The Heroes in The Dream of the Rood and Beowulf
In The Dream of the Rood, the poet has added elements of the idealized heroic death (as exemplified in Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon) to the crucifixion. He has also eliminated details of the story that tend to render Christ as a figure of pathos, in order to further Christ's identification with the other glorious warriors Anglo-Saxon poems.
When a hero meets his death, for example, he is usually surrounded by faithful retainers (as is Byrhtnoth) or at least one steadfast companion, such as Beowulf's Wiglaf. The gospel clearly states that Jesus died ignobly, in the most humiliating fashion possible, and that his disciples kept themselves from Golgotha …show more content…
How can a man die honorably without treasure?
The poet does not mention that Christ dies to fulfill a prophecy, one that is unavoidable and that he therefore calmly accepts. The notion of letting fate do its work doesn't seem to be on any of the other heroes' agendas, either. Beowulf, for example, suspects that the dragon's laying waste to his kingdom may indeed be divine punishment -- but that doesn't stop him from going to its barrow and stabbing the creature in the belly. In fact, Beowulf clearly states "It is a mystery where a courageous man will meet his fated end. . ." [ll. 3063-4] .
Interestingly, in Maldon, the ones on the battlefield who are described as "fated" to die are always the Vikings, the barbarians. On page 57, a Viking warrior's death is recounted thus: "The fated warrior fell to earth." Whereas "Byrhtnoth's sister's son chose death in battle," on the same page. The delineation is clear: a hero dies in battle, by choice; others let fate roll over them. The designation "fated" is never applied to the valorous.
A medieval hero always seeks his own death, if by his sacrifice his kinsmen will benefit. This is why Beowulf willingly enters the den of his third and final monster: "Now the edge of the sword, hand and hard blade, must fight for treasure." [ll. 2508-9] Treasure means security for his people; therefore he goes, refusing all help, because it is his duty to do well by his kingdom. The Rood poet points out
Beowulf proclaims “In the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one; death was my errand and the fate they had earned. Now Grendel and I are called together” (liens 156-160). Beowulf claims that he must go to defeat Grendel, as it was his errand, or his duty, and his fate. This speech he makes to King Hrothgar reinforces his true reason to come to the King, not for any pride. Another vow Beowulf makes is when he says “That this is one favor you should not refuse me—That I, alone and with the help of my men, many purge all evil form this hall” (lines 163-166). In this line, Beowulf is pleading for the King to do one thing, which is to give him the permission for him and his men to go and fight Grendel, what Beowulf had arrived for. The fact that Beowulf asks the king for only one thing, which is to fight Grendel, shows Beowulf’s selflessness and concern for the safety of others. At no part does he ask for a reward, but even says that if fate is in favor of Grendel to give his armor back to his family. These words help paint the image of Beowulf being concerned for others, not for his
Heroes bring a hope to people whom they protect. Heroes bring people joy and bring a sense of relaxation to the people of their society because they play such an important role in lives everywhere. Heroes are complex rather than unembellished because they can fight dragons to defend their kingdom, or create a non-profit foundation to enhance the quality of life for more than 2,000 underprivileged kids. Heroes in our present day can be very complex because a person’s viewpoint on a hero’s life can be a completely different than the way another person looks at that same hero. Thomas Davis Sr. can be extremely comparable to Beowulf but they also have major differences.
Being a hero can be defined many different ways. Several qualities like courage, respect, and strength can define heroism. A hero is noted for his or her actions for being brave, powerful, and acting with honor. In the epic poem, Beowulf, the main character Beowulf shows all of these characteristics by defending the Danish king, Hrothgar, and his people. He is a true hero by honoring his country and exerting his power and strength to protect others. Beowulf embodies the qualities of bravery, being powerful, and demonstrating his honor; therefore, he can be considered a true hero.
Most of us have heard of modern day heroes such as Spiderman, Superman, and the Hulk. Each is a hero to many children. Heroes are introduced to people early on in life usually as fictional characters, but as children grow older their perceptions of heroes alter. The characteristics of a hero are usually based around the ideas of a society or culture. In the epic Beowulf, the main character is thought of as a hero. Beowulf, a pagan warrior and the main character of the epic, shows certain characteristics such as bravery, loyalty, and generosity, which portray him as a hero. It is interesting how modern day heroes show the much of the same qualities as Beowulf.
Beowulf sacrifices his life numerous times, unafraid and prepared. In the beginning, our warrior faces a beast named Grendel, who inhabited a neighboring kingdom. During his face-off with the monster, Beowulf makes the decision to fight without weapons. Although this decision seems ignorant, the hero found it honorable, due to the fact that Grendel didn’t wield any weapons. Beowulf ended up taking the beast's arm and making him flee as he bled out to his inevitable death. Sometime later, the kingdom’s king, Hygelac, died. Beowulf, the nephew of Hygelac, took the throne. A true sacrifice as he gave up his normal life and took on an entire kingdom into his hands. The people welcomed him and he ruled well for 50 years. Nearing the end of those years, someone agitates a dragon, causing massive chaos. Beowulf decides to investigate, bringing men with him.
Many readers of the poem Beowulf may find it difficult to distinguish the 'good' kings from the rest – indeed, almost every man who holds a throne in the epic is named at one point or another to be 'good'. By examining the ideals of the time period as identified by the 'heroic code', it becomes clearer that a truly 'good' king is one who generously distributes treasure and weaponry to deserving retainers to honour courage and strength displayed in battle and to encourage the defense of the kingdom (Intro). When Beowulf ascends the throne of the Geats, the heroic traits of courage and strength for which he was so highly praised as a warrior do not serve well in making him a good king. Indeed, by exhibiting the traits of a thane, that is, by
Many translators of the poem have signaled the ”allusions to the power of fate” and its connection to Christianity (Klaeber, xlviii). The fact is that whether or not Beowulf saw a connection to the concept of fate and a divine power is something that we may never know.
The idea of fame and fate was also evident in Beowulf. After 50 long years of nothing, Beowulf just sat at his throne with fame, but he knew this fame wasn’t the same as it was back in the past, when he killed Grendel and his mother. He wanted this fame back which becomes one of the reasons to go and slay the dragon, later on in the story. When the dragon destroyed much of Beowulf’s land, Beowulf became angry and hostile towards the dragon. He desired for revenge and vengeance, which again is another reason for his action to slay the dragon. In a way he used fame and vengeance to motivate his plan to slay the dragon. All these things were influenced as pagan ideas. Throughout the story Beowulf struggled with his Christian ideology while Pagan ideas clouded his judgment. Since he was human it was difficult for him avoid the pagan ideas as they were so easy to practice, while following God’s righteous yet restricted path.
Beowulf affirms this belief when someone got close to the dragon but didn't die; saying "So may a man not marked by fate easily escape exile and woe by the grace of God" (81). This idea of fate is carried through as Beowulf fights the dragon and dies. "That final day was the first time when Beowulf fought and fate denied him glory in battle" again attributing all his previous successes and his ultimate collapse to the power of God.
Every epic hero possesses certain heroic characteristics. Beowulf, like other epic heroes, possesses the following heroic qualities: epic heroes are superhuman types of beings. They have a noble birth and show great bravery. They display great intelligence and resourcefulness. They have a reverence for G-d and for the values of their society. They are dominant male figures and suffer severe pain, but in the end, they conquer evil (Vivone 9/27/99). In addition to Beowulf’s heroic qualities, he is very strong. Beowulf was said to have “the strength of thirty [men] in his mighty handgrip” (Bloom 11). Early proof of Beowulf’s extraordinary strength is evidenced by his dismemberment of Grendel’s limb, the fight in the cave under water, and the
A true hero does not fear death or, but instead risks all that he is for what he believes to be right, moral, and just. Beowulf is an epic and tells the story of a legendary hero, conquering all obstacles as if he was immortal. Up until the end of Beowulf’s life he was constantly looking to be the hero. However, his humanity is exposed by his death. Heroes all share the characteristic of their willingness to die in their effort to accomplish their heroic act, thus making the act in itself heroic. Throughout the epic, Beowulf in many ways exhibited all the qualities and characteristics needed to be a true hero.
Though Beowulf was god-like and he was able to be successful when faced with decisions and adversity, he eventually succumbed to the destructive forces of nature and threw his nation into conflict. As aforementioned, Beowulf’s battle with the dragon depicts unpreventable death and destruction that afflicts everybody, his last battle also symbolizes that even the most seemingly perfect people are chained to hostile acts of nature and fate. Beowulf’s death is not a product of pride, it was a result of his altruistic nature to do good, however, his death forecasts war in his country as described by Wiglaf when ordering a messenger to tell the Geats of Beowulf’s death, “And this people can expect fighting, once/ The Franks, and the Frisians, have heard that our king/ Lies dead.” (Beowulf 2910-2913). Beowulf’s main purpose was to do good, and though killing the dragon was an act of goodness, he traded in his life for an act of good, however his death brought the large possibility of war to his
Epic poems consist of heroes who complete deeds of valor or extraordinary courage. “The captain of evil discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape” (Beowulf 749-753). This quote shows that Beowulf’s strength is so great that even a monster cannot escape from it. As I have said before, Beowulf is not afraid to die. He faces death fearless and bold and prepares himself for battle.
Beowulf is always seeking to help his enrich his image. This flaw in his character, as well as his feeling of invincibility leads to his downfall later in life. “Again and again the angry monsters made fierce attacks, I served them well with my noble blade, as was only fitting. Small pleasure they had in such a sword-feast, dark things in the sea that meant to eat me, …I had chanced to kill some nine sea-beasts. I never have heard of a harder night-fight under heaven’s vault, or a man more oppressed on the ocean streams.”(Beowulf p83) It is very apparent here that Beowulf is extremely proud of what he had accomplished, and was not going to let some other person who had done no major heroic deed try to put him down. In fact, he goes on to say that no one in the world has fought such a hard fight as he did that night.
“[Beowulf is] is recognized … as an embodiment of the contradictory nature of heroic ideals” (Wanner. Page 2). Beowulf’s religiously following of the Comitatus leads him to his doom. Beowulf’s lust for fame and hubris lead him to break the code of Comitatus. Beowulf as a king was supposed to let new heroes at the time take care of the dragon. Instead, he gets severely injured by the dragon because of his huge ego and pride to slay the dragon alone. Ironically, at the end Beowulf would not have even killed the dragon without help from the emerging hero Wiglaf. At the end Beowulf breaks the code he followed by heart only to be shown at his death, that one must remember their rank in the feudal