he takes care
of business in a quick and orderly fashion. He does this by keeping the innocent
bystander out of the way.
The quality that is the most overwhelming of all is Beowulf?s and Superman?s
superhuman attributes. ?For hours he sank through the waves? (Beowulf 469). Here
Beowulf is swimming down to fight Grendel?s mother. Being underwater for so long
makes him supernatural. An ordinary human can?t hold their breath for more then a
minute, let alone a few hours. Superman has many superhuman qualities. He has ex-ray
vision which lets him see through wall and other things so he can see what is going on.
He has inferred eye sight with which he is able to melt objects with. Lastly, Superman
has the ability to fly. This quality by itself is what gives him the most admiration by the
people. Seeing a person fly is a great experience for the people of Metropolis.
Not all heroes can ?fly faster than a speeding bullet,? but each hero can share
similar characteristics through the eyes of the perceiver. There is an expectation of what
a hero is supposed to be. Thus, by comparing and contrasting Superman and Beowulf?s
traits, we can attribute their qualities to the ?ideal man.? There will be obstacles to face,
but a hero will overcome the challenges as demonstrated by Superman and Beowulf. We
all hold in our heart the ability to become a ?hero? or the ?ideal man.?