Beowulf: Themes

1038 Words Oct 25th, 1999 5 Pages
Beowulf: Themes

The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is the most important work of Old English literature, and is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the story of a hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes of the monster Grendel, a descendent of Cain, and of his exploits fighting Grendel 's mother and a Dragon. Throughout the epic, the Anglo-Saxon story teller uses many elements to build a certain depth to the characters. Just a few of the important character elements in Beowulf are Wealth & Honor, Biblical &
Paganistic, and Man vs. Wild themes. Many of the characters in Beowulf are, like in most epics, defined by their status. But, in addition to status, the Anglo-Saxon culture also adds an element of
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Another Biblical reference in Beowulf is shown in the tower of
Herot which is very similar to the tower of Babel in the fact that it 's built as a sign of superiority and accomplishment. Like Babel, though, Herot only serves as a symbol of downfall more than one of glory because it causes many deaths and the coming of Grendel. Apart from Wealth, Honor, and Paganistic vs. Biblical themes and motifs, character is also shown through a certain Man vs. Wild motif. This motif shows the difference between mankind 's ways (good), and evil 's wild nature (evil).
Grendel for one, is totally wild and is therefore shown as evil. His wild home,
"Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild marshes, and made his home in a hell not hell but earth." shows his wild, untamed, and therefor evil nature.
Grendel 's wilderness is countered in mankind 's ways, especially Beowulf 's.
Beowulf is tame and civilized, the epitomy of goodness and purity. Beowulf doesn 't fight evil in a wild manner, rather, as shown in his first battle with
Grendel. First off, Beowulf is pure and shows this before his battle when he removes his armor and vows not to use a weapon to defeat Grendel. Defeating
Grendel, he shows that man, without armor and weapons, can defeat evil in any form including that of his foe Grendel. This deed serves throughout the epic serves as a symbol of Beowulf
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