Cultural Values in Beowulf

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The historical document of Beowulf, which also shows the importance of literature, reveals the important cultural values of the warrior society. The epic poem, set in Sweden during the 6th Century, tells the story of a warrior named Beowulf. Scops, or storytellers, keepers of an oral tradition, told stories of heroes and culture from their times. They performed and told the tale of a great thane, finally writing it down sometime around the 8th Century; the only surviving epic poem from this time. As a great piece of literature, this poem follows the life of Beowulf from that of a young and loyal thane who becomes a great respected king and dies proudly, as a warrior. The warrior culture at this time reflects the values of the society of the 6th century. The thanes showed their loyalty to their leader by fighting for him, even to the death. The leader would then give the thanes something in return like treasure or property for their deeds or achievements. This helped to improve their reputations. In regard to these important cultural values of that time, three of these values recur throughout this legendary poem: loyalty, reputation, and generosity. The first value important to this warrior culture, loyalty, directs Beowolf through his life. When Beowulf goes to help the Danes, he wants to build up his reputation, and most importantly, repay Hrothgar. Hrothgar had paid wergild to settle a feud that Beowulf’s family, the Geats, had started. Hrothgar said, “Afterwards I paid blood money to end the feud, over the sea’s back I sent the Wylfings old treasures, he swore oaths to me’”(9). Beowulf understands the feud and remains loyal in paying back Hrothgar for his good deed. After Beowulf returns home from accomplishing his life-risking service to Hrothgar and the Scyldings, Queen Hygd tells Beowulf he can have the throne after the death of her husband, King Hygelac because she does not think her son can do it: There Hygd offered him hoard and kingdom,...
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