Immortal Life vs. Immortal Name: Gilgamesh and Beowulf Essay

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Immortal Life vs. Immortal Name: Gilgamesh and Beowulf Death. Fate. Immortality. Destiny. All are subjects that we tend to avoid. While most of us hope for life after death, we tend not to dwell on this subject because we are uncomfortable with the unknown. On those rare occasions when we allow ourselves to think about the fact that our days are numbered, we wonder if death can be cheated and immortality gained. Some have suggested that being remembered is just as enduring as living forever. Thoughts of destiny and the here after are not new. They have engaged the hearts and minds of men for ages. Two ancient stories that deal with this subject matter are The Epic of Gilgamesh and Beowulf. In these texts, the main characters, Gilgamesh…show more content…
Gilgamesh is obviously distraught because of Enkidu’s death. Gilgamesh finally realizes that death is real, and not some inconsequential word that has no bearing. Now, even though he has learned of his destiny through his visions, Gilgamesh desires and thinks he can cheat fate. Unlike Gilgamesh, Beowulf never attempts to cheat death. Beowulf believes that God has predestined everything that comes to pass, including his fate. As Beowulf prepares to fight Grendal, he says, “let him put his faith in the Lord’s judgment, whom death takes! … wyrd always goes as it must” (Liuzza trans ll. 440-55). On the surface, Beowulf appears to be boastful about not fearing death, yet ultimately it is his confidence in God that gives him courage in the face of death. In the same vein, Beowulf promises to “not kill Grendal with a sword” or armor when fighting Grendal--trusting in his own strength, yet also trusting that the will of God will be done (ll. 679). Beowulf believes that God will choose “whichever hand seems proper to” win the battle with Grendal (ll. 687). After defeating Grendal, Beowulf must next fight Grendal’s mother. While gearing up for the fight, Beowulf “cares not for his life” (ll. 1441-2). Beowulf is not arrogant but realizes that he will “win honor and fame, or death will take him” (ll. 1491). Soon after Beowulf emerges victoriously from the battle, Beowulf announces “indeed, the battle would have been over

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