What being a true heroic soldier has not changed much today from the times of the Anglo-Saxons and Normans. Many of the values that we cherish today in the United States Army have roots back to what was valued by many of our ancestors. According to the US Army website, a soldier holds these seven values: “Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage” (“Living”).
Many of these values I would say reflect the Anglo-Norman definition of what makes a heroic knight. Values like loyalty, respect, honor, duty, and integrity tie back into the chivalric code along side emulating basic Christian values. Coincidentally, these five values could make up a pentangle like Gawain’s for a more modern period (Sir Gawain 217). The Anglo-Normans put a heavy emphasis upon integrity and honor because their actions no longer determined their social status, but their beliefs did.
Other values like duty and personal courage mirror what “The Wanderer” teaches us about what makes a heroic soldier to the Anglo-Saxons. I am reminded of the line “Not reluctant to fight” when comparing these two sources that date nearly one-thousand years apart (“The Wanderer 120). Heroes like Beowulf would not have been as successful if they did not posses the courage to tackle any beast or challenge that came their way. This is still an important attribute that we hold today. We would scoff at a soldier who retreats from a fight due to only their cowardice.
Many of these values remain the same because they were perhaps developed through evolution to further the species (Smirnov et al. 928). Characteristics like selfless service help to protect our kin and strangers alike by risking one’s own life for the greater good of everyone else’s (Smirnov et al. 927). I believe that this is the main characteristic of a good heroic soldier that will never change throughout time. I believe this because for an action to truly stand out above any other on a battlefield, it must come from a place of pure selflessness. It is difficult to put aside one’s own safety, it maybe even the hardest thing to do. This is why it is the most spectacular, and it is what makes heroes stand out above the rest from before the Anglo-Saxons until now.
Staff Sgt. Wade, Teddy. “U.S. Army Lt. Col. Edgar and Maj. Arntson salute during the playing of the National Anthem at the 2011 Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C. Oct. 9, 2011.” Army Ten-Miler Salute, 9 Oct. 2011.
“Living the Army Values.” Go Army, www.goarmy.com/soldier-life/being-a-soldier/living-the-army-values.html, Accessed on 18 Dec. 2018.
Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 10th ed., vol. A, Norton & Company, 2018, 201-256.
Smirnov, Oleg, et al. “Ancestral War and the Evolutionary Origins of ‘Heroism.’” The Journal of Politics, vol. 69, no. 4, 2007, pp. 927–940. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2007.00599.x.
“The Wanderer.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 10th ed., vol. A, Norton & Company, 2018, 119-121.