A Living Story: Symbolism in Beowulf

Topics: Beowulf, William Butler Yeats, Hroðgar Pages: 3 (939 words) Published: February 23, 2014
A Living Story
The saying “beauty is only skin deep” is used by the same readers who judge novels based on their covers. An unfamiliar book is meant to be read, reread, dog-eared, and annotated until its true beauty is unlocked. Much of that beauty is hidden between the lines in various symbols relatable to the reader. Only after experiencing and understanding modern symbolism can one fully appreciate the story in question. The epic Beowulf for example was simply an ancient poem until one scholar decided to take a closer look. Today’s readers are still discovering new meanings and symbols in the age-old text. The epic poem’s diverse symbolism is primarily seen in three main locations: Hrothgar’s hall, Grendel’s mere, and the dragon’s lair. When a king was crowned in Anglo-Saxon times, his responsibilities included, among other things, providing a mead-hall. The mead-hall was central to kinship and was often what brought a community together. When King Hrothgar built Heorot for his people, he intended it “to be a wonder of the world forever” (Beowulf line 70). Victor Chica wrote in “Home is Where the Heorot is” that Heorot has a dual purpose; it is both a literal structure and a metaphoric structure. Mead-halls in general served both purposes because they were the community’s center. This is a valid argument for Heorot specifically because the hall literally represents the Dane’s strength and endurance, as evidenced by lines 770 to 771 (Beowulf), “The hall clattered and hammered, but somehow survived the onslaught and kept standing.” Those words reinforce the idea of Heorot, and its people, standing strong “for twelve winters, seasons of woe” (Beowulf line 147). This time was a great trial for the Danes physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In a metaphoric sense, Heorot is the outpouring of learning, kinship, and loyalty. Those qualities are apparent in lines 88 to 91 (Beowulf), “… the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall… telling...
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