The Themes We Have In Common

Beowulf and The Odyssey

Pride and Arrogance

Throughout the story by Homer, Odyssey, Odysseus is shown to be a character who undergoes a number of life-lessons in regards to his arrogance and prideful nature. His men suffers as a direct result of his tyrannical personality and foolish decisions. This is becomes most apparent at the moment Odysseus taunts the creature Polythemus as he blinds him. The cause Polythemus to ask of his father Poseidon, god of the sea, to curse Odysseus and to make his journey back home extremely difficult.
"Cyclops if any mortal man ever asks you who it was that inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of cities. Laertes is his father, and he makes his home on Ithaka."

The arrogance and stupidity in giving a defeated foe such information is something that Odysseus later comes to regret after the intense suffering that he and his men experience, especially considering that he looses all of his men as a result of this arrogance.

Comparing the Two

This aspect of the character of Odysseus is something that makes him very different from Beowulf, who is much more a stereotypical epic hero in the way that his strength, valor, and skill is described. There is very little sense of Beowulf developing as a character and learning from his mistakes, as Odysseus does, and he enters the epic with the same level of skill and bravery that he demonstrates throughout. For example he consistently makes tasks more challenging than they need to be by refusing to use weapons in his struggle against Grendel.

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"I have heard, moreover, that the monster scorns in his reckless way to use weapons; therefore to heighten Hygelac's fame and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce sword and the shelter of the broad shield, the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand is how it will be, a life-and-death fight with the fiend."

When Beowulf did this he gained more honor for the Geatish king through his lack of a weapon, but also changed what was a battle between good and evil into a battle of skill. It is a matter of personal pride for him that he does not have any special advantage over Grendel as he comes to fight him, and thus he demonstrates typical traits of the epic hero. However, there is very little sense of him developing as a character in the course of this epic classic, as there is with Odysseus.

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"Inspired again by the thought of glory, the war-king threw his whole strength behind a sword-stroke and connected with the skull."

Beowulf is able to behave courageously by constantly keeping thoughts of his reputation and the possibility for fame and glory in mind.
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"Yet the prince of the rings was too proud to line up with a large army against the sky-plague. He had scant regard for the dragon as a threat, no dread at all of its courage or strength, for he had kept going often in the past, through perils and ordeals of every sort, after he had purged Hrothgar's hall, triumphed in Heorot and beaten Grendel."

Beowulf is completely unafraid of the dragon, so unafraid that he's being a little bit dumb about how to fight it. Other kings might take an entire army to fight a dragon, but Beowulf is simply going to take it on one on one, the way he fought Grendel and Grendel's mother when he was a young man. Perhaps Beowulf is a little too courageous for a king, who should be protecting his people.