The Makings of a Hero: Beowulf and Luke Skywalker

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Fall 2014


Beowulf and the Jedi from Star Wars are two very different types of heroes. The Beowulfian hero seeks fame, possesses incredible physical strength, and boasts about his deeds. Initially, Luke Skywalker aspires to be a Beowulf-type hero. Before meeting Yoda, Luke expects his new teacher to be instantly recognizable as a “great warrior.” Then, during his training with Yoda, Luke relies on his own physical strength at first, rather than relying on the Force. Luke is also aggressive much like Beowulf, showing no compassion for his enemy when facing the vision of Darth Vader in the cave on Dagobah. However, in time Luke learns to be a true Jedi warrior, not seeking greatness or fame like Beowulf. Yoda himself is a model of humility throughout all of the Star Wars films, while the compassion of the Jedi in general reflects the influence of Buddhism on the Star Wars universe. Contrasting with Beowulf’s aggressive stance, the Jedi use weapons almost solely for defense. Spiritual strength is more important than physical strength in both Jedi and Buddhist teachings. By the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke has come to embrace the role of Jedi-type hero, giving up his attempts to be heroic in the Beowulfian manner. His decision to follow a more spiritual, less physically aggressive path makes Luke Skywalker a superior hero for modern times.

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