Unit 1: Heroism Unit Project

Throughout this Unit, you have been exploring what it means to be an epic hero. We have seen strong heroes, brave heroes, clever heroes, arrogant heroes, and more. For this paper, you will consider what traits the heroes we studied had in common – and which heroes did not quite fit the mold.

Remember that epic heroes embody the values of the culture that created them, and so heroes vary as widely as cultures do. However, there are certainly common threads and themes while discussing what makes a hero. For your paper, you will be exploring one trait of a hero in a complex and nuanced way. You will build this complexity by discussing two heroes who possess it – and one hero who does not.

  • Click on the link in the Red Box to view the Project Rubrics for this project.


Below is what your outline should include:


  • Tell your reader what the purpose of your paper is. Propose to define an epic hero by exploring one aspect of heroism.
  • Provide background. What is an epic?
  • Choose a trait of an epic hero. This trait should be shared by several heroes we read about (Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Eowyn, Merry, Sundiata, and Odysseus), but should not be so broad that it can apply to all of them.

Paragraph 1:

  • Describe the unique way that one hero displays the heroic trait that you are focusing on.
  • Use 2-3 examples from the story excerpts to support your point.

Paragraph 2:

  • Describe the unique way that a different hero displays the heroic trait that you are focusing on.
  • Use 2-3 examples from the story excerpts to support your point.
  • Focus specifically on describing the way the heroes you chose display the same trait differently.

Paragraph 3:

  • Begin this paragraph by discussing how epics reflect the values of the culture that created them.
  • Next, introduce one of the heroes we studied in this Unit who does not possess the heroic trait. Describe the ways in which the hero differs from the previous two.
  • Then, dig in: Does the hero truly express this trait, but in a unique way? Or, what trait seems to replace that one?
  • Use 2-3 examples from the story excerpts to support your point.



  • Come to a meaningful insight about what heroism truly means.

This essay structure might be new to you. Usually, academic essays ask you to choose a thesis and prove it thoroughly, while this essay asks you to break away from your thesis to create a deeper definition of heroism. Because it might be confusing, I have included a summary of a sample essay below. (Note: This summary shows you the progression of thought I am looking for. Your essay should follow a similar logical path, but should be a full five paragraphs, include quotations from the story, etc.)

Sample Topic:

Epic heroes behead their enemies. Beowulf beheads Grendel, Gilgamesh removes Humbaba’s head and hangs it on a tree branch, and Eowyn slices off the large, scaly head of her enemy with a sword. This act of decapitating your enemies seems to be a consistent trend among epic heroes and tells us a good deal about what kind of hero they are. A hero must be confronting their enemy face-to-face and dominates them completely by decapitating them – this shows bravery, capability, and thus seems to be the “noble” way to kill your enemy. However, the hobbit, Merry, destroys the Black Rider he faces by stabbing it in the back; this is an underhanded method, relying on the element of surprise rather than the physical power of the hero. Thus, Merry certainly seems to lack the “nobility” of the grand, armored heroes of the other tales. While this distinction sets Merry apart as a unique hero among the others, the end is the same: he defeats the threat he faces.

Your paper must discuss three heroes out of the ones we studied in the Unit (Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Eowyn, Merry, Sundiata, Odysseus). You must use quotes from the text for at least two of the three heroes, and a total of at least four quotes throughout the paper.

This essay should be between two and five pages (500-1500 words) in length. Your final draft should be saved and submitted as .doc or .pdf file. It should be in 12-point font in Times New Roman.

10% of your grade will be on grammar and mechanics. Write as clearly and correctly as you can. This means that 90% of your grade is based on your ideas – however, you will not earn an A if you do not proofread carefully and check for errors.

Most importantly, remember this is a culminating project for the Heroism Unit. Your essay should show everything you have learned throughout the unit.

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