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Beowulf Essay

By Brennan45 Apr 24, 2013 1293 Words

In every culture, there are elements that define the way its society walks, talks, and acts. In Anglo-Saxon culture, there are four main beliefs. These beliefs are expressed in every day life as well as through poetry. Beowulf is an epic poem that was sung in a hall, it brings us back to the 4th century and is exemplary of the past. Beowulf brings a greater overall understanding of Anglo-Saxon culture. The Anglo-Saxons found these values very important, if a soldier embodied all of these values and attained fame, which was all he ever needed. However, in order to attain fame, one needed to abide by the ways of the culture. Among these specific values are heroism, bravery, and loyalty.

An important value in Anglo-Saxon culture is heroism, Beowulf shows his heroism in many of his gallant and courageous feats. In every good romance or princess movie, there is a damsel in distress and the hero that saves her from “sheer death”. In Beowulf everyone is the damsel and Beowulf himself is the hero. The stereotypical hero saves the woman of his dreams, but honestly that’s overrated when one can save the world. One of Beowulf’s mighty feats is killing the evil monster, Grendel, but he has to get to the Danes land before that is even remotely possible: “So Beowulf chose the mightiest men he could find, The Bravest and Best of the Geats, fourteen In All, and led them down to their boat” (ll. 119-122). Beowulf is going to travel to the land of the Danes to stop this treacherous monster, abominated by King Hrothgar, and put an end to the twelve years of weeping heard around the world. Once he reaches the sought after destination, he proceeds to speak with king Hrothgar and in doing so is challenged by his spoil, Unferth. When confronted, he proves his capabilities and shows that he has the characteristics of a true hero: “ I remained near him for five long nights, Until a flood swept us apart” (ll. 277-278). Beowulf stays near his friend, Brecca, because he knows he is a stronger swimmer. Beowulf swims with Brecca and kills the monsters in his path. Beowulf is a hero in that he saves Brecca from what is sure to be death and he is opening the waterways to anyone who wants to pass in the future. Unferth is proved wrong in his fruitless attempts of making Beowulf seem fool and instead showed his true strength and power proving he will be the man to kill Grendel. Hero, a man of distinguished courage or ability admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Beowulf fully embodies these qualities and can be considered the epitome of exemplary heroism.

A warrior without cowardice is a warrior worthy of attaining fame in Anglo-Saxon society, bravery is one of the utmost biggest beliefs. Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes, it can be anything from jumping off a super high rock or sacrificing oneself to war. Either way it takes a lot to do it and for that reason, one is brave. Beowulf was prepared for the next adventure ahead of him he knew what he was going to face, but Grendel didn’t: “ Had he met a man whose hands were harder”(l. 434). Grendel has never faced such a strong man before, a man so brave in attacking him. He is thrown off by the power of one man. Little does he know, this man is actually occult, an epic hero come to defeat when no one else could. Beowulf is awakened from his sleep to find Grendel had a hard hold on his neck, about to kill him. Beowulf is brave and fights without his sword, he is also attacked when he is most vulnerable and still manages to win. Wiglaf, Beowulf’s faithful follower, went into the battle with the dragon and stood up against the frightening flame-sprayer at all costs: “And only one of them Remained, stood there, miserable, remembering, As a good man must, what kinship should mean”(ll. 749-751). When Beowulf falls, as he is an old, feeble man now, Wiglaf bravely stands up to the beast. He and a group of other men had pledged their allegiance to him before he went into battle against the dragon who is terrorizing the land of the Geats. However, not being the strong, able man he was before, Beowulf is not capable of defeating this beast. For once in his life, the odds were not in his favor. Wiglaf stays when everyone else leaves and helps his beloved king. Wiglaf finds the warrior in him, big enough to win a war and fights off the dragon, being loyal to his king. He stands up to the dragon, something no mere mortal can do with ease and fights like a good man must. Bravery once again is a warrior’s strongest tool.

Loyalty plays a big factor Anglo-Saxon society, it is the full embodiment of faith and trust with which the culture is based on. Beowulf goes to the land of the Danes to help the King with the evil monster Grendel, who has been terrorizing the Dances for twelve long winters. He goes to stop the beast, but he also goes to pay back King Hrothgar for helping his father years ago. The first night in Herot, Grendel comes and finds Beowulf’s men, he eats a few and then gets to Beowulf, who wakes up and attacks him, which startles: Grendel. “All of Beowulf’s Band had jumped from their bands, ancestral swords raised and ready, determined To protect their prince if they could”(ll. 475-478). Contrary to their belief, swords and other metal human products will not work against Grendel’s furry coat. For he has bewitched all swords to not have any affect on his skin. Beowulf’s men jump to their feet, loyal to their prince and try to help, but their swords are useless, only Beowulf’s sheer man-power can defeat Grendel. He wins the battle for the King and in turn is adorned with gifts and other things as a thank you. Beowulf takes these and hands them our to his soldiers as a thank you to them for helping the best they could, even if it is to no avail. Later at the battle with the dragon, Wiglaf is the sole man to stay and help his king: “And we must go to him, while angry Flames burn at his flesh, help Our glorious King!” (ll. 778-780). Wiglaf prepares to be loyal to his King and helps him like her promised to, staying truthful to his oath. His fellow warriors, however, forget their promise and ran away like cowards, betraying two of the four main parts of Anglo-Saxon society. These are the men who can never achieve fame which is so sought after in their society. Wiglaf is the only true loyal when he stays behind. The Danes need a great leader, one who works for others instead of himself. Wiglaf only cares about the wellbeing of Beowulf, he forgets about himself and the thought of dying to help another. Beowulf, as King of the Geats, crowns him for being loyal in hopes of a steady nation to come, Whatever his greatness, Wiglaf was loyal, Beowulf believed in him.

Every society has a special, stereotypical factor that defines them to the rest of the world, whether it is good or bad, it is something to remember them by. The Anglo-Saxons were defined by heroism, bravery and loyalty. These morals and ethics were expressed through poetry about epic heroes. Beowulf was a hero who clearly demonstrated this set of values.

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