Compare and Contrast Characters in Beowulf and The Niebelungenlied

1630 Words 7 Pages
The hero of Beowulf, one of the oldest written Germanic epics, is a leader of the Geats and a hero unlike all others before him. He is able to conquer foes that no one else can, and he charges into every battle with the full force that he can muster, without any of the encumbrances that others may have. His greatest desire is fame and glory, and he performs whatever difficult tasks he believes will bring him closer to that goal. Beowulf’s quest for power drives him to seek fame by challenging Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and finally a giant dragon that causes his death. Though Beowulf’s strength and courage lead him to power and its accompanying responsibility, the power that he accumulates has negative consequences for those who rely on …show more content…
Hrothgar is a wise old king who has seen the dangers that the world has to offer. He warns Beowulf that power and pride are not the only things worth seeking because they are temporary, and when one’s guard is down, other forces will attack viciously. Hrothgar recognizes Beowulf’s obsession with power and warns him against single-mindedly pursuing it. However, Beowulf is unable to restrain his desire for more power, even after he has achieved the glory that killing Grendel had to offer and has been made the leader of a vast kingdom. He goes after the fire-breathing dragon at the end of the story, knowing that in his old age he is likely to die and leave his land and kingdom unguarded. Though the dragon is threatening the Geats, he states his reasons for fighting it: “I risked my life / often when I was young. Now I am old, / but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight / for the glory of winning” (2511 - 2514). It is clear that Beowulf knows he is risking his life — even more so because of his old age and waned strength — “for the glory of winning”. He doesn’t do it to save his citizens from the dragon, but to make his name eternal and to win him a ticket into Valhalla for his bravery. This is not only a selfish action, but since he does this without considering the bigger picture regarding his citizens, it also has negative consequences for them. Wiglaf, the only soldier brave enough to fight by his side, remarks upon Beowulf’s decision to
Open Document