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Beowulf Man Or Myth Essay Research Paper

Beowulf Man Or Myth Essay, Research Paper

Beowulf Man or Myth

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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.

Works Cited

Bolton,Whitney. Alcun and Beowulf. New Jersey: Rutgers

University Press, 1978.

Donaldson,Talbot. Beowulf A New Prose Translation.

New York: Norton Company, 1966.

Gardner,John, Grendel. New York: A Division of Random

House,Inc., 1971.

Greenfield,Stanley. A Critical History of Old English.

New York: Oxford University Press, 1965.

Irving,Edward. A Reading of Beowulf. London: Yale

University Press, 1968.

Kierman,Kevin. Beowulf the Epic Poem. New Jersey: Rutgers

University Press, 1980.

Kierman,Kevin. Beowulf and the Beowulf Manuscript. New Jersey:

Rutgers University Press, 1981.

Wyatt, A.J. Beowulf. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press,



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