Beowulf Characteral Archetypes

Topics: Beowulf, Carl Jung, Collective unconscious Pages: 3 (801 words) Published: October 28, 2014
Archetypes in Beowulf

Archetypes stir profound emotions in the reader because they awaken images stored in the collective unconscious. In Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowulf this is used in the form of character types. Beowulf is a hero and encounters many triumphs with different types of people on his journey in this epic poem. There are three archetypal characters in Beowulf that are particularly effective and intriguing. These are The Creature of Nightmare Grendel, The Mentor Hrothgar, and The Loyal Retainer Wiglaf. The characters are common experiences in the human psyche. The Creature of Nightmare is a monster from the deepest darkest part of the human psyche. Throughout Beowulf, Grendel’s actions and description accurately fits the archetype. The vivid language used in the poem illustrates Grendel as a monster. “The God-cursed brute was creating havoc:/greedy and grim he grabbed thirty men/from their resting places…/ (121-123)”. He’s also depicted as “a fiend out of hell/ (100)”. This passage acts as an illustration of the archetype in the poem because a demon that steals lives at a peaceful hour is what would happen in a nightmare. Grendel shares similarities with another dark creature from literature, Poseidon. He is known through Greek mythology as an almighty god but also is a monster. In the myth of Medusa, Poseidon took medusa’s virginity forcefully in the temple of Athena, had the blame put on her, and she was terribly punished. The acts he committed were iniquitous. What makes this archetype particularly effective and intriguing is the fact that these monsters are real; except they aren’t in the form of a nightmare or make believe gods. In addition to the Creature of Nightmare there is the Mentor. This individual acts as a teacher or consoler to the initiate. The fit for this archetype is Hrothgar. For the duration of the novel, he acts as role model to Beowulf consoling him to achieve greatness. Hrothgar depicts this archetype when he talks...
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