The Early Germanic Values Presented in Beowulf

Topics: Beowulf, Germanic peoples, Grendel Pages: 3 (1056 words) Published: November 6, 2007
The value in individual societies adapt throughout time depending upon the values cultures embrace. For instance, early Germanic society constantly engaged itself in warfare and exiled disloyal or dishonorable subjects who did not prove themselves to the king. The 5th century poem, Beowulf, a piece written before our English today developed, represents the values at the time through a courageous leader named Beowulf the Geat. The tale explains monsters, heroes, and great kings while still keeping some truth to the structure of this Germanic culture. Beowulf documents early Germanic values of revenge, honor and loyalty and helps society today understand how a part of Germanic society actually existed. Although a majority of the Pagan story of Beowulf has become translated throughout the years, the prominent value of revenge still reeks off the pages. The story begins with the first case of revenge where Beowulf travels across the whale-road (the ocean) to take revenge upon a water troll named Grendel whom had killed many of Hrothgar's important men in his kingdom. Beowulf and his men risked their lives across the sea to avenge Hrothgar's dead men even though they had never met these dead men. Grendel's mother's emotion after her son's death also proves the importance of revenge: "And his mother still greedy and gallows-grim, would go on a sorrowful venture, avenge her son's death" (23). From this quote, one can grasp that Grendel's mother really did not want to get herself mixed into her son's problems, but the culture of the time made her obligated to avenge her son's death. A tragic story is told when Beowulf recalls a fight between two brothers and one was killed, "That was a fatal fight, without hope of recompense, a deed wrongly done, baffling to the heart; yet it had happened that a prince had to lose a life unavenged" (43). Wergild, a payment of gold usually made to the family of the deceased, could never be paid to the father nor could he kill...
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