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Beowulf Essay

By Jonathanhuaman Jan 24, 2014 1005 Words
The Anglo-Saxon Hero
“ Quickly, the dragon came at him, encouraged as Beowulf fell back; its breath flared, And he suffered, wrapped around in swirling flames- a king, before, but now A beaten warrior.” (Lines 687-69). Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon epic poem that originated in England and was passed down orally for centuries. This old poem is the story of an epic hero named Beowulf that faces many challenges on the journey to glory and honor. In the epic Beowulf, heroic ideals and Anglo-Saxon ideology are shown through the actions and beliefs of Beowulf and Wiglaf.             To begin with, the strong belief in fate from the hero Beowulf portrays heroic ideals and Anglo-Saxon ideology. In the story Beowulf, the titular hero believes that fate should be the deciding factor in his battles. After having heard about what happened at Herot in Hrothgar’s kingdom, Beowulf and his men sail over to the land of the Danes to aid Hrothgar. Beowulf and his men are then escorted to Herot, where he meets with Hrothgar and boasts about his feats, and how he will vanquish Grendel. “My hands alone shall fight for me, struggle for life Against the monster. God must decide who will be given to deaths cold grip… Fate will unwind as it must!” (Lines 173-189). This quote portrays how strongly Beowulf believes in fate. He’s willing to put his life on the line and allow fate to be the deciding factor. Later in his heroic life, Beowulf shows his fateful beliefs once again. Before going off to slay a beast in the land of the Geats, Beowulf speaks to his people about his battle in the near future. “I mean to stand, not run from his shooting Flames, stand till fate decides Which of us wins” (Lines 620-622). Similar to the previous example, Beowulf puts the weight of his life on the hands of fate. He even speaks it out to his people and tells them that fate is the one that will make the final decision. Fate isn’t the only factor that portrays heroic ideals and Anglo-Saxon ideology in the epic Beowulf, the titular hero’s willing to face death also depicts these ideals.

Additionally, Beowulf’s willingness to face death portrays his heroic values and Anglo-Saxon beliefs. After defeating Grendel, a new challenge arose for Beowulf, Grendel’s mother. King Hrothgar went to Beowulf and explained what Grendel’s mother had done and how he needed him to slay her. He then accepted the challenge and went to find her. “He leaped into the lake, would not wait for anyone’s Answer” (Lines 450-451). This quote directly shows how Beowulf was not intimidated by Grendel’s mother. He didn’t hesitate to face her, he was willing to take on the beast known as Grendel’s mother. He was willing to face death when all odds were against him. Later on, Beowulf faces a monster in his own home in the land of the Geats. He prepares for battle and takes his men with him. He approaches the lair of the dragon, and lets out a battle cry. The dragon then comes out and challenges Beowulf. At this point most of his men have fled and ran for their lives. Now all that was left was Beowulf and the dragon. Beowulf could have easily surrendered or fled, seeing he was the only Geat warrior left, but he didn’t. He was willing to face death even when fate didn’t seem to be on his side. He took on the beast knowing that losing his life would not be unlikely. Not only did Beowulf’s willingness to face death contribute to the Beowulf’s illumination of heroic ideals and Anglo-Saxon ideology, but Beowulf’s and Wiglaf‘s loyalty did as well.

Finally, the loyalty shown by both Beowulf and Wiglaf depict heroic and Anglo-Saxon ideals. After killing Grendel for Hrothgar, Beowulf enjoys a celebration prepared by Hrothgar’s kingdom in Herot, but their celebration is short lived because Beowulf had another challenge to face. This challenge was Grendel’s mother. She swept into Herot during the soldier’s slumber and took one of Hrothgar’s closest friends. Hrothgar then went to Beowulf and asked for his assistance once again. The loyal Beowulf then accepted and went to slay her. Beowulf could have easily said no, he was not obligated to accept this challenge. But being the warrior he was, he stayed loyal to King Hrothgar and went to vanquish Grendel’s mother. In Beowulf’s last battle, the aging titular hero takes on an angered dragon. Beowulf and his men travel to the cave of the dragon and confront the monster. After seeing that the rest of Beowulf’s men were fleeing, Wiglaf goes to speak to them. “Who are we to carry home Our shields before we’ve slain his enemy And ours, to run back to our home with Beowulf So hard-pressed here? I swear that nothing He ever did deserved an end Like this, dying miserably and alone. Butchered by this savage beast.” (Lines 728-734). The fact that Wiglaf was the only one to go back to Beowulf, shows how loyal and righteous he was. Wiglaf returned to his king, when all odds were against both him and Beowulf. Wiglaf’s loyalty to Beowulf proved to be the right decision, because he was awarded the throne to the land of the Geats.

In the epic Beowulf, a man and his followers take on savage monsters and dragons in their journey for glory. This man is Beowulf, along with his follower Wiglaf, who both embody heroic traits and Anglo-Saxon ideology. In Beowulf the belief in fate, the willing to face death, and the presence of loyalty in Wiglaf and Beowulf all contribute to illuminating heroic ideals and Anglo-Saxon ideology throughout the epic. The early illumination of these two aspects in the epic Beowulf proves to be one of the defining factors that create the modern definition of the “hero”.

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