Fate, Destiny, and Predestination in Beowulf Essays

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Fate, Destiny, and Predestination in Beowulf

An epic story is one that combines elements of supernatural powers and heroic deeds with plebeian troubles. In Beowulf , the unknown author paints a typical yet magnificent tale that is one of the great epic chronicles of the Middle Ages. Like the poems of Homer, Beowulf possesses terrible monsters, men with supernatural powers, the search for glory, and deadly defeats. However, this medieval account brings a new element into the folds: the association between established religious forces and personal choices. The concepts of predestination and fate intertwine in this work with the idea of free will.

Throughout the poem, characters struggle to understand who and/or what is the guiding
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Noticeably present, in fact, are references to each important character's ancestors and lineage. With each mention of a character, the father is also interjected (Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow or Wiglaf, son of Weohstan). Destiny initially comes into play when Beowulf arrives at the shores of Denmark and is unknown to the guards. King Hrothgar proclaims, “I used to know [Beowulf] when he was a young boy. / His father before him was called Ecgtheow” (lines 372-3). Clearly, family ties are necessary to succeed in the world of kings. Beowulf is immediately given leave to enter the country and to “follow up an old friendship” (line 376) because the King is certain that the young man is destined to be a great warrior in Denmark. Certainly, past conquests and victories play a part in Beowulf's renown, but ancestry is initially more impressive. Beowulf's destiny is, therefore, partly determined by his father's feats and legacy. The opportunities given to the now famous warrior are a result of the powerful family that he comes from. Thus, destiny plays a prophetic part in shaping Beowulf's future.

While destiny and fate are related, in Beowulf the two ideas play different roles. Destiny is the concept that allows sons to be marked for greatness before they have come of age, while fate is an independent guiding force that does not rely upon worldly interactions (knowledge of lineage,
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