These heroes reflect principles and standards that people held and show that definition of heroism is highly elastic in different ages. In the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, the main character Beowulf demonstrates the morals and values of the Anglo Saxon times by unleashing his mighty strength. In current perspective, Beowulf may just seem as a cruel murderer because he completely destroys Grendel by using his bare hands. For example, Beowulf only allowed Grendel to escape when the monster “twisted in pain” and his “muscle and bone split. However, Anglo Saxon literature states such an atrocious act of brutality as a “new glory” that Beowulf had granted. Readers could speculate from the clash between Beowulf and Grendel that the Anglo Saxons admired Beowulf’s merciless destruction of his enemies. The Anglo Saxons’ notion of heroism clearly deviates from the current heroic ethics because current heroes like Tae Su Go and Martin Luther King Jr. never used physical strength to stand against their enemies.
During the late nineteenth century, Korean farmers grew discontent toward Japan’s economic oppression that set the price floor for daily products such as potatoes, rice, and lettuce. Japanese government benefited from this oppression because they were able to purchase cheap surplus goods that less affluent citizens were not able to consume due to the high cost set by the price floor. As a result, the Korean farmer alliance named Chamwha planned an assault on Japanese troop in front of the Ghangwha-Moon Gate.
However, on the verge of battle, the monk Tae Su Go insisted that farmers, in front of Japanese’s troops, to never utilize violence but rather allow Japanese troops to fulfill their greed because the great god Asura will judge them in hell. Even though Tae Su Go was immediately murdered by the Japanese troops for disgracing their integrities, Chamwha praised Tae Su as a brave hero and utilized passive resistance in his will.
Tae Su, the real hero of Chosun Dynasty in Korea, truly embraced the current era’s morals and values because he fought only with his words in peace. Moreover, Martin Luther King Jr. , who fought for African American civil rights during the mid-twentieth century, also maintained peace while courageously confronting opposition from the society. For example, even when Ku Klux Klan assaulted Dr. King’s house in 1957, King insisted that his outraged companions to resolve issues in a peaceful manner. The Education Forum) Although King was assassinated in 1968 from a gunshot, current people still regard him as a timeless hero who has fought for equality and human rights. However, in similar fashion to how contemporary people would call Beowulf a prideful warrior, Anglo Saxons might view Dr. King as a vulnerable mortal who has died without honors because each era has its own definition of heroism. Beowulf, Tae Su Go, and Martin Luther King Jr, were distinct heroes from the Anglo Saxon and current eras who fought against their enemies for righteous reasons.
They all demonstrated each period’s morals and values through their epic deeds and self-sacrifice. However, Beowulf used his physical strength to accomplish his goal whereas Tae Su Go and Martin Luther King Jr. refused to utilize violence to achieve equality. As evident from these heroes, the definition of heroism has changed over time. Some heroic qualities might become obsolete and new qualities might emerge, manifesting each era’s unique morals and values.