The Epic of Beowulf is about many things, one could say. It involves changes of power, darkness and light, overcoming challenges, temptation and destruction, war, et cetera, et cetera. These themes, and many more, make up what are known as major and minor themes. Both are of equal importance to a story in its entirety; the difference being that major themes address the writer’s most significant ideas, while minor themes refer to an idea that appears only momentarily.
Beowulf is a fair fighter and helps the people of Herot by slaying Grendel without his weapons. “He needs no weapons and fears none. Nor will I my lord Higlac might think less of me if I let my sword go where my feet were afraid to...my hands alone shall fight for me.”(168-173). This means he will fight without his weapon, and only with his hands, to show his bravery and valor. As a noble hero he is, Beowulf decides to not use his weapons nor his armor and only use his fists to battle Grendel. Beowulf is a hero, who against all odds fights in the face of death, and who fights for his people in honor.
In “The Battle with Grendel” we also see how Beowulf can be violent. For example, lines 385-397 demonstrates how powerful Beowulf is while fighting Grendel. The quote says, “Grendel/ Saw that his strength was deserting him, his claws/ Bound fast, Higlac’s brave follower tearing at/ His hands. The monster’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….Grendel escaped,/ But wounded as he was could flee to his den,/His miserable hole at the bottom of the marsh,/ Only to die, to wait for the end/ Of all his days” (385-397). This moment in the text shows how intense and extreme Beowulf’s actions were while fighting the monster. We, as readers, start to see how Beowulf slowly becomes who he is trying to defeat.
The story of Beowulf is a heroic epic chronicling the illustrious deeds of the great Geatish warrior Beowulf, who voyages across the seas to rid the Danes of an evil monster, Grendel, who has been wreaking havoc and terrorizing the kingdom. Beowulf is glorified for his heroic deeds of ridding the land of a fiendish monster and halting its scourge of evil while the monster is portrayed as a repugnant creature who deserves to die because of its evil actions. In the epic poem, Beowulf the authors portrays Grendel as a cold-hearted beast who thrives on the pain of others. Many have disagreed with such a simplistic and biased representation of Grendel and his role in the epic poem. John Gardner in his book, Grendel set out to change the
The story of Beowulf is a heroic epic, chronicling the distinguished deeds of the great Geatish warrior, Beowulf, who travels across the seas to rid the Danes of the evil monster Grendel, who has been inflicting destruction and terrorizing the kingdom. Beowulf is glorified for his heroic deeds of ridding the land fiendish monsters and stopping the scourge of evil, while the monster, Grendel, is portrayed as a repugnant creature who deserves death for its evil actions. However, many have disagreed with such a simplistic and biased representation of Grendel and his role in the epic poem. John Gardner in his book, Grendel, sets out to change the reader’s perception of Grendel and his role in Beowulf by narrating the story through Grendel’s point of view. John Gardner transforms Grendel, once perceived as an evil fiend in Beowulf, into a lonely but intelligent outcast who is actually quite similar to humans, due to his intelligence capacity for rational thought and his real, and at times irrational emotions. Gardner portrays Grendel as a hurt individual and as a victim of oppression, ostracized from civilization. Although the two works revolve around the same basic plot,, the themes and characters in Beowulf and Grendel are often different and sometimes contradictory.
Telling his men that he does not need them to fight Grendel is a way he shows off his pride and keeping his honor. He does not seem to be full of himself because he does defeat the monster with his bare hands, he even rips the arm off of Grendel. This shows me that Beowulf is slowly taking Grendel's pride and honor of being a fierce creature that everyone fears and does not want to mess with, to just a play toy to Beowulf that he can just rip his arm off. This major battle with this horrible monster took place in his home which is a cave, being destroyed on your own land just strips the pride and honor from you. Going to todays world with the example of the Firefighter, when a firefighter is in full official uniform people around the room gain a great respect for that person which the firefighter will feel great honor and pride inside of him and does express it like how Beowulf did destroy a monster with his bare hands. Having pride and honor just feels good and being respectable adds more to the job than anything. Firefighters create great honor in their workforce and in this world, heading into burning buildings that can fall down at any moment to save a life.
In the Beowulf poem the battle scenes are described more vividly descriptive and including a lot of symbolism. The first fight is between Beowulf and Grendel, "a fiend out of hell, [ ] grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens; he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Clain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts." (p. 6) Beowulf sets out to kill this monster in order to achieve fame. He isn't forced to do so, especially as Grendel doesn't attack the Geats (his clan) but the Danes. Nevertheless Beowulf settles out to destroy the demon and declares that he will fight Grendel there is a feast: "Now I mean to be a match for Grendel, settle the outcome in single combat." (p. 15) Afterwards there is a feast in Hereot and at dusk Beowulf prepares for the fight and awaits Grendel's attack. "Then down the brave man lay with his bolster under his head and his whole company of sea rovers at rest beside him." Beowulf's companions stay at his side and this is a symbol for their closed circle of society. The Germanic culture is based on the
Then the fiend step nearer,(558-564).” Beowulf still sat unfrightend by what occurs and waits for the right moment to attack Grendel. He approaches Grendel after the consumption of the man and grabs his arm and begins to crush it with his hand. “His courage fled; but he found no escape! He was fain to be gone; he would flee to the darkness,(571-572).” Beowulf full of rage and anger began to beat this monster with his bare hands. “And Beowulf gained the glory of battle. Grendel, fated, fled to the fens, to his joyless dwelling, sick unto death,(632-634).” Beowulf without fear or hesitation fought this monster and won. This beast had killed many men at a single time, but Beowulf’s courage let him prevail in a situation where fear takes over the hearts of many men.
Beowulf begins with a conflict that symbolizes the hostility of nature, Grendel’s acts of terror are
The story of Beowulf is an ancient one, and one that has been passed down for generations. The ideals and themes are traditional and its message is clear throughout the entirety of the epic poem. Beowulf is told from the third person omniscient point of view, his conflict was always what one would call “the bad guy” or “the villain,” and though he died in the end, he won gold and victory for his kingdom; all bad guys defeated. John Gardner, author of Grendel, decided to take the classical story of good and evil, and tell a new story from the villain’s perspective. Grendel explores varying literary elements which exposes the character of Grendel to readers along with various themes represented throughout each page.
Beowulf demonstrated honor when he fought Grendel without using a weapon. Beowulf decided not to use a weapon while fighting Grendel because Grendel was unarmed. By doing this Beowulf had made the fight fair and was able to keep his honor. Beowulf would have also fought the dragon without a weapon had it been possible, but due to the dragons immense size, strength, and fiery breath he could use his sword and shield while retaining his honor. Honor is an important characteristic for an epic hero to have and Beowulf demonstrates it quite well throughout the poem.
Grendel, because of his lineage from Cain, was exiled from the human world. This causes Grendel to not be able to fully think through his actions. He kills the Danes and fights Beowulf because of the deep emotion of loneliness that overcomes him. If the reader looks only at Grendel as a monster or demon, he will be considered evil and therefore Beowulf is honored as a great hero. By seeing Grendel more humanely the reader can see him more as a human rather than a monster. The circumstances that Grendel has grown up in has caused him to act out with evil tendencies. “I tried to tell her all that had happened, all that I’d come to understand: the meaningless objectness of the world, the universal bruteness. She only stared, troubled at my noise. She’d forgotten all language long ago, or maybe had never known any.” (Gardner 28) This quote shows how little communication Grendel had with anyone in the outside world. He was not able to express any of his thoughts due to the fact that his mother was incompetent and did not speak. “Why can’t I have someone to talk to? I said. The stars said nothing, but I pretended to ignore the rudeness.” (Gardner 53) Those who believe Grendel is evil do not acknowledge the whole reason that there is a hateful relationship between Grendel and the Humans. The failure to communicate lead to confusion and fear which lead to the attacks made by Grendel or the humans. If Grendel was not as isolated in his
Beowulf is a very well known Anglo-Saxon poem. It shows characteristics of leadership, trust, loyalty, honor, and motivation, and has been an example for leadership skills for ages. (Loughman) Thus, this story has been appreciated for over 1,000 years. Beowulf, the Scandinavian warrior-prince left the Geats and traveled to Deans, made alliance with them, and assisted Hrothgar and his people of the distress their in. Shortly after arriving, he discovers Hrothgar’s mead hall, Heorot, has been under attack for 12 winters and lay empty at night when men should be celebrating. (McDowell) The monster who has been bringing this distress is the almighty Grendel.
The first battle in the poem occurs between Beowulf and Grendel who best embody the Anglo-Saxon value of courage. Beowulf is the perfect representation of this value due to his insistence on fighting Grendel without weapons; “No weapons, therefore,/ for either this night: unarmed he shall face me” (Heaney 683-84). Thus when Beowulf proclaims that he is not using weapons he displays both honor and courage since it takes guts to fight a monster without a pronounced advantage. Anglo-Saxons respected this quality and made their epic hero a perfect fit for this trait. Grendel however, is the complete opposite of Beowulf. He is an archetypal outcast; a, “grim demon/ haunting the marches, marauding round the heath… condemned as outcasts” (36-45). The purpose of using this archetype is to show the distinction between good and evil. The people in the mead hall are the supporters of good. They follow the Anglo-Saxon warrior codes and are on Beowulf’s side. Grendel is opposite of this ideal. He lives in solitude in a cave at the bottom of the lake and upon hearing of the partying in the mead hall feels enraged. To further emphasize the archetype, he raids Herot only during the nighttime. This shows the degree to which he is ostracised from society since appearing in daylight is off bounds to Grendel. When Beowulf rends his arm, Grendel runs away, showing his cowardice since he runs instead of finishing the fight on the spot. For the Anglo-Saxons, death in battle was the most glorious type of death, thus Grendel’s retreat reinforces the quality of courage and makes him a laughingstock in Anglo-Saxon society. When the battle itself begins, Beowulf’s comrades stay to help him fight. The author states that he is, “Beowulf’s warriors worked to defend/ their lord’s life” (794-95). This ties into the theme of loyalty to one’s kin because although the weapons do no damage, Beowulf’s brethren stay by his side to help. This emphasizes the Anglo-Saxon warrior culture as the battles serve to show the listener the deep cultural significance of the kinship of the warriors. They are one; not only because of their
Beowulf, king of the Geats, engages in battles in order to protect his community from physical creatures while King Arthur’s knights engage in spiritual battles against evil temptation which lurks around every corner. Beowulf proudly displays his prowess before he must confront Grendel, the “God-cursed brute” when he declares with bold confidence that he “can calm the turmoil” (Heaney 11, 21). Beowulf boasts of his strength, pledging to kill Grendel with his bare hands. Grendel, the cursed descendant of Cain, enjoys death and destruction, ruining Hrothgar’s reputation with every attack on his kingdom. The monster kills one of his men, angering the Thanes and encouraging them to fight