Germanic Peoples and Beowulf

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The 8th century epic poem Beowulf illustrates a loss of community, cultural values and tradition. On the other hand, an elegiac passing of an extraordinary hero and the relationship between the themes of mortality and heroism are well discussed in Beowulf. Beowulf’s character exemplifies the Germanic and the Anglo-Saxon ideals of the hero: strong, fearless, bold, loyal, and stoic in the acceptance of fate. Despite his lack of humility, Beowulf was the definition of a hero in his own time by his demonstration of chivalry and his important roles in society. It is a fact that Beowulf’s “superman figure” and warrior character had a strong influence on his efforts over what he was trying to achieve. Beowulf’s biggest concern was to see the Germanic society taken over by Christian missionaries who had been seeking to create a new culture out of the Germanic culture. On one hand, Beowulf was trying to strive for community, while on the other hand Christianity was trying to convert the Germanic society into a different and an “individual-based” culture. After looking at his purposes on what he was trying to do, it is the time to discuss Beowulf’s “supernatural hero” character and in what aspects he was considered the “superman” of the time. The first sign of his heroic character comes from his name, Beowulf. “Beo” gives the impression of a strong, large, fearless animal--bear--while at the same time “wulf” sounds like a ferocious and wild wolf. Beowulf’s physical appearance, in which he had a towering height and stature, also convinced others that he was actually an “above-human” character and hero. Furthermore, Beowulf had a mysterious and “un-heroic” background, which he foretold as a youth. He was poorly regarded by the Geats and was taken by them for less than he was worth. Thus, endurance and perseverance also took part on his heroic character. Like the typical hero, Beowulf gave boasts. While in Hrothgar’s kingdom, Beowulf defended himself against the kin-killer...
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