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Societies' Pop Heroes

             Societies produce and maintain pop heroes, such as Beowulf in the epic Beowulf, in order to make their religious ideals and ethical values more accessible through the manifestation of a tangible being who embodies them. In a broad sense, epics are fables that show how a hero, armed with the favor of God, can miraculously conquer a much more daunting opponent than he. God's influence in the outcome of a hero's fate is shown through the epic characteristic of Intervention. In the battle against Grendel's mother, Beowulf is "held helpless stretched on his back" by the powerful monster. With defeat imminent, Beowulf miraculously sees a sword, which is "the best of all weapons", only because the "Holy God . Gave judgment for truth and right." Reading about Beowulf's exciting and enthralling battle, members of the Anglo Saxon society could experience and witness the power of religion in an emotional rather than a didactic way. A society's religious ideals are more comprehensible in this entertaining type of expression than in semantic and archaic scripture. In Beowulf's last battle against the great dragon, the hero "started at death." The only one who came to his aid was Wiglaf, a warrior, who sacrifices his life of "armor and gold and great estates" in order to save his noble lord. After the battle, the new hero Wiglaf receives the dragon's treasure of "piles of gleaming gold cups and bracelets and a golden banner" and becomes the new principal warrior of the Geats. Wiglaf's plight is an example of Sacrifice, and through Wiglaf's experiences one can see that his sacrifice ultimately led to greater wealth and prosperity. Instead of a patronizing speech from a parent or priest, a member of the Angle Saxon society could pick up Beowulf and actually witness the importance of sacrifice. In creating and maintaining pop heroes, societies communicate seemingly transcendent morals and messages through an enjoyable and worldly vehicle.

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