Beowulf And Values Essay, Research Paper
The Anglo-Saxons living in the time of Beowulf did not believe in the afterlife. To them, the only way to experience life after death was to live on in the memories of others. One could fulfill this goal by being known for one?s generosity, courage, and strength. Beowulf, the protagonist of this epic poem, embodied all of these virtues and lives on in memory because of this.
First, generosity was widespread and more greatly valued during Beowulf?s time than it is now. It was not merely a virtue, but instead a necessity. Many kings were measured by the extent of their generosity.
To him in the hall, then, Healfdane’s son
gave treasures twelve, and the trust-of-earls
bade him fare with the gifts to his folk beloved,
hale to his home, and in haste return.
This is Hrothgar?s (Healfdane?s son) way of being generous and thanking Beowulf for slaying Grendel and it?s mother. This gift not only increased Beowulf?s fame and riches but also Hrothgar?s greatness. If Hrothgar had not displayed his gratitude for Beowulf?s great deeds he would have been looked down upon. He might be remembered for his lack of charity instead, and that would be the equivalent of going to hell for the early Anglo-Saxons. Everyone wanted to be remembered, but only for admirable things. Being remembered for a shameful life would be much worse than dying.
Yea, death is better
for liegemen all than a life of shame!
Next, courage and strength were also looked highly upon during these pre-medieval times. In our time courage is often seen as foolish or ostentatious, while during Beowulf?s time it was seen as admirable and praiseworthy.
?Twas now, men say, in his sovran’s need
that the earl made known his noble strain,
craft and keenness and courage enduring?
Heedless of harm, though his hand was burned,
hardy-hearted, he helped his kinsman.
A little lower the loathsome beast
he smote with sword; his steel drove in
bright and burnished; that blaze began
to lose and lessen…
So had they killed it, kinsmen both,
athelings twain: thus an earl should be
in danger’s day! — Of deeds of valor
this conqueror’s-hour of the king was last,
of his work in the world.
Slaying the great dragon was not only Beowulf?s last act of courage, but also Wiglaf?s first. Beowulf eventually died from a wound suffered in this battle and had a tower constructed in his memory. Many other acts of courage were displayed by Beowulf during his lifetime and they also furthered his fame, glory, and story. Beowulf was not only courageous, but he was also the strongest man in the world.
He was the mightiest man of valor
in that same day of this our life,
stalwart and stately.
This strength brought him great respect from all. It was the one thing that truly set him apart from all the other men.
If one lacked generosity, strength, or courage, one could always just claim to have them. Men during Beowulf?s time were very proud and often boasted and exaggerated at any chance they had.
And so it came that I killed with my sword
nine of the sea-monsters. Of night-fought battles
ne’er heard I a harder beneath heaven’s dome,
nor adrift on the deep a more desolate man!
While pride and boasting were widespread throughout all of the men they said that they looked down on it.
?not one of you pair, in the play of war
such daring deed has done at all
with bloody brand, — I boast not of it! —
though thou waste the bane of thy brethren dear?
For I say in sooth, thou son of Ecglaf?
if heart of thine
were as battle-bold as thy boast is loud!
They all knew everyone exaggerated and made up stories, but no one wanted to admit to it. Not only was it commonplace, but it was also effective. No one dared to call someone a liar and boasting was an effective way of getting your story out. If your story was great enough it, as well as you, would never be forgotten.