Symbolism in Beowulf

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Symbolism is the practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing meaning of significance to objects, events, or relationships. Symbols are powerful tools found in literature, cultures, and religion all over the world. In Beowulf, King Hrothgar wanted to create something that would make his name imperishable, so he built a mead hall for himself, and his earls, he created Heorot. The building is like a palace. It towers high and is compared to a cliff. The gables are shaped like horns of the hart. People from neighboring tribes have respectfully contributed to the rich decorations and complicated designs. When Grendel invades the hall, he knows that he strikes at the very heart of the Scyldings. The hall symbolizes community, the concept of comitatus, and the achievements of the Scyldings.

The hall symbolized community by it being the place where the Danes felt safe. It is a safe haven from the hazards of the dangerous world outside. The king would sleep there feeling safe knowing that his warriors were outside protecting him 24/7. It provided warmth, sustenance, and a place for revelry for the Danes. The Danes used the Herot hall to eat and drink and Heorot was where their celebrations were held and treasures were distributed. Heorot was a meeting place for men and was intended for the men to enjoy themselves. The hall is a home for the warriors who sleep there and functions as a seat of government.

In heroic culture, the most important relationship is that between a lord and his comitatus, his band of warriors; the mead-hall is where that relationship is formed and maintained. Danes swear devotion to their leader and vow to fight boldly, to the death if necessary for him. Members of the comitatus serve their lord, who in turn rewards them with treasure; amongst themselves, warriors cultivate bonds of fellowship and, with a good king, bonds of paternal affection. These gifts represent, not just payment for services rendered, but...
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