The epic hero is someone who is mostly always seen as the protagonist. The Greeks first came up with this character and we can see this through characters such as Beowulf. There are usually a few characteristics that an epic hero follows, some of these include the hero having a noble birth, having some kind of superhuman powers, being a great warrior, battling against any kind of supernatural enemy, becoming or being a legend form where they come from, and they do good deeds for others. While the knight is focused around the idea of chivalry, which was a code of conduct for the knights which explained the virtues that they were supposed to uphold as being a knight. The knight was created during the Middle Ages and there were viewed as soldiers that rode on horseback and were heavily armed (with armor, weapons, etc.).
The modern hero is based more upon who we see in our society today as having the traits of a “hero”. Some of these traits could include being someone who is selfless, cares for others around them, have made a contribution toward the community, and they exhibit courage and bravery. This could even be someone like a firefighter, paramedic, or police officer. But besides those people who take on these jobs that are seen as heroic, other people that we may see as modern-day heroes could people close to us. For instance, our parents or any other family member may even be a modern hero to us because of something they have done in their lifetime.
The qualities of an epic hero can be seen in both Beowulf and in Sir Gawain. In Beowulf, he presents the traits of an epic hero right off the bat. These traits include his superhuman strength, his bravery in slaying the demons, and he seems to always be willing to risk his life for the good of others (or other places). Even though Beowulf may have even in the end taken his bravery a little too far fighting these supernatural demons at such an old age, he still made the attempt which qualifies him to be an epic hero. Sir Gawain the knight presents the traits of an epic hero through his bravery, but a much different kind than was presented through Beowulf. Sir Gawain finds himself in situation where he is challenged by a supernatural creature (The Green Knight) to let his head be cut off and if so then for the knight to come find him and accept a return blow. As the epic hero that Gawain is, he goes on his quest to somehow be able to defend not only his kingdom, but the people there from this Green Knight by finding him and getting the return blow to the head. Besides this, Sir Gawain also presents himself as an epic hero through being committed to his word and to his ruler, having great strength and bravery while going on this wild adventure through the woods to find the Green Knight, and by keeping to his chivalric code that he was supposed to follow through his fair fighting.
In our heroes today, we look for someone who has been in a crisis situation and we see as a role model because of the situation that they may have put themselves into. Some pretty common qualities among current day heroes includes having courage, honesty, confidence, patience, selflessness, and integrity. Some types of these heroes could be anyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Superman. They both put themselves before others and they both have the courage to step out into the face of danger to save others. Our heroes today are somewhat similar to the epic heroes and knights through them all being willing to risk their own lives to be able to save others they either know or don’t know by fighting battles with foes. Like a well-known hero of our time could be Neil Armstrong, he compares to heroes of the Middle Ages by going on an adventure that was meant to save someone, but that someone in Armstrong’s case was the world. He was brave and willing to risk his life for the good of others, just like a hero of the Middle Ages would have done. He did this by taking on the challenge of going to the Moon to be able to show or find that without any growth in space, then civilization itself would disintegrate. All in all, all heroes whether from the Middle Ages or now all possess in themselves similar qualities, the definition of what we see as a hero has just changed a bit throughout the years.