Beowulf dedicated his last breath to save his people from the ravages of a deadly monster. Despite the frailties of old age, he hastened once more to save the day. Unfortunately, the terrible earth dragon was too much for him. Beowulf succumbed to his wounds and died. The last lines of this great Anglo Saxon epic was a tribute to him, “Thus the men of Geatland, his hearth-companions, mourned their hero's passing, and said that of all the kings of the earth, he was the mildest and most beloved of his men; kindest to his kin, and the most eager for praise (Beowulf 52)”.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Beowulf was a man who wanted to achieve lasting fame. The last four words validated that. Beowulf not only wanted that fame but he ensured it to be the adulatory kind. These are among the values of the erstwhile Anglo- Saxon society. Fame is paramount and could be achieved only through extraordinary feats of daring in combat and other heroic deeds. This is not purely a selfish and egoistic drive since the warrior’s accomplishment spreads over his clan, king, and family.
When Hrothgar beheld the massive arm of Grendel hanging from the steep roof of his great hall, he exclaimed with delight and praised Beowulf, “By your deeds, you have ensured that your fame shall endure through
all the ages. May the Almighty ever reward you with good, just as He has now done! (Beowulf 20)”. Of course Hrothgar rewarded him handsomely. Honor or fame was not the only reward to successful warriors, the beneficence of the superior is also expected. Perhaps the material rewards were of less importance than fame since fame is lasting and one is ensured of being sang about by minstrels in the far corners of the known world. It would be common then for young men to eagerly prove themselves in battle. One has to excel as is today to really become relevant. Fame was central in young men’s efforts like Beowulf. The dark period that was...