Anglo Saxon Mother And Grendel's Roles Of Anglo-Saxon Women

Decent Essays

Anglo-Saxon women had specific roles in society: mother, wife, hostess, mediator, and retainer. Any woman that did not fit in this societal mold was rejected and considered unfeminine, which, at the time, was synonymous with monstrous. In Beowulf, Grendel’s mother is characterized as a monster because of her defiance of Anglo-Saxon gender roles and failure to follow the social expectation of hospitality, which is enhanced by her juxtaposition to Wealhtheow.
Grendel’s mother challenges the roles that she is expected to follow as an Anglo-Saxon woman, which makes her an outcast and social pariah. Women were expected to be passive: “…the idea is stressed that a kinswoman or mother must passively accept and not actively avenge the loss of her …show more content…

Hospitality was used to maintain peace and create friendships and alliances: “Hospitality is a common social, religious, and moral imperative that should guarantee the peaceful reception of a foreigner and ensure a harmonious regulation of host and guest relationships” (Michelet). Grendel’s mother’s disobedience towards this tradition makes her despicable because of her disregard for its societal importance. Instead of providing a friendly welcome to her home, Grendel’s mother greets her guest, Beowulf, with hostility: “She welcomed him in her claws, clutched at him savagely…” (Beowulf 1501). She is not amicable whatsoever; Grendel’s mother is threatening and unwelcoming. To illustrate her inhospitality, her home is referred to as a battle-hall. The title of battle-hall insinuates her home as a violent and contentious place. Because of her aggressive welcoming of Beowulf, Grendel’s mother ruins the paramount relationship between guest and host: “The reception that she offers Beowulf is obviously hostile: the codes of hospitality do not operate to transform the two antagonists into a host and a guest respectively. The host/guest boundaries collapse…” (Michelet). Beowulf is not a guest in her home; he is an enemy that is greeted with violence. His status as a guest ends because of a physical altercation, resulting in Grendel’s mother’s status as a host also ending. Her rejection of the role of the neighborly

Get Access
Get Access