The Concept of Heroism in 'Beowulf' and 'Interstellar'

The concept of heroism has changed, from being able to slay dragons bare handed to saving humanity by solving maths equations, the concept of the word has changed. Heroism although it has changed it still presents the same qualities, for example the epic poem “Beowulf” and the modern film “Interstellar”. Beowulf an ancient supernatural king that battled dragons and demons to save the town in comparison and contrast to Joseph and Murphy Cooper who used science and problem solving to save humanity.

Beowulf the epic poem shows the newly formed stereotypical type of heroism, for example, the strongest men in the village go off to slay the beast and to then return to be praised and named hero’s, the likely hero’s. In contrast Joseph and Murphy Cooper from Interstellar, they aren’t the likely hero’s, Joseph goes off on a suicide mission to find another chance of survival for humanity while Murphy stayed home trying to solve an answerless problem, yet in the end they succeed and saved humanity and are dubbed hero’s.

So, what qualities should a hero possess? The likely, stereotypical hero should be brave, courageous, selfless, honourable and loyal. These are all admired and expected qualities in a hero. Any person that is called a hero should have all these qualities, as well as their own personal heroic characteristics. Beowulf’s personal characteristics is that he is supernaturally strong and Josephs personal characteristic is his ability to pilot spacecraft.

Beowulf and Cooper both have these qualities yet the levels of how much they have them varies. The level of honourability in Beowulf has been shown through when he has returned from fighting a battle he returns to great respect, in comparison Cooper has left his family feeling abandoned. The loyalty that Beowulf shows is that he faces all challenges for the safety of his kingdom, and in interstellar Cooper shows the same loyalty to a greater population, he rethinks this decision as he hasn’t seen his family in years and left them in danger.

“Beowulf” the epic poem is the story of a man that transformed into a hero, that went from a ‘normal’ man to the king of the Danes. Throughout his transition he overcame three challenges, fighting Grendel, Grendel’s mother and then his last battle with a dragon. These trials that he was prepared to face alone, he faced them with courage, bravery, honour and loyalty. Beowulf shows all qualities that a hero should possess. Beowulf starts in a mead hall, where he battles the towns first beast, Grendel, then moving on to battle Grendel’s mother, who is seeking revenge for the death of her son, when she fought Beowulf and failed she fled to the safety of the hellish cave she lived in. Beowulf then travelled to find and finish her. The initiation into the kingdom began the day Beowulf had slayed Grendel. Beowulf’s battle against the dragon would ultimately be his last returning him to the beginning.

The similarities between “Beowulf” and “Interstellar” are general, both have an end goal of survival. The way that Beowulf was to achieve this is to fight battles to protect the kingdom in contrast Cooper achieved this by finding another planet for humanity to move to. Although the way survival was achieved was different the result was the same. Throughout Beowulf’s battles and Coopers journey they both enter the unknown, leave behind reality and going off for the greater good.

The movie “Interstellar” shows Cooper making the ultimate sacrifice by going into outer space to try and find another planet, he had to decide, to save humanity or to stay with his family. The decision to go and try to find salvation for humanity was a good idea but theory behind it needed to be completed and solve before he left. The initial decision to leave earth was Josephs call to adventure, although his family would be impacted greatly and begged him to stay, he had to leave. Joseph and his team reach the first trial, a decision for their destiny, which wormhole to take, to follow a loved one, or greater survival chance, issues arise, chance of survival over love. The decision to go through the wormhole with greater chance of survival, came with its downsides, the founder of the planet through that wormhole ended up being part of the demise of the mission. The return didn’t unfold as planned, due to the lack of resources only one of the two remaining members would be able to return to earth, therefore leaving Joseph to deploy himself from the spacecraft, leaving himself there to eventually die, he was later saved with minutes of oxygen left.

To compare, both “Beowulf” and “Interstellar” have hero’s, and both hero’s fulfil their destiny, to save the helpless. Some similarities are the supernatural occurrences in both the text and the film, Beowulf’s inhumane strength and the help Murphy gets and Joseph Cooper gives. Both the text’s and the film’s hero’s have someone or something to save, for Beowulf it’s the Danes and for Joseph it’s humanity.

To conclude the concept of heroism has changed and is different in “Beowulf” and “Interstellar”, shown through the acts of heroism in both “Beowulf” and “Interstellar”, Beowulf’s, defeat of beast and Joseph’s ultimate sacrifice, one using supernatural strength and the other using supernatural help and scientific reasoning, a older vs a modern way of survival.

16 December 2021
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