Anglo-Saxon Beliefs in Beowulf
The great epic Beowulf gives modern culture an insight into the lives of early Anglo-Saxon people. Although this poem was composed by an unknown poet in the eighth century, Beowulf has been put into a modern translation by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. The translation lets readers understand how the earliest English people lived their lives. The epic has also brought us much knowledge on the customs and beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon people by fully encompassing their traits through the events demonstrated in Beowulf. In Seamus Heaney’s translation, Beowulf, the great Geat warrior and protagonist of the epic, rescues whole countries single-handedly from demons and dragons. In the three intense battles in the poem, Beowulf is the embodiment of an Anglo-Saxon warrior. Throughout all the dramatic battles and acts of courage, Beowulf encompasses the true essence of Anglo-Saxon beliefs through some of their best known customs.
Before a battle, Anglo-Saxon warriors give a huge speech to let everyone know how the warrior in question will go about a battle. Before the first battle between Beowulf and Grendel, the evil demon killing the Danes, Beowulf states the exact way he will fight: “Now I mean to be a match for Grendel , / settle the outcome in single combat” (trans. Heaney 425-426). By showing his want to fight Grendel singlehandedly, Beowulf confirms his battle plan with the other Anglo-Saxon warriors. Also, Beowulf tells them that he will fight his enemy without any weapons. By doing so, he makes the fight fair with Grendel, since the monster will not be using anything besides its own strength. Next, before the second battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, Beowulf makes a speech to Hrothgar, the king, pertaining to avengement rather than grieving: “Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better / to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning” (1384-1385). After Grendel’s mother killed Hrothgar’s friend, Aeschere, Beowulf...
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