The Comitatus Bond
“So now, Beowulf, I adopt you in my heart as a dear son. Nourish and maintain this new connection, you noblest of men. . . (63)”. Beowulf is an epic poem about the adventures, journey and maturation of a young legendary warrior from adolescence to his adulthood as a noble king. He gained his great reputation from his brave deeds of slaying the monstrous Grendel, his avenging mother, and the fiery dragon while being an honorable and selfless hero and ruler. Beowulf also presents an ideal of loyalty to thane, the comitatus bond. The failure to live up to this ideal bond on the part of some thanes point up the extraordinary faithfulness of Beowulf.
The comitatus bond is a comradery between a master and his warriors. This relationship requires the warriors/thanes to defend their master to the death in exchange for share of wealth, protection and weapons. However, this comitatus code goes beyond the typical warrior-defending-master relationship but rather into a bond of love and friendship. The epic story of Beowulf started out with the portrayal of a failed brotherhood. Grendel was a descendant of Cain, the most notorious slayer of his own brother and of the comitatus bond. “Cain got no good from committing that murder because the Almighty . . . exacted a price . . . [and] made him [an] anathema . . . (9).” Grendel’s lineage and the idea of a person against his family were very dishonorable and looked down upon by the Anglo-Saxon culture. Thus, Grendel came to represent a character of resentment and malice. The unfulfillment of this comitatus bond continued with the failure of King Hrothgar’s thanes to defend Haerot Hall and their lord from the vicious Grendel. This inadequacy demonstrated the complexity and the difficulty to uphold the bond between a lord and his warriors but paved as a good introduction for our valiant hero who shall overshadow all with his extreme allegiance and honor.
Beowulf was considered a perfect hero through the...
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