Beowulf is a story that takes place in medieval Europe, the main part of the story is about a knight, Beowulf, that has to fight evil creatures such as a dragon. No one is exactly sure who wrote Beowulf, Paleographers believe from characteristics of the scribal hands that wrote the soul surviving text, that the manuscript was copied down in the late tenth century or early eleventh. This early copy of Beowulf is still around today. This single manuscript can be found in the British Library in London. Scholars believe that the story itself was written between 650-800.
In the medieval, warriors were looked up to greatly. To die as a warrior was one of man's greatest achievements. Children adored them and women wanted to get with them, a lot like celebrities today. The troops of warriors had integrity and loyalty to one another. Death plays a huge part in Beowulf, the story starts and ends with the funeral of a hero. The poem starts with the burial of Scyld Scefing, his burial has been compared the burial of Sutton Hoo, who had a ship-burial. Scyld Scefing is buried amid ship surrounded by treasures and battle gear. He is buried at sea, unlike everyday people who are just put into the ground. Beowulf however, is cremated with all his battle equipment. He is buried along side his unburnt treasure, which is unheard of according to some archeological evidence, which means it was made up for this story alone. So that a lot of people could attend the funeral, some people would be buried atop hills so that it could be seen for miles. Much like to day, when a celebrity dies or like when Princess Diana died, hundreds of thousands of people attended. Some by watching it on television, others by sitting in the stands outside the church. No matter what religion you are there is mostly always some type of burial.
There are different examples of religious beliefs in this story, I found both Christian and Pagan. In some ways the Danes see Beowulf as somewhat of a Jesus Christ type character. He had saved them from the evil of Grendel, and Jesus had saved the Jews from their sins. Another Christian thing was King Hrothgar's throne was said to be protected by God. Also towards the end the men prey to God for the other men who have died to be able to make it to Heaven. Pagan views can be seen when Grendel attacks and kills the first Geat, and drinks his blood from his veins. This can be looked at as a Pagan practice by drinking a victim's blood. When they drink the blood it is believed to give the person drinking all the powers, knowledge, strength and soul of the dead. When Beowulf's is cremated this can also to be looked at as Pagan belief because they believe that burning the body sends the soul to its afterlife. Another archeological aspect in Beowulf is when Hrothgar decided to build Heorot, a huge mead-hall, a place of joy and security. Heorot was made of gold and jewels, and people from all over the land traveled to see it. Hrothgar would give away gifts to people who came to see the hall. Warriors would sleep in the great hall at night. Places of this status really existed, and are still standing today. With stapols, raised floors and steeply pitched roofs, these structures date back to the same time Beowulf was written. Good vs. evil was another part of the story. Like just about any story, you must have a good guy and a bad guy. In this case u have Beowulf vs. Grendel and the dragon. Beowulf as I said earlier was viewed, as somewhat of a savior and Grendel is somewhat of a Satan type character, since Grendel wants to wipe out mankind. Pride is looked at as evil also, even though Beowulf had much pride in himself, he considered what he did selfless acts which was highly held up as good. Goodness is not only selfless acts though, but also the ability to pure and cleanse evil. After Beowulf slays Grendel, the poem says "(Beowulf) Had purged of evil the hall of Hrothgar, and cleansed of crime; the heart of the hero." All evil and crime done at Heorot was gone, and it was now ok to return to Heorot. Certain articles I have read about Beowulf say that, he was meant to win because Grendel was the descendant of Cain and God was not going to let the good guy die. Some other article also said that "evil never wins" but when you think about it evil does win sometimes because Grendel kills all the people in Heorot and Cain killed his brother. Evil does win sometimes.
When it comes to evil you tend to think of monsters, which play a very important part in this story. Some people are not sure if Grendel is monster or human, he is a child of Cain yet in the story it says that, he is described as being strong enough to grab thirty men and rush to his lair, which is not human. Just because Grendel is banished from society, does not mean he is a monster. But Grendel kills people and eats them, which if he is human, cannibalism is not that odd, even now days people perform endo-cannibalism. The only monsteristic part would be that he could kill so many people with out weapons, which is nonhuman of this time. Most men in the medieval times treated their weapons as a child. The other monster of the poem is the dragon that appears at the end. Unlike Grendel, we all know for a fact that the dragon is a monster. The dragon is the evil of money in the story, Beowulf died trying to kill the dragon and take the gold. When they are both dying the money is brought out, and it is corroded and worthless, this part of the story reminds me of a movie I once saw called There Goes the Neighborhood, about an upper class neighborhood and one of the house's has a pile of money buried under it. As two groups of people battle it out for the money, they come to realize that the money had turned to mush, but it was to late for one group of people because they end up going to jail for a really long time and the other group has just about destroyed their own house. Which goes to show the worthlessness of money.
Being a hero is one of the greatest aspects of Beowulf. Beowulf is definitely a hero, he saved all the people from Grendel an evil monstrous character. When comparing heroes of today to heroes of the past, I cannot really think of any heroes today. I mean there are great people in the world but I do not really consider anyone a hero. Sure if someone was to save my life I would have to say they were my hero, but no one person has single handily saved America. There are no real life Superman's that can stop giant monsters. Where as when you look at it, there are no monsters either. I mean we do not have a Batman or Spiderman in the world and we also do not have a Joker or Godzilla running around either. Maybe that is the way the world works out, when evil was out of control, God played more of a noticeable part. Where as now days we can pretty much take care of ourselves, with an invisible helping hand of god.
Beowulf has many different aspects to it, whether it is burials and celebrations, monsters and religion or good vs. evil. The great epic known as Beowulf has survived many years, and will surely last forever. Due to the fact, things with in Beowulf are still happening today. I truly wish that the writer of Beowulf was know so that he or she could be held up with the other great minds of the past.