Time Of Change Essay, Research Paper
The amount of bravery and courage displayed by Beowulf in his fights with three different fiends surpasses that of most. Victories over his enemies demand massive power and strength, traits only evident in Beowulf. Each battle appears similar to the others in that Beowulf succeeds in killing his enemy, yet differences exist between the three confrontations. Each of the three battles differs from one another in the preparation leading in to the fight, the means of warfare, and its effect on Beowulf.
The preparations made by Beowulf before each of his battles includes different strategies and plots. In preparing for his first battle, Beowulf lures the wretched monster Grendel in to Hrothgar’s hall. In order to direct Grendel into a favorable location for the fight, Beowulf sacrifices a Geat soldier. A helpless, despairing soldier perished when, “Grendel snatched at the first Geat he came to, ripped him apart, cut his body to bits with powerful jaws, drank the blood from his veins and bolted him down, hands and feet” (739). Prior to the clash, Beowulf calculated the importance of good fighting grounds. This brutal sacrifice granted Beowulf a favorable location to attack Grendel. To prepare for the battle with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf armored himself with chain mail and trudged out to the marsh of Grendel’s mother’s residence. He ventured to find the “greedy she-wolf who’d ruled those waters for half a hundred years” (1511). Rather than allowing Grendel’s mother to search for him, Beowulf splashed down into the water with fearful Geats looking on. Beowulf chose to attack Grendel’s mother, opposed to allowing her come to him. A more aggressive approach gave him an early advantage in the fight. Old age crept up on Beowulf, the most experienced warrior of all, yet he placed aside his age and pronounced he would battle The Dragon, with his sights set on winning treasure. These fortunes included those discovered at Sutton Hoo, which were “a helmet, gold coins” and “silver bowls” (Sutton Hoo 34). Beowulf’s courage and valor surface when he says, “I’ve never known fear; as a youth I fought in endless battles. I am old, now, but I will fight again, seek fame still, if the dragon hiding in his tower dares to face me” (2511). Death seemed a likely possibility for Beowulf in the confrontation with The Dragon. This dual presented him with three main threats. In the Anglo-Saxon work “The Seafarer”, the old sailor identified these three threats when he says, “No man has ever faced the dawn certain which of Fate’s three threats would fall: illness, or age, or an enemy’s sword, snatching the life from this soul” (Seafarer 68). Knowing this battle would be the toughest he had ever faced, Beowulf prepared himself with armor, a shield, and a sword. The challenge of The Dragon surpassed any other previously presented to Beowulf; therefore weapons and protection were necessary. Each fight involving Beowulf saw him presented with different problems and challenges, therefore preparation for these fights altered between each.
The means and methods of warfare differ in the battles involving Beowulf. In the fight with Grendel, Beowulf insisted on using no weapons other than his bare hands. Beowulf’s mentality becomes evident when he says, “This fiend is a bold and famous fighter, but his claws and teeth scratching my shield, his clumsy fists beating at my sword blade, would be helpless. I will meet him with my hands empty” (679). Beowulf takes pride in winning fair battles. Using weapons would, in his mind, give him an unfair advantage against the man-eating beast, thus making a victory dishonorable. The means of warfare in the clash between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother involved weapons, rather than sheer power. Grendel’s mother uses swords, and Beowulf uses chain mail and a helmet to protect himself. Beowulf “swung his sword, his ring-marked blade, straight at her head; then iron sang its fierce song, sang Beowulf’s strength” (1543). Battling Grendel’s mother required much more protection than fighting her son, due to her immense strength and power. Even the sharpest and most deadly of Beowulf’s weapons failed to penetrate the hide of her neck. The means of warfare used by The Dragon and Beowulf in their confrontation are swords, shields, armor and fire. Only the iron shield of Beowulf prevented him from early defeat by The Dragon as “flames beat at the iron shield” and then “it began to melt” (2570). The sword of the noble Wiglaf eventually killed off the venomous dragon, preventing it from further harming Beowulf. This sword did not rescue Beowulf, for he had suffered fatal blows, yet it inflicted revenge on The Dragon who dared to mortally wound the greatest warrior of the Geats. Resulting from each one of Beowulf’s battles was at least one death, but the difference of these deaths lies in the three different elements of warfare: sheer strength, swords, and fire.
Through each battle fought, Beowulf’s attitude changes. Prior to the battle with Grendel, Beowulf declares, “Grendel is no braver, no stronger than I am! I could kill him with my sword; I shall not easy as it would be.” (677). Beowulf asserts his position as the greatest fighter of the land. He believes no man or beast retains the ability to challenge his supremacy. Upon escaping Grendel’s mother with his life, Beowulf’s attitude of his dominance changes. When reporting to Hrothgar after his fight, Beowulf admits, “My life was almost lost, fighting for it, struggling under water: I’d have been dead at once, and the fight finished, the she-devil victorious, if our Father in Heaven had not helped me.” (1652). Beowulf realizes he may have met his equal, in the form of Grendel’s monstrous mother. Furthermore, Beowulf becomes aware that he continues to live not because of his skill, but because of the grace of God. In the final moments of Beowulf’s life, he reflects on the worthiness of his life. Through his final breaths he says to Wiglaf, “I sold my life for this treasure, and I sold it well” (2796). Beowulf has realized his efforts and courage impacted his people greatly. He believes his life has been lived to its fullest by fighting for his people, and making their lives better. A change in Beowulf’s attitude becomes clear after each battle he fights. At first he sees himself as a warrior who defeats evil, yet at the end of his life, he views himself as a warrior who risked his life in hopes of bettering the lives of his fellow Geats.
The sight of Beowulf emerging from a harsh brawl becomes common to Hrothgar and the Geats. Beowulf’s skill and fighting technique are unparalleled throughout the lands. Beowulf succeeded in all of his battles, yet differences exist between each of the three. The preparation for the battles, the means of warfare, and Beowulf’s attitude after fighting a battle are distinct and different than the other fights. Beowulf’s ability to adjust his preparations for battle, means of warfare, and attitude for each fight, enabled him to free his people from fear and torment.