Germanic hero

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A Germanic hero is the protagonist of certain works of early medieval literature mostly in Germanic languages. This hero is always a warrior, concerned both with his reputation and fame, and with his political responsibilities.[1] The way in which he "copes with the blows of fate" is extremely important.[2] He may be distinguished from the classical hero in that his adventures are less individualistic, and from the tragic hero because his death is heroic rather than tragic. His death usually brings destruction, not restoration, as in tragedy. His goal is frequently revenge, hamartia in a tragic hero.[3] The historical era with which the Germanic heroes of the literature are associated in legend is called the Germanic Heroic Age.

Among the famous Germanic heroes are the eponymous protagonist of Beowulf, an Old English epic, and the eponym of Waltharius, a Medieval Latin epic.


  1. ^ Brian Murdoch, The Germanic Hero: Politics and Pragmatism in Early Medieval Poetry (London: Hambledon Press, 1996), 3–4.
  2. ^ Brian Murdoch, "Heroic Verse", German Literature of the Early Middle Ages, Camden House History of German Literature, 2 (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004), 123.
  3. ^ Stanley B. Greenfield, Hero and Exile: The Art of Old English Poetry, George H. Brown, ed. (London: Hambledon Press, 1989), 15, 23.