Beowulf Essay Research Paper When you compare

Beowulf Essay, Research Paper

When you compare Beowulf to any modern novel or movie, Beowulf seems childlike

at best. Beowulf is told in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner very unlike

many of today?s works, which contain complex plots and themes. What makes

Beowulf readable to an adult and not just children? Why do people find stories

such as Beowulf so intriguing? Why is Beowulf, or any myth, significant?

Beowulf, the story of the young Beowulf sent by fate to save a kingdom plagued

with a nightmarish monster, a rather basic plot synopsis especially for a story

that has been around for more than one thousand years. However Beowulf contains

far more long-standing impact than a slew of the best selling books at any

bookstore. Beowulf, as any myth, teaches many moral lessons giving us a detailed

insight into the culture and writer?s beliefs through written accounts of

morality and religion and through the tale?s deep symbolism. And it also

provides for an entertaining ride filled with supernatural feats and monsters

with an inspirational hero or role model for the reader. In contrast to some

other popular mythological stories such as the tales of the Greek gods, Beowulf

is almost believable. Beowulf is just over the edge of ?real?, it pushes our

definition of what exists but not to the point to where we cannot imagine what

is happening in the story. Also I feel that Beowulf is a superior work of

mythology because Beowulf is a true and perfect hero, and represents the

personality and courage most people wish they had In Episode 1 the story begins

with the tale of Scyld Sceafing, which parallels Beowulf?s evolution, it is

the motif of a helpless child turning into a great king. Similarly, Sceafing

arrives from the water to the Danish lands in the same way Beowulf arrives. This

is a popular theme in many myths, a small and weak one rising to be strong and a

leader (i.e. Jesus). Part of the beauty of mythology is the repetition of motifs

such as this one. Another facet of mythology that is uncovered in Episode 1 is

religion. In every myth religion is dealt with in some way. Unlike most myths,

however, the religious affiliation and code is hard to decipher. References to

the Old Testament are made often (i.e. Cain and Abel, the flood), but it is

never made quite clear of what the religious beliefs of the Danes are. The

writer himself is definitely familiar with the Bible, and was probably actually

a monk, but the Danes do not seem to be. This raises the question of whether the

original oral presentations contained the religious references or sub-stories

that the written one does. Obviously the hero of the story does not completely

fit the humble pacifist Christian personality, so it is a reasonable inquiry. As

shown here, part of the reason myths are so fascinating is because of the

questions and speculations they cause to arise about the culture and its ideas

from which the myth evolved. In Episode 3 the phenomenal Beowulf arrives on the

Herot scene to slay Grendel. Beowulf in Beowulf is a very strong individual, so

strong in fact that he rips archrival Grendel?s arm cleanly off! This is

impossible of course, for a man to do such thing, physiology doesn?t permit

it. Even more unbelievable is Grendel himself. Grendel?s ?fingers were nails

like steel? (Beowulf Episode 5) and ?no battle sword could harm him – he had

enchantment against the edges of weapons? (Beowulf Episode 6). A fantastic

hero and villain is a key to mythology. Why have such an unreal hero? It?s

simple because he is a hero, a role model, and so why not make him as powerful

and super human as desirable. When the story originated, and was thus truthfully

believed, many youngsters probably idolized the mighty Beowulf, and wanted to

equal his valor and courage. It evoked emotional inspiration to conquer evil

with bravery and goodness, a very desirable goal in any culture. Demonstrated in

Episode 4 was some very dramatic language that made the story very compelling

and entertaining. The author uses some vivid imagery and language to describe

the approaching Grendel?s character ?Came then from the moor under the misty

hills, Grendel stalking under the weight of God’s anger. That wicked ravager

planned to ensnare many of the race of men in the high hall? When he touched

it with his hands the door gave way at once though its bands were forged in

fire. Intending evil, enraged, he swung the door wide, stood at the building’s

mouth? (Beowulf Episode 4). Dramatic language and stunning descriptions are

found in most myths making the scenes and actions in the stories easy to

picture, as well as making the tales more exciting. Myths are usually very

symbolic; in episodes 3 and 4 in Beowulf the heaviest images are the comparisons

between light (Beowulf) and dark (Grendel). The scheme of light equals good and

dark equals evils fits right into Beowulf. Grendel comes in from the dark, the

moors; Beowulf waits in the light of the fire for him. From the beginning

episode, Herot is emphasized with light, when Grendel attacks inside Herot it is

dark. The light and dark forces, good and evil, always come into conflict with

one another. For example, Grendel attacks the Herot because of its goodness

because he is evil. Because Beowulf, on the other hand, is good he slays Grendel.

Then in turn Grendel?s mother seeks revenge for similar reasons. The portrayal

of good and evil also demonstrates this myth?s moral belief system. King

Hrothgar is praised because he ?handed out gold and treasure at huge feasts?

(Beowulf Episode 1), and countless other acts of generosity. Beowulf as already

mentioned was unbelievably strong and heroic, personifying what every warrior

(or man even) should be. In contrast, to these two characters is Grendel who

?blinded by sin? killed and ?felt no remorse? (Beowulf Episode 2), being

the epitome of the ultimate adversary. It?s easy to see what traits and

actions, according to Beowulf are considered desirable and thus good, things

like generosity, strength and bravery. It is equally as simple to pick out that

Grendel?s actions represent absolute wrong and evil. Another Christian

symbolic instance in Beowulf is the battle with Grendel?s mother. He goes down

into the water to battle a demonic monster. I think it symbolizes Beowulf going

down into hell to face a devil. He enters the cavern and it is very dark, but

with the help of God he is able to defeat the demon. And after his victory

?light glittered, a light brightened within, as bright and clear as the candle

of the sky? (Beowulf Episode 7) very similar to the Christian motif of light

shining down from heaven on a saint who has did a great deed. In Episode 8 more

morality lessons are being passed on to the reader, although in a less subtle

method. The last section is about the responsibility of leadership. Hrothgar?s

speech to Beowulf does not focus on the glory of battle; instead, he seems to be

saying to trust in God and to be generous and humble. Beowulf, as any

mythological character, is a perfect example of course. He is benevolent to

Unferth, slays evil monsters, and promises peaces to the Danes. Also Beowulf

dies for his kingdom, or country, setting an example for all warriors or

soldiers to come. Another moral theme that resonates from Beowulf is the idea of

the supremacy of generosity as discussed before. The king gives money and

treasures out unrelentlessly throughout the story and examples are drawn of

greedy and therefore bad kings. The next battle, with the vengeful mother of

Grendel, helps demonstrate the quest aspect of a myth. In most myths the hero

must battle many foes, but they are almost invariably in order of difficulty.

Each adversary is stronger and stronger leading up to the ultimate foe at the

climax of the myth. Beowulf does not differ with regards to this scheme. In the

first battle he dramatically fights Grendel with no weapons or armor, so they

are equals. However when he faces Grendel?s mother, in order equal the battle,

he must turn to a sword. And even with the sword and armor in the fight with

Grendel?s mother it is only by luck and ?God?s grace? that he escapes

the monster?s claws to kill it. Finally later in Beowulf, Beowulf fights the

dragon. He must use a sword, a knife, a shield and even another man to defeat

this worthy foe. However, even with all the weapons and help of Wiglaf, Beowulf

dies in the climactic finale battle between him and the dragon. When I first

read Beowulf, I really thought it was, well, stupid and simple. However upon

this second reading I have developed a fond sort of respect for Beowulf and

other myths. Although I have never really believed nor been extremely influenced

by a myth?s theme or plot, I think they are fascinating. They show so much

about the culture they came from. When reading Beowulf I can just picture a poet

reciting it in Old English to a large hall full of rustic looking men and

captivated children. The story itself is mesmerizing to know that people

actually believed it was true, I try to imagine what it was like fearing

monsters like Grendel or a dragon, or let alone knowing that they such thing

were out in the world. Beowulf successfully fulfills its goal, as shown by its

mere existence through time. It accomplishes the teaching of many moral lessons

giving us a detailed insight into the culture and writer?s beliefs of morality

and religion. And it also provides for an interesting ride filled with

supernatural feats and monsters with an inspirational hero.

?Beowulf.? Translated by Dr. David Breeden. Lone Star. August 1999.


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