Beowulf Essay, Research Paper
In reading the epic Beowulf, one finds the changing ideals of the pagan belief and
the Christian belief of good triumphing over evil. At the time when Beowulf was written,
stories were told in narrative poems through oral tradition. By oral tradition it was retold
to audiences throughout the years and finally written down by monks. Beowulf displays
the heroic qualities of an epic hero through his loyalty, strength, and courage.
In the beginning, Beowulf heard how Grendel filled nights with horror and quickly commanded a boat fitted out, proclaiming that he d go to that famous king (43).
This shows he has loyalty to his duty because he left when he was needed, though not in search of treasure. When he comes home he is welcomed by the king, and later becomes king himself when Higlac and his son have died ruling Geatland for fifty years (54). This shows his loyalty to the king and takes responsibility over the country. When the dragon comes into his kingdom, Although he is an old man, Beowulf determines to slay the beast (54). This proves his loyalty to his people in that even though he can barely fight he still does, to protect the kingdom.
Another quality is his strength, which he shows in his battle with Grendel.
[Grendel] twisted in pain and the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder snapped, muscle and bone split and broke. The battle was over. Beowulf had been granted new glory (49). During the fight with Grendel s mother he saw a sword hanging on the wall, it was the best of all weapons but so massive that no ordinary man could lift its carved and decorated length. He drew it from its scabbard, broke the chain on its hilt (52). No one other than Beowulf with his supernatural strength would have been able to lift it. Another example of his strength is after the battle with Grendel when too heavy for fewer than four of [Geats] to handle- two on each side of the spear jammed through it- yet proud of their ugly load and determined that the Danes, seated in Herot, should see it [Beowulf] carried that terrible trophy by the hair, brought it straight where the Danes sat (54).
Beowulf displays his courage when he takes his men to sleep in the mead-hall,
knowing the monster will show up. But fate that night intended Grendel to gnaw the
broken bones of his last human supper (47). Beowulf still stayed and fought Grendel until his death. When he was daring, young and proud, explored the deepest seas, risking
[his] life for no reason but the danger ( ). His last show of courage was when
he walked under the cliffs where the dragon lay and no one else dared to go, he lowered his sword and roared out a battle cry, a call so bad and clear it reached through the hoary
rock, hung in the dragon s ear (56).
In this heroic epic, Beowulf shows his qualities of a hero through his loyalty,
strength and courage. It touches some basic life principles. Some of these principals are to not hold yourself back from something you want to do, strive to accomplish life s struggles, do not desire everything for just pleasure and riches, and acquire more out of life than what is expected. The techniques of symbolism express well the different Christian and pagan beliefs.