I've read a few different fantasy series and something keeps popping up. It seems that the heroes in whatever story you're reading aren't the first heroes to be around.
In Lord of the Rings, there are the tales of Gil-galad, Beren and Luthien, etc. In Beowulf, there's Sigemund the dragon slayer. It seems in every fantasy series that comes to mind there are heroes of the past to which the heroes of the story are compared.
Where else have you noticed this happening? Does this happen in other genres, or is this a heroic/fantasy thing?