The Epic Poem, Beowulf - A Jungian Reading of Beowulf Essay

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A Jungian Reading of Beowulf

The epic poem, Beowulf, depicts the battles and victories of the Anglo-Saxon warrior Beowulf, over man-eating monsters. The noble defender, Beowulf, constantly fought monsters and beasts to rid the land of evil. The most significant of these monsters, Grendel, represents Beowulf's shadow, the Jungian archetype explored in the essay collection, Meeting the Shadow.

The character Grendel portrays the fallen self, which will assert itself violently if neglected, and must be overcome throughout life. The monster Grendel mirrors the part of our fallen state. Grendel's ancestry leads to the biblical figure Cain, to which all evil can be attributed. Grendel represents the hidden evil of
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Beowulf never finished fighting his demons. He defeated beasts in the sea, Grendel, Grendel's mother, battled with the Swedes, and finally fought the dragon until his death. To defeat evil we must shed the grip that it has over us. Grendel's "hatred rose higher, but his power had gone. He twisted in pain, and the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder snapped, muscle and bone split and broke" (Burton 48). Beowulf disempowered Grendel by ripping of his arm. To rid ourselves from evil we must loosen its grip over us by eliminating its power. Grendel represents Beowulf's shadow. The suppressed shadow will surface to restore the imbalance in personality, like Grendel often surfaced from the swamp. Grendel is a symbol of the suppressed and unloved shadow, and he reeks terror on Herot to make his presence known. He represents the hidden neglected part of us. "Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us"(Bly 8). By storming into the mead hall and tearing the soldiers up before consuming them he represents this suppressed personality surfacing. Grendel is motivated by jealousy and anger. He is very envious and resentful towards the innocent people of the kingdom. He vents, and projects his anger onto society to restore a balance to Beowulf's personality.

Grendel represents Beowulf's shadow. He is driven and motivated by the same things as Jung's description of the shadow. First of all, he represents the reaction of our shadow when it is

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