The Germanic Heroic Code

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Explain the Germanic (includes Anglo-Saxon and Norse) heroic ideal (heroic code) and define its main elements. Cite specific examples in Beowulf. Choose many elements---from the beginning, middle, and end of the poem. The examples do not have to be told in detail (don’t drift into plot summary).

The epic poem Beowulf demonstrates how the Germanic heroic code supports the warrior lifestyle. (Greenblatt 5) The heroic code was based on the idea that “the most important of human relationships was that which existed between the warrior—the thane—and his lord”. (Greenblatt 27) It was a voluntary partnership, with the thane’s role as warrior and the King’s role as provider. The King was not selfish with his riches and in return the thane would die for the King or die avenging his death. (Greenblatt 28)

After Beowulf kills Grendel a huge celebration takes place at the castle and the partnership between the King and the thane, Beowulf, is so clearly shown when Beowulf is given presents for his courage and victory.

Then Halfdane’s son presented Beowulf
with a gold standard as a victory gift,
an embroidered banner; also breast-mail
and a helmet; and a sword carried high,
that was both precious object and token of honor. (Lines 1019-1023)
In this passage Beowulf is given expensive gifts by the King. These gifts are payment for his bravery, courage, and ultimately his victory. The gifts are not only expensive but they represent honor. And Beowulf earned this honor by protecting the King and his land and he did this by defeating Grendel.

This Germanic code is also displayed when Beowulf is retelling his fight with Grendel’s mother, and he talks about the custom of his payment for another victory.
Thus the king acted with due custom.
I was paid and recompensed completely,
given full measure of freedom to choose

Beowulf explains how it is custom for him to be given gifts by the king because he not only did kill Grendel’s mother he showed loyalty...
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