Many of Old English poems glorified a real or imaginery hero and tried to teach the values of bravery. Beowulf was written during the Anglo-Saxon period of English Literature. The Anglo-Saxon period was a time of fierce battles in which human
strength was measured by the ability to control the reaction to fate through evil and courage. Beowulf was written in Old English as an epic poem. Old English described a real or imaginery hero and tried to teach the values of bravery. Folk would be used as an example in epic of Beowulf. Beowulf was passed on from person to person. Epic can be a general hero, in this case Beowulf, who usually involved in a series of actions. Author exaggerates on the character of Beowulf, the story is a fantasy, because it is hard to believe that the character of Beowulf would be able to kill a monster like Grendel with his bare hands. Beowulf possesses the superhuman abilities, the amazing power to hold his breath under water for an umlimited period of time. Some readers as myself feel that this characteristic seperates from the realistic nature of the story
and gives the impression that Beowulf is more like a myth than a man. So with all this in mind, in the epic Beowulf he’s portrayed as almost inhumane, so was he indeed a man or merely a myth?
Beowulf is described as “greater than life” than anyone in the world and in order to prove himself as a hero, he has to fight against something superhuman (Donaldson 10). “Beowulf is the prime example of an epic hero. His bravery and strength surpass all mortal men, his loyalty and ability to think of himself last make him reveared by all” (Bolton 2). “Beowulf’s deeds must be marked by a nobility of purpose to accumulate rewards and personal fame are good examples of the human side of his personality” (Wyatt 5). The use of description and imagery
makes the reader see the characters and events (Greenfield 25). Beowulf has the strength of thirty men in his left arm alone (Irving 4). Beowulf isnt like no other warrior even seen before. He is the strongest man alive (Irving 3). “Beowulf appearances size and armor command immediate respect and attention”
(Wyatt 44). We learn about the man character more through the eyes of the Danish soldier Patrolling the cliffs. The Danish coastguards avoid reactions to his first sight of Beowulf, “for example are largely conveyed in a rapid series of expressions
that expected, the normal, the usual, by saying what he is not” (Irving 12). Beowulf presents with unusual power and clarity a vision of human life that “transcends the limit of human mortality” (Irving 10). Beowulf revealed his own virtues “love,
generosity, and loyalty” (Irving 10). Beowulf is a hero in the
eyes of his fellow men through his amazing strength (Kierman 9). “Beowulf’s deeds must be marked by a nobility of purpose and he must be willing to risk his life for his ideals” (Bolton 6). Beowulf’s spiritual conflict to act selflessly for the
good of others, to accumlate rewards and personal fame are also a key to his personality (Greenfield 2). In battles Beowulf
showed his bravery in heroic deeds, with the greatest strength
of mankind, “the valorous man kept safe the abundant gifts
which God had given him” (Irving 12). When Beowulf was only a
boy he had battles with friends and swam for miles with his sword in his hand and armor on the rest of his body
(Kierman 29). Beowulf hears about Hrothger troubles and gathers
fourteen of his men and sets sail to Sweden (Wyatt 29). Beowulf
is hardly ever called by his real name. Instead there are many
others referring to him such as “Prince of the Weders,The son
of Ecgtheow, The Geatish hero, and The lord of the seamen”
(Wyatt 13). Beowulf is attacked by all sorts of monsters but
none really harmed him because of his armor protects him so
well (Kierman 12). Beowulf is also very courteous and patient
when he meets with Hrothgar, from him he hopes to receive
permission to battle Grendal (Wyatt 51). Beowulf understands
that even though he may possess great strength, it is still
possible for someone to conquer him in battle (Gardner 32).
Other warriors in heroic poetry make much of the
process of assembling their weapons for battle,
but Beowulf is different. The difference is most
clearly dramatized in the half ironic disarming
of the hero scene just before the fight with
Grendel, in the course of which Beowulf
methodically divests himself of all the traditional
accounterments of the epic fighter in order to meet
the monster with his bare hands (Irving 14).
“Beowulf, hand to hand combat with Grendel has an
unexpected, undesired, but symbolically meaningful outcome”
(Irving 124). Beowulf surely has an ability for forgiveness
and generosity that is shown in his relationship with Unferth
In his argument with Unferth, Beowulf explains to Unferth the
why he lost a simple swimming match with his friend Brecca,
he explains that he had been swimming for seven nights, and
stopped to kill nine sea creatures in the ocean (Gardner 44).
(Wyatt 128). Beowulf sees the bottom of the water where
Grendel’s mother lives (Kierman 67). When a flood seperated
Unferth and him, Beowulf was attacked by a monster who
Happen to be Grendel’s mother, dragged him toward the bottom
of the sea where Beowulf pierced it’s heart with his sword
(Greenfield 73). Beowulf is able to slash her neck off with
a giant sword, that can only be lifted by a person as strong
as himself (Greenfield 75). Beowulf’s powers are once again
displayed by carrying her head from the ocean, and takes four
men to lift and carry it back to Herot. Beowulf fought in many
battles and came back in victory, but his last battle
(Kierman 124). Even when he fights the fire dragon at old age,
his physical strength and his courage are two elements he
used to defeat the dragon in order to protect his people.
Beowulf is fatally wounded by the fire dragon and he realizes
he can die, and that his life is at an end (Kierman 126).
Beowulf is truly a hero. He put his life before others, just
to help people. Beowulf’s character is defined by his status,
his strength and courage, and his encounters with hideous
monsters. He possess great power and ability to swim for days,
hold his breath for hours and even lift objects no man could
byself. So throught out the poem, theirs many controversies
between the fact is Beowulf man or myth. Well the fact is he is
a myth, because no one person can possess all the characteristics that Beowulf has received. Also the time period
proves itself that during the Anglo-Saxon period of British
Literature, the authors used a style of Epic writing, in which
characters were made up for entertainment, using exaggerations.
People during the Anglo-Saxon period belived in multiple gods,
Superheroes, giants and dragons. Thus, the idea that comes
through this poem is that Beowulf could be characterized as both
man and myth, due to his loyalty and generosity but the fact is
only factual evidence proving Beowulf is indeed merely a myth,
is the time period of its publication.
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Donaldson,Talbot. Beowulf A New Prose Translation.
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Gardner,John, Grendel. New York: A Division of Random
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Irving,Edward. A Reading of Beowulf. London: Yale
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Kierman,Kevin. Beowulf the Epic Poem. New Jersey: Rutgers
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Kierman,Kevin. Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript. New Jersey:
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