Activity Overview

Generally, epics are mythological histories, meaning they are a melting pot of famous figures from history and historical events. In the case of Beowulf, the battle of Grendel is the beginning of the epic with the famous Beowulf, Warrior of the Geats, as its hero.

Epics typically begin as oral traditions, passed down for generations before being written down. Because of this, epics have an order and repetition of the events that made them easier to remember. Due to their length, these works often took days to tell.

Six Elements of an Epic

A Hero of Legendary Proportions

The epic hero is typically well known in his time, often reaching superstar status. In ancient legends, the hero often is either partially divine or at least protected by the gods.

"I'm Beowulf! I've killed nine sea monsters." In cell one, this quote shows Beowulf's notoriety. When he first gets to the Denmark, the Dane's throw him a great feast. While there, he brags to Hrothgar about all he's accomplished.

Adventures of Superhuman Strength and Valor

The hero accomplishes feats no real human could, both physically and mentally.

After bragging, Beowulf also tells a story about a swimming match with his friend Brecca. During the match, sea monsters attack, and Beowulf was able to slay the monsters, save his friend, and finish the race.

Multiple Settings

The actions of the hero span the continent, other realms, or even worlds.

In Beowulf, much of the action takes place in or around Hrothgar's hall of Heorot, but Beowulf also goes to the to kill the swamp hag in her underwater lair, and his fight against the dragon is in his home of Geatland.

Involvement of the Supernatural

Gods, demons, angels, time/space travel, cheating death, immortality, and other supernatural elements.

In this epic tale, our hero encounters monsters, a witch, and a fire-breathing dragon. He uses a sword forged by giants to kill his enemies.

Epic Style of Writing

The style of is frequently ornate, drawn out, or exaggerated.

The poem uses traditional "kennings", or compound metaphors, to replace simple objects, and much of the action is relayed at breathless pace, interspersed with digressions about lineage and past deeds. Characters and events are described in a truly epic and poetic manner.

Omniscient Narrator

The narrator sees and knows all.

Throughout Beowulf, the narrator uses third person omniscient narration to tell us the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the characters. He writes as though from a god’s point of view, witnessing and experiencing everything that takes place in the story and sometimes even spoiling what's going to happen next!

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the six elements of an epic in Beowulf.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify events or characteristics of the story that fit into the elements of an epic.
  3. Illustrate the examples for each event or characteristic.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Beowulf as an epic.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/5] Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/9-10/10] By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

    By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Elements of an Epic
As we read and discuss, identify and track the six common elements on an epic that appear throughout the story. Create a scene for each element that highlights how it is utilized throughout the work. Add a brief quote or description under each scene that highlights an important piece of the element being depicted. Make sure the art in your scenes is historically and factually accurate to the story. Your scenes need to be neat, eye-catching, and reflect creativity and care. Please proofread your writing and organize your ideas thoughtfully.
33 Points
25 Points
17 Points
Epic Elements
The six common elements of an epic are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The quotes and/or explanations give context to the scene, and are accurate and appropriate to the element being depicted.
4-5 epic elements are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The quotes and/or explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and are mostly accurate for the element being depicted.
1-3 elements of an epic are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal, or missing altogether.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion, or may be too limited.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.

How To Introduce the Concept of “Epic”


Use Simple Terms

Introduce the concept of Epic in simple terms. Teachers can use simple definitions or visual explanatory videos which are easily available on Youtube.


Give Examples

Teachers can provide students with interesting examples of an Epic such as The Odyssey. These examples can be read and discussed in class. The discussions can include different perspectives and induce debates among students.


Highlight the Importance of Heroic Elements

Remind students that epics frequently have a larger-than-life hero who sets off on a difficult quest. Describe the hero's traits, such as bravery, sturdiness, and resolve.


Use Comparison

The best way to explain Epic to students would be to compare it with other forms of writing and list down all the similarities and differences. This will help students in identifying and distinguishing epics.


Relate With Modern-Life

Ask the students to identify the elements of Epics in modern media and entertainment. They will be able to grasp the concept in a better way if they can relate it to modern culture.

Frequently Asked Questions About Beowulf: Elements of an Epic

Is "Beowulf" regarded as an epic?

Yes, "Beowulf" is usually regarded as an epic because of its heroic characters, epic fights against monsters, a journey spanning generations, and themes that examine virtues and values of the period. Furthermore, Beowulf includes all the elements of an Epic and is a well-known piece of poem that tells the tale of a heroic warrior.

Who is the protagonist of "Beowulf"?

The epic's hero is Beowulf himself. He embodies characteristics such as strength, courage, loyalty, and honor. Most of the time, the heroes in Epics are righteous warriors who always defeat the villain and receive praise from people. The epic's heroic element is centered on his battles with Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon.

What function do epic similes serve in "Beowulf"?

By comparing heroic exploits to recognizable objects or phenomena, epic similes in "Beowulf" create vivid images. They highlight the heroic quality of the protagonists' exploits.

Is "Beowulf" culturally or historically significant?

Yes, the Anglo-Saxon culture at the time "Beowulf" was written offers insights into its cultural values, social structure, warrior spirit, and beliefs.

Are there any other epics like "Beowulf"?

Yes, many more epics exist across cultures, including "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" from ancient Greece, "The Aeneid" from Ancient Rome, and "The Epic of Gilgamesh" from Mesopotamia.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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