Development Of Man Warrior


Development Of Man Warrior Essay, Research Paper

The Development of Desire

The development of the male warrior, throughout literature, has a direct

relationship with the development of western civilization. The attributes a

warrior holds, fall respectively with the attributes that each society held as

valuable. These characteristics, started by societies ideals, become the

warrior’s only reasons for continuing their heroics. The ideals however do

change with each warrior. At the beginning we have a warrior with one mission,

which later the warriors become more challenged and have to change ideas and

concepts to continue. The evolution of the warriors desires becomes the complex

ideals that western civilization develops over time. With this progression of

civilization, from simple to complex ideals, so will the evolution of the ideals

and desires of our heroes change from simple to complex.

Odysseus is a man who is both strong and smart, but most known not for

the brawn of his body, but the wits of his brain. A man who is loved in every

country, but Trojan, and could stay where ever he chooses, his sailors knew this

to be true as one bench mate to the next, “It never fails. He is welcome

everywhere: hail to the captain when he goes ashore!” (Homer 166). The irony

falls as Odysseus only desires his homeland. ”Begin when all the rest who left

behind them headlong death in battle or at sea had long ago returned, while he[

Odysseus] alone still hungered for home and wife” (Homer 1).

Odysseus has many opportunities to end his journeys and start a new life.

For instance, if he desired, Odysseus was able to stay with Kalypso who wanted

him forever, “Her ladyship Kalypso clung to him in her sea-hollowed caves- a

nymph, immortal and most beautiful, who craved him for her own” (Homer 1).

Kalypso knows even though she has Odysseus in her home, he is not hers to have. “

Son of Laertes, versatile Odysseus, after all these years with me, you still

desire your old home? Even so I wish you well”( Homer 87). To which Odysseus

replies, “…Yet, it is true, each day I long for home, long for the sight of

home…” (Homer 87). Another chance for Odysseus to start a new life is offered

by the king of the Phaecians to marry his daughter and live there; “…seeing

the man that you are, seeing your thoughts are my own thoughts-my daughter

should be yours and you my son-in-law, if you remained. “( Homer 120). In each

case, Odysseus, only wants to return to his wife Penelope, his son, and most of

all his homeland.

Odysseus, who endures many hardships throughout his journeys, always

seemed to be one step ahead of the reader in knowing what to do to get out of a

situation. The problems during the stories come not from Odysseus judgment, but

the judgment of his men. This became evident more than once when his men would

disobey his orders, which resulted in death or peril. To illustrate, the story

of the men taking the bag from Aiolos from under the deck right when they were

at the sight of their homeland:

Nine days and night we sailed without event, till the tenth we

raised our land. We neared it, and saw the men building fires along shore; but

now weary to the bone I [Odysseus] fell into deep slumber…but while I slept

the crew began to parley: silver and gold , they guessed, were in that

bag….[bench mates] ‘Who has gifts from Aiolos? He has. I say we ought to crack

that bag, there’s gold and silver, plenty, in that bag!’ (Homer 166), with

such greed, by opening the bag, the adverse winds are unleashed with full fury. “

Then every wind roared into a hurricane; the ships went pitching west with many

cries; our land lost”(Homer 166). With these trials of Odysseus, and throughout

the journey, we see Odysseus spares nothing on his return home. He loses men,

ships, and wealth from Troy and the gods. With all the losses he sustains over

the long journey he is unmoved, for his only passion is to return home.

Odysseus’s biggest attribute is his personal control of emotions and events.

He has many emotions throughout the story, but always exhibits control in

thinking and actions. Look at the careful planning and patience when waiting for

the time to kill all his suitors. Another duration, Odysseus wants to punish his

men many times over for the greed and stupidity they show throughout their

journeys, “My men are mutinous fools…” (Homer 146), but he controls his anger

and continues on their journey back home. Odysseus, with such control, is the

very model of a leader and king. Control was very valuable in Greek society. A

perfect contrast to Odysseus’s’ control is the character Antinous. Antinous has

no control over his emotions or actions, as he leads the ban of suitors, being

the most brash of the suitors. Look at the anger he displaces on Odysseus during

a dinner in which Odysseus is in disguise as a beggar:

God what evil wind blew in this pest? Get over, stand in the passage! Nudge

my table, will you? Egyptian whips are sweet to what you’ll come to here,

you nosing rat, making your pitch to everyone! (Homer 325).

The desire of Odysseus to returning home is that of pure dedication. This

is easily seen throughout the text, by the rejections he sends to all who give

him gifts to stay. This dedication falls into the ideals of the Greek culture,

and the belief behind community above all other ideals. Wealth, and power would

be nothing without the sense of community behind the individual. A careful look

into the story of The Odyssey, points out Homer’s feelings of when the sense of

community can be abused with the presentation of the suitors. A statement

speaks of Odysseus’s absolute desire to return home. When he nears Ithacas’

shores which falls asleep from exhaustion, his men doom him by taking the gift

from Aiolos, as mentioned previously in the text, the gloom and despair Odysseus

confesses to as the thought he whispers to himself, “Roused up, despairing in

that gloom, I thought: ‘Should I go overside for a quick finish or clench my

teeth and stay among the living?’…”(Homer 166). Such a thought does occur to

our hero, but he fights to return home instead of taking the simple way out, and

eventually becomes triumphant in his desire.

Beowulf becomes a different type of male warrior which surfaces at a new

time in civilization from The Odyssey. Written after the ancient civilizations

of Greek and Rome, dawning in the hour of the dark ages. Our warrior surfaces

during a time when different tribes throughout Europe were trying to keep their

different identities alive. To accomplish such a feat, the warriors of this era

had to have an ideal that connected them to their tribe, but ,above all, the

warriors had to be menacing. The ability to scare away invasions by the rumors

of their warriors is possibly how the story of Beowulf first surfaced. This is

where Beowulf’s size and strength become a valuable attribute to the society. He

is the epitome of pure strength and power. He is also a man who is the first

story in which our hero is Christian. In the stories before Beowulf, like The

Odyssey and The Aenied, the stories are between men and gods on an even playing

field[Earth], but different level of players. It would be like a basketball game

between high school players and NBA players. No longer are the events occurring

between the gods and men, instead we have the super human versus those of the

evil realm.

Beowulf becomes more complex as a warrior, and a character who

transforms throughout the story: To you I will now put one request, Royal

Scylding, Shield of South Danes, one sole favor that you will not deny me, dear

lord of your people, now that I have come so far, Fastness of Warriors; that I

alone may be allowed, with my loyal and determined crew of companions, to

cleanse your hall Heorot As I am informed of this unlovely one is careless

enough to carry no weapon, so that my lord Hygelac, my leader in war, may you

take joy in me, I abjure utterly the bearing of sword or shielding yellow board

in this battle! With bare hands shall I grapple with the fiend, fight to the

death here, hater and hated! He who is chosen shall deliver himself to the

Lord’s judgment (Beowulf 64-5). He is a man of honor, and seeks that honor

throughout his life. He feels that the fight shall be on even terms, of no

weapons on each side. This honor is another aspect of the society of the times.

The idea of honor to your allies and towns people to help them with their needs

was existent to survive in these times of invasions by other tribes and hoards,

and strengthening the ties leading to the forming of nation states. He is also a

man of God, with this statement, “…shall deliver himself to the Lord’s

judgment.” (65) He vows to send Grendal to God for judgment on his evil deeds on

earth. Beowulf as a warrior ,has two levels to his character; an upper level, of

honor and religion, and a lower level of sheer emotion and power. Of these

levels of Beowulf, we see the lower level dominates his personality with power

and emotion dictating his actions and speeches, but later in life, as king,

relies more on his religion and honor to dictate the judgment of what is right

or wrong. No longer do the gods of Rome and Greek mythology dictate what is

wrong or right, with offerings to appease the gods. With the knowledge in the

warrior for what is, and will be, wrong, has an effect of making Beowulf an

extension of God. In all these acts of honor, Gods glory above all is sought.

Sir Lancelot becomes the final touch to the evolution of the warrior. He is

a warrior with all the attributes of the warriors before him. He has the skill

of Odysseus with control of his emotions, thoughts, actions, and the same pure

desire for something. He has the same honor, and belief in God’s guidance to

what is right as Beowulf believed. Before Lancelot, the warriors all battled the

likes of monsters, either from the will of the gods or monsters on their own

mission. Lancelot is a man who has no battles with superhuman beings or

arguments with gods, but a fight within himself and the fight for his desire. A

man possessed, he risks pride, reputation, body, and soul, all for the return of

love from his lady Guinevere. His battles and stories are not all physical, as

the previous warriors, but a mental triumph over the various tasks. Look at the

ride in the cart and the battle within Lancelot to obtain the right decision on

what to do: Woe that he did this, and woe that he was ashamed of the cart and so

did not jump in at once, for he would later consider himself ill-fallen. Reason,

which disagrees with Love, told him to refrain from climbing in and admonished

and instructed him not to do or undertake anything that could bring him disgrace

or reproach. Reason, which dared speak this way, spoke from his lips, but not

from his heart. But Love, which was enclose in his heart, urged and commanded

him to climb into the cart at once. Love achieved his desire. The knight leapt

up without concern for the disgrace because this was Love’s will and command

(Beowulf 174). Lancelot battles between his heart and mind on what choice to

make. Yet we see Love is much more powerful in his desire, or as he says, “Love

achieved his desire” (174). This is not the only case of such a battle in

Lancelot, and it is not always over love. This tale of honor by Lancelot, who

saves a maiden who holds a deed he does not want to fulfill. Before the night is

long, the maiden is attacked and pleas for help from Lancelot who thinks: God

what can I do? The object of my great pursuit is no one less than the Queen

Guinevere. Having embarked on this quest for her, I must follow have the heart

of a hare. If cowardice gives me her heart and I follow her rule, I shall never

reach my goal. I am disgraced if I stay here. Merely to have spoken of remaining

brings deep shame onto me now. My heart is sad and dark… May God never have

mercy on me if I speak with pride and would not rather die with honor than

disgrace (de Troye 155). The story shows the honor that Lancelot has for what he

believes is right by God, although he knows by saving her will only mean that he

will still have to sleep with her, which he replies “The object of my great

pursuit is no less than Queen Guinevere” (155). Yet his feelings of honor takes

hold and he goes on to save the lady of the castle, and feels horrible for his

hesitation. This sense of honor even goes above Beowulf’s honor for what was

Beowulf’s desire. Lancelot holds it as something he must do even if it is

against his desire. This is an attribute of the society of these times. The

ideals of the society was that the knights would uphold honor above all other

matters, even matters they disagreed with. Another aspect is this desire for

courtly love with utter devotion to the admired and loved.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Lancelot is the act in which he

hears of the rumor that Guinevere is dead. He becomes so sorrowful that he


…My health is good, but you have struck me down. I am crushed, yet the

sole pain I feel is the grief in my heart. This grief is an

illness, indeed a fatal one, and I wish it to be fatal (de Troye

165), at this he attempts to commit suicide, and fails. This act is completely

out of love for Guinevere for which he believes is over. The “great pursuit”

(155) for Guinevere, he believes is over, so to than will his life perish, for

his life was nothing without her there. Yet, the passion he displays is nothing

short of amazing, to love so strongly to risk his own personal beliefs for that

love. The last complex piece to the puzzle of the warrior, not just personal

sacrifice in time, or your life, but the ideals and beliefs one holds discarded

for the desire to reach what he wants.

Evolution, over time, has shaped the ideas and beliefs on what the warrior

holds in his journeys. That the warrior tales started with a man trying to

return home, to a man sacrificing his beliefs for the love of a women. The

desires of these warriors have been that of building blocks. Each one builds to

the next ideal. Yet we see that all the desires were pursed with a persistence

unsurpassed throughout literature and history. These men were able to fight

insurmountable odds to achieve what they deemed valuable. It is the act of

something no one would be able to challenge. Take the example of Lancelot and

Sir Gawain, during The Knight in the Cart. Sir Gawain is praised as a noble, and

a Valiant knight, while Lancelot is presented as a less knight than Gawain.

Lancelot’s sacrifice of his own beliefs only prove that these were acts above

those of a normal person, even Sir Gawain, a higher more noble person than most,

would not sacrifice as Lancelot . A perfect example of this is the cart scene in

which Sir Gawain approaches the cart and sees Lancelot in the cart; “Sir Gawain

galloped after the cart, and seeing the knight sitting in it, was amazed…He

would certainly not climb in the cart, he said, it would be base in extreme to

trade a horse for a cart” (de Troye 151), he was not ready to sacrifice the same

as our hero Lancelot. These acts by Lancelot could be parallel to those of

Beowulf and his physical fights and sacrifices throughout his story. Or that of

Odysseus and the long journeys he had to endure to get to his homeland.

The most striking aspect of these warriors is the complexity of the

characters themselves. We see that the travels of Odysseus is purely for his

return for home, and return to the community he loves. He has no realization

that he is anything else nor does he change his outlook on life from his

journeys. Odysseus stays the same from beginning to end of the story even though

time has taken many years from him. The story of Beowulf has a different

development over the story. We watch as Beowulf transforms from a powerful young

man who will go out and fight all;

Had they not seen me come home from fights where I had bound five

Giants-their blood was upon me- cleaned out a nest of them? Had I not

crushed on the wave sea serpents by night in narrow struggle, broken beasts?

(Beowulf 64). A man all-powerful among men, and yet he changes from the

mercenary, to the king, against his wishes but what the town people most desired

from him. This transformation from a man who helped people, for his own pleasure

and honor, to a man who becomes helper of the people, not to the people. Last we

have the change of a man who risks death by fighting, and running after

Guinevere and her capture’s on foot, and then sacrifices his own beliefs to be

next to his love. He starts out as a man possessed to save Guinevere. To a man

who is controlled, willfully, by Guinevere. Take the example of the fight

between Meleagant and the stopping of the first fight:

..The last words she uttered, ‘To show you my gratitude, I will Lancelot to

halt,’ had scarcely left he lips when he would not lay a hand on his

opponent or make a move, even if Meleagant were to kill him (de Troyes

162). He would not defend himself for the sake of breaking this devotion to his

love! A previous line in the text points out why Lancelot would do such an

action during a battle, A lover is obedient; when he is completely in love, he

performs his beloved’s pleasure eagerly and promptly. Thus Lancelot, who loved

more than Pyramus- if love more than any man could- was compelled to comply (de

Troyes 162). Such a power dominates his every thinking moment, even during the

fight for his life and the life of those captured. This development of the

warrior is one, close to the transformation of the King Beowulf to his people,

but more complex. Whereas our hero Beowulf still sacrifices himself for his own

honor and to help his people. The actions of Lancelot start as a man of

individual status to one who is immersed in his devotion to the one he loves.

We are to understand that these attributes and actions our warriors have,

are those which each society saw as grand and wonderful that all should strive

for in their society. The strong sense of the homeland to Odysseus is what the

Greeks were to strive for in the building of their empire around the main

homeland of Athens. We see the attributes of Beowulf as important to the dark

ages and the invasions of the Franks where our most important task seen for the

warrior in the culture was to defend your hoard from all intrusion, evil or

human. That the sacrifice for the hoard was the most honorable thing you would

ever be able to achieve in your lifetime to the hoard. Last we have Lancelot,

who shows the attributes most liked during this society is that of courtly love,

honor, and the devotion one gives to their soul mate, with the relinquishing of

his views for that of his lady’s wishes. “he performs his beloved’s pleasure

eagerly and promptly” (de Troyes 162). The actions are fulfilled with eagerness

and promptly for the love of the person. Although each one has been similar in

the way they are triumphant in there quest, and the men continue to look tough

through all actions, the quality they start to show, subtly, is that of

compassion and willingness to help all people, even if it circumvents their own

desire temporarily.

The progression of society from the time of less diversified ancient

Greek culture, to the explosion of diversity in tribes and people, creating

identities and forming the groundwork for nation states, the warriors desires

and attributes also rose from a single idea or goal, to that of complex

characters and values. Where the complexity involved the ideas of laws

pertaining to all. These laws, unwritten, developed through Beowulf, and latter

in The Knight in the Cart, as that of honor. Overall, the development of

characters became a way of projecting the proper ideals on the society to uphold.

This became the link between the warriors and the civilizations they represented.

Works Cited

Boyle, Doebler, Lopez-Lazaro and Wright. Hum 301. Tempe AZ. Alternative copy

shop, 1996

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics,


Unknown. Beowulf. Trans. Michael Alexander. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics,



Boyle, Doebler, Lopez-Lazaro and Wright. Hum 301. Tempe AZ. Alternative copy

shop, 1996

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics,


Unknown. Beowulf. Trans. Michael Alexander. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics,


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