The Fate of a Hero in Beowulf

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The Fate of a Hero
"For a brief while your strength is in bloom/ but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow/ illness or the sword to lay you low… and death will arrive, dear warrior, to sweep you away"(1761-8). Hrothgar bestows his wisdom onto Beowulf after Beowulf has defeated Grendel and his mother. Hrothgar reminds him not to let pride overcome him for everything is eventually defeated due to the power of fate. This exemplifies a theme woven throughout the story of Beowulf. Beowulf is presented as a valiant hero, slaying beasts with his mighty strength and demonstrating the importance of the balance between wisdom and strength, but as the story unfolds Beowulf slowly loses his vitality until eventually he is defeated. This shows the power of fate has on everyone; no exceptions. This paper will demonstrate the heroic qualities of Beowulf and show his gradual decline through the approaches and outcomes of his three battles with the monsters. In the beginning of the story, Beowulf's journey brings him to the land of the Danes where he is first intruded upon by a coast guard. Immediately upon seeing Beowulf the coast guard remarks on his impressive appearance. "Nor have I seen/ a mightier man-at-arms on this Earth/ than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken,/ he is truly noble" (247-50). A warrior named Wulfgar, impressed by Beowulf and his men, delivers his request for passage into the land of Denmark from King of the Danes, Hrothgar. His family background and reputation are familiar to Hrothgar, and he eagerly welcomes them to Denmark. Wulfgar reports back to Beowulf, "My lord, the conquering king of Danes, bids me announce that he knows you ancestry: also that he welcomes you here to Herot…" (391-3). This scene shows the importance of appearance and reputation, without which Beowulf may never have been admitted to the land of the Danes at all. Once he gains passage into Denmark, Beowulf talks with Hrothgar and his closest followers in the mead hall about how he will destroy this beast or die trying. "I meant to perform to the uttermost what your people wanted or perish in the attempt, in the fiend's clutches. And I shall fulfill that purpose, prove myself with a proud deed or meet my death here in the mead-hall" (634-8). His speech to Hrothgar shows Beowulf's courage and confidence in his abilities. He also chooses not use any weapons or armor of any kind. "I hereby renounce/ sword and the shelter of the broad shield,/ the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand/ is how it will be" (436-8). His unsurpassed power is validated after the gruesome description of how Grendel destroys one of Beowulf's followers. Grendel "…struck suddenly and started in; he grabbed and mauled a man on his bench, bit into his bone-lappings, bolted down his blood and gorged on him in lumps, leaving the body utterly lifeless eaten up hand and foot" (739-44). This destruction scene further emphasizes that the strength and power of Grendel seem to be no match for humankind. Yet as the monster turns to lash at Beowulf, Beowulf simply grabs onto his arm inflicting the most gut-wrenching pain the monster has ever experienced. He eventually rips off the arm off of this once unstoppable beast and Grendel returns to his liar to die. Beowulf defeats Grendel in what seems to be a fairly simple fight with his bare human strength. The death of Grendel brings Beowulf another battle. Grendel's mother is angered by the death of her only child and tries to avenge his death. Before Beowulf goes into the water to seek out Grendel's mother, he speaks in much more detail about plans to be carried out in case of his death. Although he is "indifferent to death" (1443) the possibility of it hangs over him. Beowulf approaches this battle with similar levels of confidence but this time he covers himself in armor and uses a mighty sword. "…the mesh of chain-mail on Beowulf's shoulder shielded his life,…"(1547-8). Beowulf's original sword proves to be useless...
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