Beowulf is possibly the most famous example of Anglo-Saxon literature. In the tale, Beowulf helps the king of the Danes, Hroðgar, by defeating a monstrous being called Grendel. Until Beowulf showed up, Grendel had been wreaking havoc on the mead hall and the rest of the kingdom. Just a piece of fiction? Maybe not. The 6th century dining hall at the center of this epic has been found in Denmark.
Beowulf, The Legend
In the Beowulf story, Hroðgar had a ‘great and splendid hall’ created to share the gifts of God. The legend says craftsmen came from distant lands to build the hall and their skilled hands completed the construction quickly. This hall was called Heorot and it was the site of grand feasts, the gifting of gold rings, and the sounds of songs and poetry around a harp. But all the merrymaking annoyed Grendel, who snuck into the hall while Hroðgar and his warriors were resting…he devoured many of them.
Hroðgar receives wine from the Queen.
Veronica Parkes describes how the rest of the Beowulf story involving Grendel goes:
“As a result, Heorot is abandoned by those who are left and a call is made for aid. Beowulf answers this call and faces Grendel one on one, without any weapon. Beowulf’s men come to his aid in the heat of battle, but their swords cannot pierce the monster’s skin. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm from his body and the monster retreats to the marshes and it dies.”
That’s not even the end of it. Grendel had a mother and she sought revenge for her son’s death. Beowulf tracked her down, found she took Grendel’s body with her, and that her skin was also immune to his weapons. But he was able to defeat her with a sword found in her lair. The warrior decapitated Grendel’s mother and Grendel, then brought the heads to Hrothgar and was presented with many gifts at Heorot.
The Real Setting of Heorot
Heorot has now been named a real location. It was discovered in the old royal capital of Denmark, Lejre, 23 miles (37 km) west of modern Copenhagen by Tom Christensen and his team. The archaeologists found, excavated, and dated the building to the late 5th or early 6th century. They also managed to name the foods that were probably consumed at the grand feasts held in Lejre’s first royal hall.
- A Literary Treasure: The Oldest Surviving English Poem - Beowulf and His Epic Battles
- Viking feasting hall discovery resembles Beowulf hall of Heorot
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A History of Monsters, from Werewolves to Hippogriffs
A representation of Heorot. ( An Historian Goes to the Movies )
By analyzing the bones of hundreds of animals discovered at the site, the researchers showed that suckling pig, beef, mutton, goat meat, venison, goose, duck, chicken, and fish were all feasted on. They also found fragments of glass drinking vessels, pottery from England and Rhineland, and 40 pieces of bronze, gold, and silver jewelry.
Reflecting on the discovery , project director Dr. Christensen, curator of Denmark’s Roskilde Museum, said, “For the first time, archaeology has given us a glimpse of life in the key royal Danish site associated with the Beowulf legend.”
- Mysterious Labyrinth and Ritual Caves: Archaeologists dig up the Stone Age Past on Swedish Island
- The Story of Sif, Powerful Wife of Norse God Thor
- Song of the Nibelungs: The Epic Germanic Tale of Love, Death, and Revenge
Beowulf fighting Grendel’s mother beside Grendel’s body. (ndhill/ Deviant Art )
Is There More Truth to the Beowulf Story?
The find raises the question as to how much of the Beowulf story is legend and what may be truth. Historical records also state that the grand hall was abandoned due to Grendel’s attacks. If Grendel (literarily ‘the destroyer’) existed as a malevolent spirit causing disease and death, or was a fierce human enemy, is still unknown.
Another depiction of what Grendel may have looked like.
Riley Winters has explored this topic in a previous Ancient Origins article . She came to the conclusion that:
“Grendel is likely a version of a Scandinavian giant . While the Anglo-Saxon author—whoever he was—might have created his own version of a "monster" while placing the tale of Beowulf in Scandinavia, the numerous interactions with Viking forces in modern day England, Ireland, and Denmark make it possible that the author attempted to incorporate Scandinavian mythology in the text as well. Further, there is quite a bit of overlap between pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon gods and Norse ones.”
Either way, it is exciting to think that at least some of the Beowulf story is based on real life – as shown by the identification of the story’s legendary hall.
How Does "Beowulf" Reflect the Anglo-Saxon Culture?
The depictions of Anglo-Saxon culture in "Beowulf" include displays of strength, valor, honor and boastfulness of early epic traditions. Though many scholars believe that "Beowulf" was transcribed by a Christian monk, much of the pagan tradition that preceded Christianity was retained.
According to Article Myriad, "Beowulf" establishes a tradition of heroism, especially with respect to family. "Beowulf" is a construct of the oral story tradition and was performed in mead halls by poets and gleemen long before it was ever transcribed. While the hero in "Beowulf" was celebrated for his valor, he was also praised for his humility. He did not partake in corruption and refused the kingship when it was offered to him.
Anglo-Saxons were ruled by chieftains who maintained their stature through heroic acts of war. It was as important that the chieftain show generosity to his thanes by sharing in the spoils of war as it was for him to be victorious. Anglo-Saxons were tribal and blood feuds were common. Men were honor bound to avenge the death of a family member or face great shame. Feuds were often resolved by either paying for a death with "wergild," a man price, or by arranging for a peaceful settlement through marriage.
Beowulf: History, Legend, and Mythology
Although acknowledged as a foundational work of English literature, the complicated and allusive style of the longest epic poem in Old English often intimidates teachers and students alike. This digital collection will help educators to read and teach the work in a new way by illuminating the fascinating mixture of historical, legendary, and mythological material that come together in the poem. It turns to the literary heritage of Scandinavia and continental Europe to help us understand material that the Beowulf poet assumed the audience would already know, and it examine the historical events and figures that appear in the work.
Those reading Beowulf for the first time may be confused where and when the central action of the Old English poem takes place. Despite being composed in Anglo-Saxon England sometime after 500 CE and before 1000 CE, the tales recorded in Beowulf take place in Denmark, Sweden, and Frisia (an area now divided between Germany and the Netherlands) during the sixth century or before. To be clear, the poem deals with neither Anglo-Saxons (wrong location) nor Vikings (wrong time period).
The mixture of pagan and Christian elements in the poem can also be confusing. When the Anglo-Saxons first came to England from continental Europe in the early fifth century, they were polytheists who worshiped gods, goddesses, and other supernatural figures analogous to those known from Norse mythology. Our modern weekday names still show evidence of Anglo-Saxon paganism Wednesday is from the Anglo-Saxon Wōdnesdæg (“Woden’s day,” named for the god parallel to the Norse Odin), and Thursday derives from Þūnresdæg (“Thunor’s Day,” for the god Icelanders called Thor).
After the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity began in earnest with Pope Gregory I’s mission to England in 596, the last dynasty to hold on to old pagan ways converted in 686. By the time Beowulf was written down around the year 1000, the English had been Christians for over three hundred years. The poet, writing in a Christian age about ancient happenings, tells of the actions and speeches of his pagan subjects in a setting of Christian theology and morality. The two systems are often in conflict, and the tension between them provides some of the interest in reading the poem today.
This collection approaches Beowulf from four angles. First, the fascinating tale of the text itself is discussed. Second, historical elements in the poem are considered along with a mapping of its action. Third, legendary elements in Beowulf are discussed in relation to their appearances in other texts. Fourth, the poem’s mythological elements are examined in light of some literary parallels.
Please consider the following questions as you review the documents:
- How does understanding historical, legendary, and mythological elements in Beowulf deepen your understanding of the poet’s literary creation?
- How does the Beowulf poet use the specific elements discussed to comment on or enrich the meaning of the main plotline?
A Manuscript in Flames
The text of the Beowulf poem is preserved in a single source. It is now known as the Nowell Codex after the sixteenth-century antiquarian Laurence Nowell, who wrote his name and the year 1563 at the head of the manuscript formally titled Cotton Vitellius A.xv of the British Library in London. The poem begins on folio 132r of the manuscript, which also contains three prose texts (a homily on Saint Christopher, The Marvels of the East, and Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle) and the poem Judith.
Before the acquisition by Nowell, the early years of the manuscript’s history are unknown. In 1567, Nowell gave his collection of manuscripts to fellow antiquarian William Lambarde. Lambarde’s larger collection seems to have been acquired by yet another antiquary, Sir Robert Bruce Cotton, whose own collection became the foundation of the British Museum’s manuscript archive. The designation Cotton Vitellius A.xv comes from the codex’s connection to this collector, whose other acquisitions included the Lindisfarne Gospels, two original manuscripts of the Magna Carta, the only manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and many other important works.
In 1731, the location of the British Library collection of Cotton’s manuscripts was deemed a fire hazard, and the texts were temporarily stored at Ashburnham House in London. On the night of October 23, a fire occurred in this new location. Around twenty-five percent of the works in the collection were damaged or destroyed by the fire and the water used to fight it. The codex containing Beowulf was set ablaze, and the poem may have been forever lost had not a heroic librarian grabbed the smoking text and thrown it out of the window. The top and outer edges of the book’s pages were destroyed by the fire, as can be seen in photographs and reproductions of the text. The damage resulted in the loss of letters and words along the edges of the surviving codex.
In 1787, more than half of a century after the disastrous fire, Icelandic historian Grímur Jónsson Thorkelín commissioned a transcript of Beowulf for his research into Danish history as part of his service as National Archivist of Denmark. The person who made the copy – possibly James Matthews of the British Museum staff – was unfamiliar with the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) language. This was actually a benefit, since he faithfully copied the text by rote rather than following the contemporary scholarly practice of “correcting” the text to what he thought it should say.
Thorkelín subsequently made a copy of the manuscript himself. The codex seems to have crumbled further even as the first copy was being made, since the first copy includes text from the page edges that are missing in the second. Scholars have used these two copies in conjunction with the surviving manuscript and nineteenth-century copies to reconstruct the parts of the text lost through the fire and subsequent damage.
The manuscript can be dated to around the year 1000, but the poem is generally believed to have been composed much earlier. It cannot have been created in its final form before the sixth century, when the latest historical events that it describes took place. Scholars from various related fields continue to forward arguments for one particular period of composition or another, with some favoring the early Anglo-Saxon period and some asserting a date as late as the tenth century. The various theories have great learning and evidence behind them, but the past can be as much of an undiscovered country as the future.
- How would modern culture be different if the Beowulf manuscript had been lost in the Ashburnham House fire? Why is the poem so important?
- J.R.R. Tolkien’s essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” is widely considered by scholars to be a work that transformed how the poem was read and studied. The author of The Lord of the Rings concludes that the poem is simultaneously universal and culturally bound. He asserts that the poem “moves with the thoughts of all men concerning the fate of human life and efforts” and “surpasses the dates and limits of historical periods,” yet he also insists that it is “written in a language that after many centuries has an essential kinship with our own, it was made in this land [England], and moves in our northern world beneath our northern sky, and for those who are native to that tongue and land, it must ever call with a profound appeal.” How well does this somewhat contradictory assessment hold up today, in the multicultural twenty-first century society of the United States? Can any work of literature express the thoughts of “all men”? Does the poem have a “profound appeal” to young readers outside England?
Of Halls and Kings
Although composed in Anglo-Saxon England, the action of Beowulf takes place in Denmark, Sweden, and Frisia. In the poem, Beowulf himself is a hero of the Geats (Old English Gēatas), a group with a name cognate to the Old Norse Gautar. They inhabit what is now southern Sweden yet are a distinct people in conflict with the Swedes (OE Swēon) to the north.
Hrothgar’s hall Heorot, where Grendel makes his bloody attacks, is now considered to have been located in the town of Lejre on the Danish island of Zealand. Parallel descriptions in multiple medieval Scandinavian texts line up with recent archaeological work that uncovered remains of halls and burial mounds in Lejre dating back to the mid-sixth century, around the time of the last historical events described in Beowulf.
These events center on the failed raid led by Hygelac, the hero’s Geatish king. According to lines 1202-1214 of the poem, Hygelac is killed in battle after he and his troops attacks Frisia. The account describes Hygelac’s defense of the treasures he had won and borne over the sea, his death at the hands of the Franks, and his and the other Geats’ corpses being looted of their booty on the field of battle by their enemies.
A strikingly similar passage appears in the Frankish history of Gregory of Tours, a sixth-century historian and bishop. In the third book of his history, he briefly describes the fatal raid of the Danish king Chlochilaich on Frankish territory. This figure has long been associated with the Geatish king Hygelac of Beowulf, and the details of both accounts indeed run in parallel. When the raiders attempt to flee back over the sea with their raided goods, the king is defeated on the shore by the Franks, and the stolen treasures are recovered.
The historical raid and death of Chlochilaich, despite his identification as a Dane by Gregory, has been linked with Hygelac’s raid in Beowulf since the discovery of the parallel by Danish scholar N.F.S. Grundtvig in 1815. The events Gregory describes are thought to have occurred sometime between the years 516 and 531, and it is this dating that establishes the earliest point of composition for the poem it logically could not have been composed before the historical event it describes took place. Recent scholarship, however, has questioned the identification of Hygelac and Chlochilaich even as it has challenged the idea that the poem records details of discrete historical events.
On the other hand, Beowulf does recurrently refer to historical and semi-historical people. The appearance of a large cast of secondary characters is largely due to what has been called the “interlace” structure of the poem. In this analysis, the multiple asides and digressions from the main storyline weave through the text in a manner analogous to the way that interlace designs weave in and out of Anglo-Saxon visual art in metal, stone, and manuscript illumination.
Approximately seven hundred of the poem’s verses deal with episodes aside from the main plot twenty-two percent of the work branches off from the story of Beowulf and the monsters. This branching into tales that explain, illuminate, comment, or otherwise add to the central focus of the poem shows a technique strongly reminiscent to that of the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa, great heroic epics of India, which likewise take regular detours into side-stories and related tales.
In addition to the story of Hygelac’s death, Beowulf tells of the fight at Finnsburg, another seemingly historical conflict between Danes and Frisians, but one for which no clear non-literary analogue has been found. Other figures seem to be based on or otherwise connected to historical figures: Eormenric to a fourth-century king of the East Goths and Offa to a semi-historical fourth-century king of the Angles.
The presence of figures such as these and the appearance or mention of real-world peoples including Danes, Franks, Frisians, and Swedes gives the poem an air of historicity, even if the stories themselves are not demonstrably historical.
- Locate the identifiable locales of Beowulf on the map included here. How large is the area covered? How long would it have taken to travel between the sites of the poem’s major events?
- Why would an Anglo-Saxon audience have been interested in events taking place long before in the faraway locations described in the poem’s historical and semi-historical episodes?
How to Kill Your Dragon
Heroes of legend are also woven into Beowulf‘s tapestry. The poem’s Finnsburg episode features a character named Hengest who many scholars have identified with Hengist and Horsa, legendary brothers credited in medieval sources as leading the fifth-century Germanic invasion of Britain and founding the Jutes’ kingdom of Kent in southeastern England. The most interesting intersection of the poem with outside legends, however, centers on Beowulf’s fight with the dragon.
The hero’s battle with the beast begins at line 2538. This passage and those directly after have been mined by generations of authors, artists, and game designers. The encounter and battle with the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit has many elements taken directly from the poem: the cup stolen from the treasure hoard, the dragon angrily searching for the thief outside his lair, the fiery flying attacks on the surrounding countryside at night, and the dispatching of the dragon by – in the words of Beowulf – striking “the violent stranger rather lower.” The similarity to the medieval source is no coincidence J.R.R. Tolkien was a noted scholar of Old English literature.
In one of his lectures, Tolkien pointed out Beowulf’s fatal tactical mistake, calling a frontal assault on a dragon “the wrong way to do it.” The hero heads alone into the stony lair of the treasure-hoarding monster, tells the dragon he wants to fight him, and draws his sword against the beast. This is not great dragon-fighting strategy. Beowulf’s weapon fails, and the enraged dragon spews flame against him as his terrified retainers abandon him to hide in the woods.
Beowulf’s kinsman Wiglaf bravely joins the fight at line 2661. The poem’s description of the two heroes and the dragon taking turns attacking and causing damage seems a precedent for the ordered turn-taking in combat developed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson for their Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game in the early 1970s – a system later adopted by video games. The dragon burns Beowulf’s shield until nothing remains but the metal boss, and the aged king again attacks the creature’s head with his sword, which promptly shatters. The dragon bites him in the neck, and it is left to Wiglaf to find “the right way to do it” and strike the beast’s soft underbelly. As the dragon’s flames die down, Beowulf gives the monster a final blow with his knife “through the middle” before falling himself.
The other famous dragon of Northern European legend appears in Iceland’s thirteenth-century Saga of the Volsungs. The hero Sigurd dispatches the hoard-guarding dragon Fafnir in a clever fashion, avoiding the fatal mistake of Beowulf’s frontal assault. He does not develop the strategy himself, but is advised by “an old man with a long beard,” actually the god Odin disguised as a wanderer who irregularly appears to offer advice and help the tale’s heroes– a clear model for Tolkien’s Gandalf.
Rather than challenge the dragon directly, Sigurd follows the advice of Odin and his own foster-father, the devious dwarf Regin, and digs ditches on the heath that the dragon crosses to drink water. Sitting in the central ditch, Sigurd stabs his sword up into the soft area under the dragon’s shoulder. Blood pours into the other ditches instead of drowning Odin’s protégé. Between the two famous medieval accounts of dragon-slaying heroes, we have clear examples of the right and wrong way to fight the beasts.
The Icelandic tale appears in Beowulf, but in miniature and with significant differences from the saga version. Beginning at line 867, the Anglo-Saxon poem tells of a related dragon killer, but without the presence of god or dwarf. The action is moved back a generation, so that Sigmund – Sigurd’s father in the Icelandic saga – kills the beast. A storyteller in Heorot recites the tale at the feast celebrating Grendel’s routing. Foreshadowing Beowulf’s own battle, the episode tells of Sigmund killing a dragon guarding a treasure hoard as he fights him alone under stone, without the help of his nephew and companion Fitela.
In the Icelandic saga, Sinfjotli – Fitela’s equivalent – is both Sigmund’s nephew and son. As in Beowulf, they are companions in adventuring. Jesse L. Byock argues that “Sigmund appears to be the original dragon slayer, and Sigurd’s filial connection with the old hero is probably an expansion of the legend.” Sigmund and Sinfjotli are likewise paired in a poem on the death of the Norse ruler Eirik Bloodaxe, in which Odin tells them to greet the king on his arrival in Valhalla, the god’s home for deceased heroes.
The Anglo-Saxon Beowulf stands in an interesting relationship with Icelandic legend. The intertextuality becomes more complex with the addition of Siegfried (Middle High German Sîvrit), dragon-killing hero of the Nibelungenlied, a German poem written down around 1200. Here, Sigemunt is Siegfried’s father but – like Sigmund in the Icelandic saga – plays no role in his son’s killing of the dragon. In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic sources, the treasure hoard won by the hero of the German epic is unconnected to the dragon but is instead taken in a separate adventure involving princes, giants, and a dwarf with a cloak of invisibility. The Sigurd/Siegfried character may have roots in the historical Sigibert (535-575), a king of the Franks whose complicated family relationships parallel those of the literary figures. The dragon episode may have been grafted onto stories of the human hero in the centuries after his death.
Familiarity with the Icelandic and German texts can enrich understanding of Beowulf by making up in some small way for our lack of knowledge of lore that would likely have been known by the poem’s original audiences. Knowing the legend of Sigurd, the brief allusion by the Anglo-Saxon poet to the great dragon-slayer of the north – even though displaced by a generation – becomes something more than just another aside full of strange names. The weight of the foreshadowing becomes heavier for modern readers who understand the allusions.
- Read passages about facing dragons in books by authors such as Tolkien, Martin, Cowell – or even in Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks. How do the modern works compare to the source material in Beowulf and Saga of the Volsungs?
- What other examples in literature, film, and gaming can you find of battles with monsters that follow the models of these early literary works? What elements remain constant in the various examples, and what elements vary from one to the next?
- Compare the passages about Sigmund, Sigurd, and Siegfried in Beowulf, Saga of the Volsungs, and the Nibelungenlied. What do the similarities and differences suggest about continuity and variation in literary ideas of the dragon?
Thor and the Ungrateful Dead
Like Beowulf, the Norse god Thor battles a serpentine enemy by choosing “the wrong way to do it.” While fighting the dragon head-on, Beowulf receives his death-wound. After the monster falls, “the wound which the earth-dragon had inflicted on him earlier began to burn and swell straight away he found that the poison within welled up with deadly evil in his breast” (lines 2711-2715). This mutual destruction parallels a key passage in what we now call the Norse myths, which were once religious tales that were the common inheritance of the Scandinavian tribes portrayed in the Beowulf poem and of the poet’s pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors
The Old Norse mythological poems of the Poetic Edda mostly come from the Codex Regius, a manuscript compilation of mythological and heroic poems written down in Iceland in the 1270s. The collection’s first poem is Völuspá (“Prophecy of the Seeress”), arguably the single most important surviving composition recording Norse cosmological concepts. It contains an account of Ragnarök (“Doom of the Powers”), the last battle between various forces in the mythological universe.
In verse 53, Thor faces his great enemy, the World Serpent. The god is referred to as the child of Odin and the earth goddess (Old Norse Hlóðyn and Fjörgyn). Like Beowulf, he is a protector of the community – the “shrine-guarder of Midgard” (Old Norse miðgarðr, cognate with Beowulf’s Old English middengeard, the source of Tolkien’s Middle-earth).
After he slays the enormous serpent – large enough to encircle the world of humans – Thor “steps nine paces… failing.” In his Edda of approximately 1220, Icelandic antiquarian Snorri Sturluson expands on the verse: “Thor will be victorious over the Midgard serpent and will step away from it nine paces. Then he will fall to the ground dead from the poison which the serpent will spit at him.”
As in the Anglo-Saxon poem, it is not a battle-wound that kills the hero it is the poison of the monsters that ends both Beowulf and Thor after their enemies have fallen. Danish scholar Axel Olrik makes a distinction between two types of dragon slayers: one who fights to win a treasure hoard (Sigurd type) and one who fights to protect a people (Thor type). In both motive and manner of dying, Beowulf is aligned with the mythological archetype of the Norse god.
The dragon is not the only monster Beowulf faces. In the poem’s first part, he battles Grendel and his mother. In line 726, the younger monster glares at Heorot with gleaming eyes, filled with wicked glee at the prospect of murdering and eating the warriors inside. Before engaging Grendel, the hero publicly declares that he will use no sword. Instead, he grapples with the monster and rips his arm from its socket.
After Grendel’s mother attacks the men in the hall (1279), Beowulf follows her tracks to a serpent-infested pool (1399), dives in (1492), and fights her in her submerged hall (1518). When the sword given to him by Unferth fails, he battles the mother by hand. Facing defeat, he is saved by the discovery of an enormous ancient sword crafted by giants (1557). After he cuts off her head, he finds Grendel’s corpse and likewise decapitates it (1584).
Several elements of these encounters parallel those in Icelandic tales of draugar (singular draugr), undead corpses that attack any who enter their barrows and sometimes venture out to harass the living. In the Saga of Egil One-Hand and Asmund Berskerker-Slayer, Aran is buried in a mound that is – like the underwater hall of Beowulf – filled with weapons and other valuable goods (see images in this section). Like Grendel, Aran gorily feasts like a beast, bloodily devouring hawk, hound, and horse before ripping off the ears of his friend Aran, who unwisely keeps his dead friend company in the barrow. To permanently lay the walking corpse to rest, Asmund does as Beowulf does to both Grendel and his mother, and cuts off its head.
Further parallels to Beowulf are in the story of Thráin, recorded around 1400 in a set of rímur (Old Norse “rhymes”), long narrative poems of Iceland. After being buried with treasures in a mound, the draugr Thráin fights warriors with his nails, as Grendel and his mother do. Inside the barrow, the hero Hrómund finds “the famous sword Mistiltein [Old Norse mistelteinn, “mistletoe”] from where it was hanging on a pillar.” Like Beowulf does with his monsters, Hrómund fights Thráin hand-to-hand before cutting off his head with the sword found in the lair.
As with the legendary tales of dragon-slaying heroes, the modern reader’s understanding of the Anglo-Saxon poem can be greatly enriched by placing the work in dialogue with other texts. There are more parallels to be drawn between Grendel, his mother, and draugar, but these examples show how the strange monsters of Beowulf can be understood in light of the zombie-like creatures that inhabit burial mounds and bloodily feast upon living warriors. Both as a means of digging deeper into the ancient cultural resonances of the poem and as a corrective to postmodern retellings that portray Grendel as a sympathetic figure, knowledge of the wider mythologies can make this complex poem more meaningful to today’s audiences.
- How can Axel Olrik’s distinction between Sigurd-type and Thor-type dragon slayers be applied to characters in other works? How can it be applied to historical figures?
- The draugar of the Icelandic sagas are literary ancestors of the zombies and vampires in today’s popular culture. What further parallels can you find between these frightening creatures and the hall-attacking monsters of Beowulf?
- The Nowell codex British Museum Cotton Vitellius A.XV, second ms., edited by Kemp Malone., 1963
- Beowulf the monsters and the critics, 1937
- Map of Denmark &c., 1821
- The History of the Franks, 1974
- Beowulf, 1932
- Völsunga saga
- Edda Sæmundar
- Beowulf, 1932
- “They Who Await the Second Death: A Study in the Icelandic Romantic Sagas”, 1926
Dronke, Ursula, trans. The Poetic Edda, Volume II: Mythological Poems. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.
Byock, Jesse L., trans. Saga of the Volsungs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Edwards, Cyril. The Nibelungenlied. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Fulk, R.D., trans. The Beowulf Manuscript. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2010.
Fulk, R.D., Robert E. Bjork, and John D. Niles, eds. Klaeber’s Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.
Gould, Chester Nathan. “They Who Await the Second Death: A Study in the Icelandic Romantic Sagas.” Scandinavian Studies 9 (1926): 167, 201.
Lavoisne, M. A Complete Genealogical, Historical, Chronological, and Geographical Atlas. Philadelphia: M. Carey and Son, 1820.
Leonard, William Ellery, trans. and Rockwell Kent, ill. Beowulf. New York: Random House, 1932.
Malone, Kemp, ed. The Nowell Codex: British Museum Cotton Vitellius A. XV, 2. ms. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1963.
Long and Short Essays on Beowulf Epic Hero for Students and Kids in English
We are providing students with a sample long essay of 500 words and a short essay of 150 words on the topic Beowulf Epic Hero for reference.
Long Essay on Beowulf Epic Hero 500 Words in English
Long Essay on Beowulf Epic Hero is usually given to classes 7, 8, 9, and 10.
There are some specific characteristics that one should embody before being called an epic hero. And the poem Beowulf is about one such epic hero of the same name. In the poem, Beowulf suggests that he could become a fantastic person by putting other things before his necessities. Others consider Beowulf to be a solid, helpful and courageous individual, which is why he can be called a genuine hero.
Epic heroes are viewed as superhuman characters because of the great and rare qualities they possess. Some admirable values that society believes epic heroes should possess are strength, courage, intelligence, and resourcefulness. Throughout the poem, Beowulf’s energy, courageous characters and fearlessness was very evident. Beowulf possesses characteristics of an epic conqueror which can lead by his bravery, performance of skills, royal duty and durable reputation. Beowulf becomes familiar with the idea of being famous because he was able to defeat and bravely kill Grendel and his mother and also the Dragon.
Beowulf considered defending his people as and imperial responsibility as a model. The beginning of him as an epic hero is when he showed his epic skills and bravery in defeating Grendel. Beowulf was able to defeat Grendel without any body armour and sword, which is a prove to his people that he is clever and courageous. While fighting the epic battle with the Dragon, Beowulf was more than willing to give up his own life to slaughter the Dragon and protect his people. Beowulf was famous amongst his people for his bravery, but he was looking for a quest and more fame. Beowulf’s power allowed him to control the fight, but it also made him arrogant.
Beowulf’s honour surpasses the average person’s and his words and actions show for it. Beowulf was able to defeat Grendel and his mother, the Troll wife because he was self-assured. Beowulf felt no fear even when his enemy overpowered him he was confident in fighting the Dragon alone. According to the Anglo-Saxons, Beowulf can be considered an epic hero and a model human as he consistently demonstrates several characteristics such as leadership, glory, physical superiority, bravery and honour. Beowulf knew that he was not that young man with immense strength when he was fighting the Dragon, but that didn’t stop him from fighting even when Beowulf knew he wouldn’t be able to defeat the Dragon.
At the end of the poem, the people from Beowulf’s kingdom are upset, and they promised that his kingdom will always remember and respect him as an epic hero this shows how much people respected and loved him during his time which is a major trait of an epic hero. Beowulf demonstrates his ability and courage to his people, along with his force and survival skills by slaughtering Grendel and the Dragon.
Even when Beowulf knew that at the end of his battle with the Dragon, he would possibly die, his royal duty as the king of his kingdom motivates him to keep on fighting the Dragon.
Short Essay on Beowulf Epic Hero 150 Words in English
Short Essay on Beowulf Epic Hero is usually given to classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
The heroic characteristics during the Anglo-Saxon times were possessed by Beowulf, the main protagonist of the poem of the same name, which made him an epic hero. Beowulf values other things before his own needs which shows that he is a great man.
Beowulf, like all other epic heroes, owns the heroic qualities like intelligence, superhumans like strength, great bravery and resourcefulness. The epic heroes have strong esteem for the values of their society, and they usually suffer severe pain, but in the end, they gain a victory from any battle just like Beowulf did. Beowulf’s strength, fearlessness and courage are the evidence that has courageous traits. Another heroic trait of Beowulf was his ability to put his people’s well-being before his own and abide his royal duties. He risks his own life for his society when he decides to kill the Dragon for his people. Through all his grand adventures, he proved that he is truly an epic hero due to which his people hailed him.
10 Lines on Beowulf Epic Hero in English
- Beowulf is a poem which glorifies the Anglo-Saxon concept of heroism.
- The leading heroic character of the Beowulf poem is Beowulf himself.
- Beowulf appears as a hero who is strong, noble, mighty and bold.
- Beowulf is a legend in his era, and he is very loyal to his leader Hygelac.
- Beowulf’s heroic traits, combined with wisdom and power, gave him an upper hand while fighting his enemies.
- Beowulf used his strengths and powers to maintain peace, avenge wrongs and restore order.
- Beowulf was able to become a king based on the heroic traits he possessed.
- Beowulf readily threw his life on the line to protect his people even when he knew he might die in the battle.
- All the people around him respected his qualities due to which they promised even after his death to remember him as an epic hero.
- Beowulf’s heroic regulations required him to reply to every test of bravery and to remain a hero to the end.
FAQ’s on Beowulf Epic Hero Essay
What can be considered as Beowulf’s weakness?
The weakness possessed by Beowulf is his pride and ego, which makes him accept challenges alone quite unwisely.
What sort of hero is Beowulf?
Beowulf is a hero who can defeat all the evil creatures in his times. The praises and encounters reveal Beowulf as the most powerful and strongest warrior of that time.
How was Beowulf praised?
Beowulf is praised as a hero with a long tenure as a king who follows the warrior code of values. He acts as the society dictates him by slaying what is seemingly destroying society.
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Beowulf, heroic poem, the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic. It deals with events of the early 6th century and is believed to have been composed between 700 and 750. Although originally untitled, it was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, whose exploits and character provide its connecting theme. There is no evidence of a historical Beowulf, but some characters, sites, and events in the poem can be historically verified. The poem did not appear in print until 1815. It is preserved in a single manuscript that dates to circa 1000 and is known as the Beowulf manuscript (Cotton MS Vitellius A XV) .
What is Beowulf?
Beowulf is a heroic poem, considered the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic. It deals with events of the early 6th century CE and is believed to have been composed between 700 and 750. Although originally untitled, it was later named after the Scandinavian hero Beowulf, whose exploits and character provide its connecting theme.
Where does Beowulf take place?
Beowulf takes place in early 6th-century Scandinavia, primarily in what is known today as Denmark and Sweden.
Who was Beowulf written by?
The author of Beowulf is unknown. It is possible that the poem was composed by and transmitted between several different poets before it was preserved in a single manuscript that dates to about 1000.
What does Beowulf present to Hrothgar?
Upon his return to Heorot, Beowulf presents to King Hrothgar Grendel’s decapitated head and the jeweled hilt of the sword he used to kill Grendel’s mother.
Was Beowulf real?
There is no evidence of a historical Beowulf, but other characters, sites, and events in the poem can be historically verified. For example, the poem’s Danish King Hrothgar and his nephew Hrothulf are generally believed to have been based on historical figures.
Beowulf falls into two parts. It opens in Denmark, where King Hrothgar’s splendid mead hall, Heorot, has been ravaged for 12 years by nightly visits from an evil monster, Grendel, who carries off Hrothgar’s warriors and devours them. Unexpectedly, young Beowulf, a prince of the Geats of southern Sweden, arrives with a small band of retainers and offers to cleanse Heorot of its monster. Hrothgar is astonished at the little-known hero’s daring but welcomes him, and, after an evening of feasting, much courtesy, and some discourtesy, the king retires, leaving Beowulf in charge. During the night Grendel comes from the moors, tears open the heavy doors, and devours one of the sleeping Geats. He then grapples with Beowulf, whose powerful grip he cannot escape. He wrenches himself free, tearing off his arm, and leaves, mortally wounded.
The next day is one of rejoicing in Heorot. But at night as the warriors sleep, Grendel’s mother comes to avenge her son, killing one of Hrothgar’s men. In the morning Beowulf seeks her out in her cave at the bottom of a mere and kills her. He cuts the head from Grendel’s corpse and returns to Heorot. The Danes rejoice once more. Hrothgar makes a farewell speech about the character of the true hero, as Beowulf, enriched with honours and princely gifts, returns home to King Hygelac of the Geats.
The second part passes rapidly over King Hygelac’s subsequent death in a battle (of historical record), the death of his son, and Beowulf’s succession to the kingship and his peaceful rule of 50 years. But now a fire-breathing dragon ravages his land and the doughty but aging Beowulf engages it. The fight is long and terrible and a painful contrast to the battles of his youth. Painful, too, is the desertion of his retainers except for his young kinsman Wiglaf. Beowulf kills the dragon but is mortally wounded. The poem ends with his funeral rites and a lament.
Beowulf belongs metrically, stylistically, and thematically to a heroic tradition grounded in Germanic religion and mythology. It is also part of the broader tradition of heroic poetry. Many incidents, such as Beowulf’s tearing off the monster’s arm and his descent into the mere, are familiar motifs from folklore. The ethical values are manifestly the Germanic code of loyalty to chief and tribe and vengeance to enemies. Yet the poem is so infused with a Christian spirit that it lacks the grim fatality of many of the Eddaic lays or the sagas of Icelandic literature. Beowulf himself seems more altruistic than other Germanic heroes or the ancient Greek heroes of the Iliad. It is significant that his three battles are not against men, which would entail the retaliation of the blood feud, but against evil monsters, enemies of the whole community and of civilization itself. Many critics have seen the poem as a Christian allegory, with Beowulf the champion of goodness and light against the forces of evil and darkness. His sacrificial death is not seen as tragic but as the fitting end of a good (some would say “too good”) hero’s life.
That is not to say that Beowulf is an optimistic poem. The English critic J.R.R. Tolkien suggests that its total effect is more like a long, lyrical elegy than an epic. Even the earlier, happier section in Denmark is filled with ominous allusions that were well understood by contemporary audiences. Thus, after Grendel’s death, King Hrothgar speaks sanguinely of the future, which the audience knows will end with the destruction of his line and the burning of Heorot. In the second part the movement is slow and funereal: scenes from Beowulf’s youth are replayed in a minor key as a counterpoint to his last battle, and the mood becomes increasingly sombre as the wyrd (fate) that comes to all men closes in on him.
Beowulf has often been translated into modern English renderings by Seamus Heaney (1999) and Tolkien (completed 1926 published 2014) became best sellers. It has also been the source for retellings in text—John Gardner’s Grendel (1971), for example, which takes the point of view of the monster—and as movies.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.
Theme Of Gift Giving In Beowulf
This show of gratitude from Hrothgar shows how thankful and impressed he is with Beowulf. Riches and treasures given from the King aren’t granted to everyone so the gifts he bestows upon Beowulf should be received with great kindness and respect. Beowulf doesn’t keep all the gifts from Hrothgar for himself. Beowulf takes them and upon returning to Geatland, gives some to his own king, Hygelac. Where it is apparent how much of a noble warrior Beowulf is.&hellip
Beowulf: The Anglo-Saxons’ action hero
It’s the ultimate Anglo-Saxon epic: a mighty tale of war, vengeance and monster-battling which, a millennium later, inspired JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. But how far is Beowulf rooted in history? Eleanor Parker answers key questions on the poem
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Published: October 7, 2019 at 9:00 am
Beowulf is an epic tale that continues to fire the imaginations of readers a millennium after it was written. Why is the poem still so relevant today?
Since it was first translated into modern English in the 19th century, Beowulf has become by far the best-known piece of Anglo-Saxon literature. It has inspired movies, novels and even comic books there seems to be no limit to the ways the story can be reimagined. Furthermore, it was perhaps the single greatest formative influence on JRR Tolkien, which means it has played a huge part in the development of the modern fantasy genre, from The Lord of the Rings right through to Game of Thrones.
When and where was Beowulf written?
The short answer is we don’t know, other than that it was in Anglo-Saxon England. The dating and origins of Beowulf are much discussed but still unresolved, though many theories have been put forward. We know the poem was set down in a manuscript around AD 1000, and was probably first composed many years earlier – perhaps as early as the eighth century. Some aspects of it might also have existed in oral tradition before the text reached its surviving form, but we can only speculate about that.
What happens in the poem?
Beowulf is set in early medieval Denmark and Sweden around the sixth century AD. The story begins with a king of the Danes, Hrothgar, whose royal hall is being attacked by a monster, a shadowy fen-dwelling creature named Grendel. The monster is enraged by the sound of mirth in the hall, and comes at night to capture and eat Hrothgar’s men. Hrothgar, an old, respected king, is in despair, until a young warrior turns up from across the sea to offer help in defeating the intruder. He is Beowulf, a Geat (the Geats lived in what is now southern Sweden), and he wants to prove himself by taking on this challenge.
Lying in wait by night in the hall, Beowulf surprises Grendel, wrestling the demon and tearing off its arm with his bare hands. The wounded creature retreats, and everyone thinks the threat is over – but they are celebrating too soon. Grendel’s mother comes next, thirsting to avenge the harm done to her son, and this time Beowulf has to descend into her watery lair to fight her. After a vicious struggle he manages to triumph, rescuing Hrothgar and his people.
Triumphant, Beowulf returns to his home laden with rewards from a grateful Hrothgar. He eventually becomes king there, but after many years he faces another threat, this time to his own people, in the shape of a dragon. Though now an old man, Beowulf decides to take on the dragon himself and succeeds in killing it and winning its treasure. But in doing so he is also slain. The poem ends with his funeral and the grief of his people at the loss of their beloved king.
Is Beowulf based on real historical events?
The poem’s main story – of Beowulf and the monsters he fights – is of course fictional, but some of the people it mentions were real figures. Beowulf is said to be related to a Geatish king named Hygelac, who is known from other sources to have lived in the early sixth century. Beowulf himself does not appear in any other texts, but many of the other characters feature in semi-legendary histories and sagas about medieval Scandinavia, while some were also considered to be the ancestors of Anglo-Saxon and Danish kings.
And, of course, the peoples mentioned in the poem – the Danes, Geats and Swedes – are very much real. Though the story contains fantastical elements, it takes place in the real world, in a fairly well-defined historical period, which makes it a compelling mixture of history and legend.
Why might the poem have entertained an Anglo-Saxon audience?
The story itself has a powerful appeal, with the tension of the fights with the monsters, the poignancy of Beowulf’s death and the relationships between the characters. The poem’s language is also beautifully lyrical, with evocative descriptions of the mead hall, Beowulf’s sea journeys and the dragon’s treasure hoard.
But Beowulf is not just an exciting and well-told story. It explores themes that are widespread in Anglo-Saxon literature, such as the human experience of time and loss, both within individual lives and collectively, across centuries. It celebrates and critiques the glamour and danger of a masculine warrior society, where violent deeds can win glory but also cause terrible harm.
A key aspect of the poem’s appeal to an Anglo-Saxon audience would have been its historical and geographical setting. Many Anglo-Saxon elites believed they were descended from settlers who had come to England from the very parts of northern Europe where Beowulf takes place, around the time the poem is set. Whether or not this was true, it was a culturally important myth, and it probably meant Beowulf was understood to be in some sense a story about the ancestors of the poet and his audience.
Though the story is fantastical, it takes place in the real world – it’s a compelling mix of fact and legend
What happened to Beowulf after the Anglo-Saxon period?
We simply don’t know. We don’t have any evidence to show that Beowulf was known at all between the Anglo-Saxon era and the 16th century. The manuscript surfaced in the Elizabethan era, bounced around the collections of a few antiquities scholars, and was damaged in a library fire in 1731.
The first complete translation into modern English was by John Mitchell Kemble in 1837. Scholars immediately recognised the poem’s importance and were keen to pronounce it an epic of English literature, but many did not know what to make of it: some were puzzled by its allusive, digressive style, while others criticised its mixing of legend and history. Though intensively studied by Victorian scholars, it did not become widely read by non- specialists until the 20th century.
A key turning-point was the championship of JRR Tolkien, whose 1936 lecture Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics trumpeted its literary value. Meanwhile, the poem’s dragon and treasure-hoard, its evocation of a lost past, and its elegiac tone had a profound influence on Tolkien’s own imagination as he wrote The Lord of the Rings. In the second half of the 20th century, translations by well-known writers such as Seamus Heaney brought the poem to a wider audience. Though it was slow to gain popularity, Beowulf has now been translated more than 300 times. Its manuscript is housed in the British Library.
What can Beowulf tell us about Anglo- Saxon culture?
In some ways, the poem is describing a society that had already passed away by the time it was written, so we have to be careful in using it as evidence for Anglo-Saxon England. The poet was deliberately writing about a time and place distant from his own society, so what he describes is largely based on his imagining of long-ago Scandinavia, not contemporary Anglo-Saxon England.
However, there are aspects of the world of Beowulf that do seem closely related to Anglo-Saxon life. Many of its descriptions inscribed swords, elaborately decorated royal halls – have been confirmed by modern archaeological discoveries such as Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire Hoard. They would perhaps already have been archaic by the time the poem was written, but it suggests the poet was careful to get the details right. In the poem, these items play a role by creating a tangible sense of the past, in which weapons and items of treasure carry with them their own names, legends and history.
Is Beowulf linked to any other early medieval legends?
The story has features that are also found in medieval Scandinavian literature. ‘Beowulf’ probably means ‘bee-wolf’ – a poetic word for ‘bear’ – and stories about bear-human warriors who fight monsters appear elsewhere in medieval Norse and English literature.
The poem frequently alludes to other stories from Germanic legend. While we can identify some of these legends from other sources, some are now mysterious to us – though they must have been familiar to the poet’s audience. Beowulf begins by telling the story of Scyld Scefing, a legendary ancestor of Danish and English kings who, as a child, was found drifting alone in a boat, before growing up to become a great king. The poem recounts how, after his death, Scyld was sent out to sea again in a ship laden with treasure, though “no one can say who received that cargo”. We are being encouraged to compare Scyld with Beowulf – the two funerals bookend the poem, and the same judgment is made on both: þæt wæs god cyning (“that was a good king”). We are perhaps being asked to decide for ourselves what it means to be a ‘good king’ in this kind of society.
Sometimes it is characters within the poem who make allusions to other legends, suggesting a culture in which oral tradition and historical parallels are highly prized. For example, Hrothgar warns Beowulf not to be like the wicked king Heremod, whose anger and arrogance almost destroyed his people. These are characters who are conscious of their own place in history and are trying to learn from its stories.
When the Danes are celebrating Beowulf’s victory over Grendel, a poet at Hrothgar’s court praises the warrior by comparing him to Sigemund, a great hero from Germanic legend. In this poem within a poem, we are told how Sigemund famously killed a dragon, which seems to hint to the audience what awaits Beowulf many years later. The poet is said to be “a man full of glorious words, with a memory for stories, who remembered a great many old legends and told them in new words” this could easily be a description of the author of Beowulf himself.
All of these allusions produce the impression of a rich and colourful tapestry of ancient legends, in which Beowulf’s story is just one thread.
Does the poem have a particular philosophy or mindset?
Perhaps surprisingly for a story about warriors and monsters, Beowulf is a profoundly philosophical poem. It explores the ethics of kingship and the behaviour of warriors. Bad rulers oppress their people, put their own interests first and are tyrannical good rulers are generous and prudent, and take time to reflect on their decisions. We are shown that warriors ought to be brave but not reckless, loyal to their companions and true to their promises.
The poem meditates on the limitations of human power, especially on the fact that it all must come to an end. Even great heroes die
In reflecting on these stories of warriors and kings, Beowulf is interested in different kinds of power, and exploring how physical strength, mental determination and political sovereignty should each best be used. The poem also meditates on the limitations of human power, especially on the fact that it all must come to an end. Even great heroes die. Beowulf has the strength of 30 men and becomes a mighty king, but he is still only human. He doesn’t have power over the natural world or the seasons, or over death. Since earthly power is restricted in this way, human rulers need to learn to understand their own limits and act wisely within them.
Is there a religious message wrapped up in the story?
It’s important to understand that Beowulf is a Christian poem about pagan characters. It’s set in a period before the Scandinavian peoples had converted to Christianity, but the poet and his audience were themselves Christians. Despite this, the poet is sympathetic towards his pagan characters.
Beowulf strikes a delicate balance. The characters we are meant to admire, including the hero, express beliefs about God that would not be alien to Christian thought: they are presented as believing not in the Norse pantheon of gods (as we might expect) but in a single, all-powerful creator who governs world events. “God, the guardian of glory, may ever work wonder after wonder,” says Hrothgar after Beowulf’s victory. An Anglo-Saxon Christian audience would have recognised and felt sympathy for these ideas. But at the same time, the poem is clear that the characters are still pagans and cannot hope for Christian salvation.
The story is given added poignancy by the fact that, when Beowulf dies, it really is the end his body is turned to smoke on his funeral pyre. The only afterlife he can hope for is to be remembered by his people.
Eleanor Parker teaches Old and Middle English literature at Brasenose College, University of Oxford.
Finding Beowulf: Is Some of the Famous Anglo-Saxon Heroic Epic Based on Truth? - History
When reading “Beowulf, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and “Le Morte”, we discover the different qualities that different cultures think are heroic. Anglo-Saxon and middle ages have many stories involving heroic traits. Even though the stories are based on being heroic, their stories are not the same. Anglo-Saxon revolves around epic poems and the middle ages is based upon a chivalric romance.
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Anglo-Saxon culture and the middle ages value many different traits. Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon culture, includes being brave, being strong and responsible , honor , and courage as it’s heroic qualities. Middle Ages heroic qualities includes , courage, pride, honor, justice, magnificence and chivalry.
During the Anglo-Saxon culture, Loyalty is the most important quality. First , Beowulf portrays loyalty by aiding Hrothgar because he feels a sense of loyalty to the king because of his father. Hrothgar and Beowulf’s father had a bond of allegiance for many years, so Beowulf keeps the legacy going by doing what his father would do. “Beowulf, you’ve come to us in friendship, and because Of the reception your father found at your court.” (Beowulf 190-192).
Second , He shows loyalty to his men by wanting to protect them and to fight Grendel alone. “Your deeds are famous, so stay resolute, my lord, defend your life now with the whole of your strength, I shall stand by you” (Hrothgar). Hrothgrar has has been with Beowulf through almost everything but Beowulf doesn’t take was he has to say.
Bravery and courage is another most important trait that the Anglo-Saxon portrayed. “ So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness. We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.” (Beowulf 1-3). This shows courage and greatness in The Spear-Danes.
They celebrate because of their bravery and heroism before all. Not only did Beowulf’s men show bravery but he did him-self. Beowulf boasting is what makes him the leader that he is. Boasting is known for being courageous and truthful, along with being brave. Which is what Beowulf is as illustrated in the story.. “No man swims in the sea as I can, No strength is a match for mine. (Beowulf lines 265-267).
Throughout the story Beowulf demonstrates honor. After throwing away his armor and sword before leaving his fight against Grendel. Beowulf tells Grendel, he “has no idea the arts of war/or shield or sword play” (Beowulf 681). Beowulf feels like because Grendel has idea how to fight, he believes real warriors fight without armor.
So for their fight, they fought without weapons. He also shows honor when Unfert tries to taunt him. They compete on he could swim the farthest and Beowulf shows his honor by beating him. Honor is an important trait to Beowulf because he works hard for everything that he does and doesn’t want to be put down because of some guy.
Not only is Beowulf able to show these values but his men are too. Their morals help Beowulf defeat every enemy he’s been against.
During the middle ages the stories “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and “Le Morte” introduce us to the qualities of honesty,valor,generosity, and Chivalric romance. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in medieval english and is based off a Chivalry poem.Chivalry implies as being kind,polite and unselfish. Many people during the middle ages seemed to be so Chivalric which is what made them so heroic. Sir Gawain in the story valued many of these characteristics.
At the beginning of the story Sir Gwain displays bravery by challenging the Green Knight as if he was King Arthur. Towards the end he fails because he starts fearing things such as fear of losing and fear of disgrace. He believed that’s what made him accept the challenge and that it would protect him. I believe this shows that not everyone is perfect but it’s in the matter of trying.
Beowulf: The Brave Hero Essay
Beowulf: The Brave HeroEnglish literature begins with Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon folk epic written by an unknown author.
The epic presents the story of Beowulf, an ideal Anglo-Saxon hero who through his exploits includes Anglo-Saxon values. One value which Beowulf teaches is love of bravery, a value which he demonstrates through two distinct events. At a time when bravery was highly valued, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, was the symbol of Anglo Saxon perfection. He was the perfect warrior, combining extraordinary strength, skill, courage, and loyalty. Grendel, a cannibal ogre, repeatedly invades Heorot to kill the Danes. When Beowulf hears that Grendel captured Heorot, he decides to free Hrothgar, king of the Danes, and his people.
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After bravely defeating Grendel, the Danes rejoice. Hrothgar gave Beowulf a rich array of gifts, including a mighty treasure sword, an embroidered war banner, eight horses with golden bridles, and an ancient saddle that was fashioned and decorated with treasure. Beowulf’s bravery did not end with that event. He pursues Grendel’s mother after she revengefully seizes one of Hrothgar’s nobles from Heorot.
He finds Grendel’s mother in her underwater den and defeats her with a sword forged by giants of old time. Proving his bravery, he then searches for Grendel’s dead body, sees many treasures, but takes only Grendel’s head and the jeweled hilt of the giant sword. He is persistent in his bravery and is rewarded again with twelve treasures by Hrothgar. Bravery is so highly valued to the Anglo-Saxons that Beowulf is now the most honored of men. Battle swords slew Hygelac, king of the Geats.
The new perfect king should be a strong, loyal, skilled, and brave warrior. Beowulf is crowned the new king. After fifty years of being king, he is still a brave warrior. Instead of sending out an army, he bravely went to fight a dragon that scorched buildings in his kingdom. He manages to kill the dragon right before dying himself.
Beowulf lives on as the perfect, brave hero to the Anglo-Saxons.History Essays
Beowulf Epic Beowulf essays Bravery in Beowulf Bravery is like a very trusted friend, it will never let you down. That statement holds true in the great epic of "Beowulf." "Beowulf" is the story of a great hero who comes to the aid of a troubled king. Beowulf hears that king Hrothgar is having trouble and immediately comes to help with no questions asked. he defeats the monster, Grendel, with his bare hands. Beowulf then defeats Grendel's mother along with a dragon until he is fatally injured. Bravery is a very admirable characteristic that few people possess. First of all.
The Anglo-Saxon Hero as defined by the Battles of BeowulfWithin the tale of Beowulf four character traits can be found which define the Anglo Saxon Hero. The first is loyalty, as demonstrated by the relationship between Lord and thane. According to page 23 of the Beowulf introduction, a relationship based less on subordination of one mans will to another than on mutual trust and respect. The second and third characteristics are strength and courage. The importance of these specific traits to the Anglo-Saxon people is clearly presented during the reciting of Sigemunds tale within Heorot. As the song states, He.
Beowulf- A Noble King Beowulf A Noble King The epic poem Beowulf describes the noblest king of the Anglo-Saxon times, Beowulf. Beowulf is a man who demonstrates all the good qualities of a king, this can be seen by just looking at what he has accomplished. Beowulf is a man who was loyal, powerful, and charitable. Beowulf was loyal to his promises and his country. When he decides to kill Grendel for King Hrothgar he doesnt back down even after the stories hes heard. After he has killed him the Danes still need him, so he kills Grendel's mother. He.
The epic poem Beowulf describes the noblest king of the Anglo-Saxon times, Beowulf. Beowulf is a man who demonstrates all the good qualities of a king, this can be seen by just looking at what he has accomplished. Beowulf is a man who was loyal, powerful, and charitable. Beowulf was loyal to his promises and his country. When he decides to kill Grendel for King Hrothgar he doesn't back down even after the stories he's heard. After he has killed him the Danes still need him, so he kills Grendel"s mother. He was very dedicated to what he did and.
Beowulf is a famous poem about an epic hero who kill demon and dragon to protect the life of his people. The movie with the same name was released in 2007, which make the legend become real in front of audience. It is based on the original poem but has some major changes to brand new the legend as well as create a new point of view about this famous legend. The movie still have the similar plot and characters with the poem. The main events such as: the long night feast in Heorot and the death of Beowulf, Grendels.
Every epic hero possesses certain heroic characteristics. The epic poem Beowulf describes the most heroic man of the Anglo-Saxon times. Beowulf is the hero. He shows that he is a great man by always putting other things before his own needs. He is important and needed by his people and is known by many as a strong, courageous and a helpful person. He shows all of the qualities and traits that a true hero possesses. Beowulf, like other epic heroes, possesses the following heroic qualities: epic heroes are superhuman types of beings. They show great bravery, intelligence, strength and resourcefulness.
Grendel A monster from the depths who consumes humans as a daily diet and strives to find a meaning in life Or Beowulf A warrior raised by a king whose arrogance and courage landed him a throne of his own Points of view in both stories are very distinct. Grendel seemed much more intellectual from his point of view. The author did not portray him as a cold-blooded monster as you would expect. Beowulf’s character was supported by bravery and integrity. The author almost seemed to describe him as a god in his actions. But I think Beowulf is the.
The epic poem, Beowulf, depicts the most heroic man of the Anglo-Saxon times. The hero, Beowulf, was an outstanding warrior with all the extraordinary values required by a hero. He was able to use his super-human physical strength and courage to put his people before himself. He encountered terrifying monsters and the most ferocious of beasts, but he never feared the threat of death. His leadership skills were excellent and he was able to boast about all his achievements. Beowulf was the ultimate epic hero who risked his life countless times for immortal glory and for the good of others.
Did Beowulf truly obtain the qualities of an epic hero? In the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf"s character traits prove to be the depiction of an epic hero. Beowulf"s traits of boastfulness, bravery and amazing strength are the proof of his heroism. Beowulf"s boastfulness may not be the most convincing heroic trait, but it certainly was important to the people of his time. Beowulf boasted to Unferth to clarify Unferth"s misunderstanding of a swimming event between Beowulf and Breca, in which they swam out to sea and remained there for five nights. Beowulf informed Breca of how they were seperated after.
Beowulf-reflecting Anglo-Saxon culture.
Beowulf is the beloved character of the most well known Anglo-Saxon literature. The story owulf” is his tale of heroic feats and epic battles. Throughout the story the essentials of Anglo-Saxon culture, bravery, friendship, generosity and loyalty are displayed each is important to the Anglo-Saxon lifestyle. Since they lived in tight communities that often had to fend off invaders , friendship and loyalty were crucial to survival. Not only those but bravery to fight such attackers and generosity to help your fellow warrior out. These elements impacted Anglo-Saxon life and created their legendary stories today. “the state or quality of being loyal faithfulness to commitments or obligations. Breeden, David. "Beowulf Legend." Austin Web Design Company - Austin Website Hosting - Lone
The Anglo-Saxons a culture best described in their literature as brave, loyal, generous and friendly.
The Anglo-Saxons governing system was built on the fundamental of Loyalty. It shaped the very tribal culture in which they lived. Without Loyalty the whole system would have crashed.
Loyalty as defined by the dictionary
2. faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause,etc.
3. an example or instance of faithfulness, adherence, or the like: a man with fierce loyalties.”
The Anglo-Saxon’s valued loyalty as dearly as their lives. According to Micheal Delahoyde,
“The sense of identity came from the warrior community.” (Delahoyde)
Loyalty held a community together and bound them even across the seas.
Betrayal was rare and often met with a bad end. In the story Beowulf, the Geats loyalty to the Danes is shown through Beowulf’s answer to Hrothgar’s pleas of help: Beowulf “Heard how Grendel filled nights with horror and quickly commanded a boat fitted out, proclaiming that he𠆝 go to that famous king would sail across the sea to Hrothgar”
(Beowulf 112-115) It was Beowulf’s loyalty to the Danes that brought him to Hrothgar to defeat Grendel.
Grendel, a creature of hideous disposition had been pillaging and killing Hrothgar’s people, and as a result the very unity of the Danes was threatened. Unity being apart of loyalty and a foundation of Anglo-Saxon culture. Beowulf being loyal to an alliance his uncle had made with Hrothgar, sailed the seas to write his story: “ “ When we crossed the sea, my comrades and I , I already knew that all my purpose was to this: win the good will of your people of die in battle, pressed in Grendel’s fierce grip. Let me live in greatness and courage, or here in this hall welcome my death!””(Beowulf 364-369)
His act of loyalty was one of the leading cultural elements of both their lives and tales. Loyalty was what kept a community together.
In the Anglo-Saxon culture Loyalty was the unifying factor for the tribal communities,
ter Hrothgar became king he won many battles: his friends and family willingly obeyed him
his childhood friends became famous soldiers.” (David Breedan) However, loyalty is seen on both sides. Grendel, the villain of this tale and his mother were loyal to each other as family is. After her son is killed, Grendel’s mother brought her wrath upon Hrothgar’s people, “Grendel’s monstrous mother, in grief for her son, next attacks Herot, and in her dripping claws she carries off one man-Hrothgar’s closet friend.” (Burton Raffel) Beowulf was called on his loyalty once again, to go and kill the monster’s mother. Which he did. For his loyalty Hrothgar was generous in his gratitude. Beowulf’s legend grew to kingly status. What better reward is there for an Anglo-Saxon warrior, but glory and honor.
Generosity is another element of Anglo-Saxon culture as reflected in Beowulf when Hrothgar promised great riches to Beowulf for saving the Danes. Living in such harsh war ridden times, a little generosity went a long way. The Anglos-Saxons believed that a king should be generous and not selfish, “The king must be a generous "ring-giver" too -- that is, he must dish out the spoils of war to his thanes rather than hoard the treasures won in tribal warfare”
Thanes were also warriors. The Anglo-Saxons were known by their friends for their generosity.
This trait not only was the mark of a good leader but also a good warrior. Generosity also showed honor among warriors like the way Hrothgar honored Beowulf just for coming to see him, 𠇋ut to table, Beowulf, a banquet in your honor: let us toast your victories and talk of the future.” (Beowulf, 223-224) celebrating guests was another part of Anglo-Saxons culture of generosity which also included hospitality. One of the key elements of their success as a society.
Bravery is the next element of the Beowulf tale, it echoes the Anglo-Saxons culture and life style..
Beowulf boasted of his feats, 𠇋ut fate let me find it’s heart with my sword, hack myself free I fought that beast’s last battle left it floating lifeless in the sea.” (Beowulf, 288-291)
Boasting of grand battles and amazing feats of strength to beat a foe were common. It showed a warriors bravery and courage. There was always a fine line of whether or not a warrior was making it up or if he actually did what he told of. Often Bards and poets would go ahead of a warrior and tell their tales. That’s how most credit of the alleged doings were proved, by bard’s and witness account. That is how warriors became kings or chieftains of their tribal community through being the best warrior of his tribe, “Kings should display the heroic ideal and be known for an extraordinary and courageous feat or for success in war, all preceded by some boasting.”
(Delahoyde) In the story after Hrothgar’s older stronger brother died, he became king and proved himself. Same thing with Beowulf after he defeated Grendel and his mother, Beowulf was made king of the Geats. It’s safe to say that Beowulf’s bravery was best shown by his actions.
“ . He leaped into the lake, would not wait for anyone’s answer” (Beowulf, 570-571)
he went against monsters with his bare hands. He was brave until the end. This reflects the ideals of Anglo-Saxon lifestyle.
Friendship, an element seen throughout this tale and in the Anglo-Saxon culture.
Friends are what made going to battle worth it. Who else would sit around the mead-hall drinking and regaling war tales if not your friends. Beowulf valued his friends. Especially at the end of his life.
Your friends were most often your strongest and most loyal warriors if you were king.
“then that brave king gave the golden necklace from around his throat to Wiglaf, gave him his gold-covered helmet, and his rings, and his mail shirt, and ordered him to use them well” (Beowulf 817-820)
A warrior would be put to shame if he returned without his comrades. It was better to die in battle with them or survive with them. A warrior would be ashamed to have been the only survivor of a battle. Your friends were really the ones who, after your death told your stories. “. And then twelve of the bravest Geats rode their horses around the tower,
telling their sorrow, telling stories of their dead king and his greatness, his glory.”
They did this so that, their legend may live forever on the shore of life being kissed by the sea of eternity.
Anglo-Saxon culture seeped through into their literature. Like when blood stains the perfectly white shirt of an enemy once the blade has been pulled from his chest. Their culture is what made the stories the way they are. The friendship, generosity, bravery and loyalty are what the Anglo-Saxons were and what better way to show that then in the tales they told.
“the state or quality of being loyal faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
Breeden, David. "Beowulf Legend." Austin Web Design Company - Austin Website Hosting - LoneList of site sources >>>