Beowulf vs. Parzival

The act of being honorable has been written about and discussed for ages, beginning from The Laxdaela Saga to the more recent works by Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings. Throughout literary history authors have created and restored figures from all times that seem to represent what is honorable and chivalrous. The two literary legends compared in this paper are Beowulf and Parzival. These two figures in their own way find within them what is virtuous. At first impression it seems as though Beowulf is the warrior who contains the honor within himself, but as the two characters are compared in depth, it becomes obvious that Parzival’s journey through manhood brings him to a much more noble and honorable place. Beowulf and Parzival’s journey’s began on the same path, each fatherless, they strove to search out what they saw as adventure. They jumped to whet their desires for the unknown and the chance to be a hero. A young Beowulf, we learn, challenges a peer to a match of strength. Unferth tells this tale of “when for pride the pair of them proved the seas and for a trite boast entrusted their lives to the deep waters, undissuadable by effort of friend or foe whatsoever from that swimming on the sea,”(Beowulf,65). Beowulf’s stubborn pride lead him even at a young age to challenge what may have seemed beyond his reach for glory. Later on, Beowulf hearing the horrific tales of the monster Grendel that had been reeking havoc at Heorot, abruptly left his homeland to prove his gallantry. “The wiser sought to dissuade him from voyaging hardly or not at all,” but the strong-headed Beowulf refused to listen to reason. Unlike Beowulf, Parzival was actually hidden from all opportunities of adventure by his mother. She fled to a place where she believed she could escape all traces of knighthood, which she believed to be evil. She was not successful though, and as soon as Parzival laid his eyes on the god-like knight, he made up his mind to leave his mother and all that he knew to seek adventure. The absence of her son drove her to an early grave. This action is one that Parzival was later deemed “unhonorable” for and one he deeply regretted. These boys both started out young and refused to listen to the reason of their elders. Against the wishes of the people who were wiser and more experienced, they let their pride and ambition overtake them. This did not show to be a promising beginning for either of them. Their roads do take a different turns though. Beowulf, arriving at Heorot, is immediately described as a person who, “has the head of a hero,” but his arrogance accompanies this hero-like status(Beowulf, 59). He proceeds to boast to all of the Hall of Heorot, that he is an accomplished fighter who has come to save them from this terrible monster. He proclaims, “With bare hands shall I grapple the fiend, fight to the death here”(Beowulf, 65). Though Beowulf is extremely arrogant, there is some truth to what he boasts. He does perform in the manner in which he promised, be with this success comes extreme arrogance that should not be found in a true hero. Beowulf, unlike Parzival has already experienced combat. He brags that “fame-winning deeds have come early to hishands .. Men knew well the weight of hishands. Had they not seen him come from fights where he had bound five Giants – their blood was upon him – cleaned out a nest of them.,”(Beowulf, 64). Beowulf was raised fighting and had never been defeated, so he never really knew what it was like to not be successful. Parzival did not expierence success until he learned what honor really was. It was said of him that, “No kurvenal had reared him, he knew nothing of fine manners,” (Parzival, 83) He seemed doomed to fail in the world of the knighthood, because of his lack of spiritual and physical training. He is described as “naive”, “simple”, and as a “raw young man” not at all prepared for he sought out in his vast world. His first encounter was with the Red Knight,


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