Anglo-Saxon Literature Essay, Research Paper
As we take a look back at the origins of literature throughout the Anglo-Saxon Period (449-1066), we see that many of their narratives, stories were simply passed down orally due to the lack of education prior to the era of Christianity. During the Anglo- Saxon Era literature initially began to be written down by the monks of the Christian Monasteries. The Anglo-Saxons contributed many details to human nature. The Anglo-Saxons named our modern day weekdays after Greek Gods. Heroism within an epic poem was often present during this period. Epic poetry was categorized as either elegiac or heroic. Elegiac poetry consists of a feeling of mourning or sorrow due to the loss or lack of something. Heroic poetry contains several aspects of morality and life threatening situations where the hero, of course, eliminates the threat of danger therefore suggesting his heroism. One of the most popular epic poems of this time period is Beowulf. Throughout the epic, Beowulf, certain ideals of conduct were stressed; Allegiance to lord and king, Love of glory as the ruling motive of every noble life, and the overall belief in the inevitability of fate were among those discussed.
Allegiance, or loyalty, if you will, to lord and king is often mentioned in Beowulf. Due to the loyalty shown to Hrothgar, in Beowulf, by the warriors during their successful victory in war, he built Herot, the mead-hall for their convenience. Later on in the epic, Wiglaf, Beowulf’s warrior returned to Beowulf in spite of the rest of his warrior band’s decision to turn their back on him during his time of need as the fire dragon gained the upper hand, displays Beowulf’s confrontation with the fire dragon, loyalty toward Beowulf. By not following the “crowd” and remaining with Beowulf, the ultimate loyalty of Wiglaf was tested and he proved to Beowulf his loyalty and allegiance. The absolute origins of feudalism, which didn’t become into existence until the Medieval Period, began with the Anglo-Saxon belief of allegiance to their lord and king in the act of providence for the king in return for protection. These ideals lead to the importance of one, during this time period, to be recognized by many.
Another Anglo-Saxon ideal demonstrated in Beowulf is the love of glory as the ruling motive of every noble life. Love of glory, fame, and recognition was important to the Anglo-Saxon culture. Beowulf’s reputation suggests, even prior to the “Wrath of Grendel” upon the Danes, that in Sweden, Beowulf’s home place, he was of heroic status. Boasting allowed, before battle, a feeling of confidence. Throughout this epic, Beowulf displays examples of boasting. Upon arrival in Denmark, he shows his heroic characteristics as he boasts before Hrothgar. He first states, “Hail, Hrothgar!” Then continues on to ask permission to battle the horrendous guardian of crime saying “Grant me, then, lord and protector of this noble place, a single request…” He also portrays heroism as he encounters Unferth, where explaining the swimming incident at Brecca allowed him to boast about his strength and physical abilities. After successfully battling the “shepherd of evil”, Grendel, who had tormented the Danes for a long twelve years, he decided to display Grendel’s arm in the rafters of the mead-hall as evidence of his victory and Grendel’s demise. “The victory, for the proof, hanging high from the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster’s arm, claw and shoulder and all.” I guess it was just meant for Beowulf to win the battle.
Fate, predetermined and inevitable necessity; that power which is thought to determined one’s future, success or failure, is an often used aspect throughout this epic. Beowulf often alludes to the end. He states during the battle with Grendel that “God will decide who will be given to death’s cold grip,” symbolizing fate as the determining factor of who the victor will be at the conclusion of the battle. Beowulf clearly understood that “ the days on earth for every one of us are numbered” explaining, in mortal terms his belief in fate.
Allegiance to lord and king, Love of glory as the ruling motive of every noble life, and the overall belief in the inevitability of fate were the main Anglo-Saxon ideals included throughout the epic poem, Beowulf. Even today, we find that boasting and bragging are as, evident or maybe even a little more evident, now than during the Anglo-Saxon Period. Fate is usually a matter of interpretation depending on the religious background of a person. Some think that fate can be controlled, but this contradicts the very definition of the ideal of fate. Others choose not to associate with the ideal of fate, which is completely their prerogative. Maybe allegiance to our present day “lords and kings” (leaders) isn’t evident enough. Life can seem as a simple strategy game and those who place their game pieces in the best position are to be successful and essentially heroic.