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The morals and values of ancient Anglo-Saxon society differ greatly from that of todays society.
"Hail, Hrothgar! Higlac is my cousin and my king; the days of my youth have been filled with glory."
The Anglo-Saxon society depicted in Beowulf would define a hero as someone with great skill in battle. Fighting was a large part of their culture, making professional warriors into a respected upper social class.
"... But fate let me find its heart with my sword, hack myself free; I fought that beast's last battle, left it floating lifeless in the sea."
"That mighty protector of men meant to hold the monster till its life leaped out, knowiing the fiend was no use to anyone in Denmark."
Beowulf exemplifies these qualities by again and again claiming victories, not just over mortal enemies, but over powerful monsters.
"No victory was celebrated better, by more or by better men and their king.
The Danes regard for warriors is made clear during the celebration they have for Beowulf and his men after they defeat Grendel.
After Beowulf is killed in combat with the dragon, his men bury him with his wealth and build him a monument, showing their respect for such a great warrior.
"... telling stories of their dead king and his greatness, his glory, praising him for heroic deeds, for a life as noble as his name."
Modern heroes are often people who serve, but in a different capacity than Beowulf. They save lives or create peace. They improve the lives of others through service, and often without thanks.
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