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Essay on Comparing the Heroes in The Dream of the Rood and Beowulf

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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
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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
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