Essay on Beginning Beowulf

Submitted By Renee-Tawil
Words: 811
Pages: 4

Renee Tawil
Dr. Starke
January 31, 2015

Beowulf: A Hero Who “Held to His High Destiny” Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon work that was rediscovered in the 18th century. This epic poem has gone through speculation and analysis over time for at first it was perceived solely as a document of Nordic life. Today this poem is viewed through a poetic and artistic lens that allows readers to appreciate it in a new light. Undoubtedly this elegiac piece handles a variety of internal inconsistencies, which in turn promotes debates about its content. In his influential essay, the critic J.R.R. Tolkein writes that Beowulf is not an epic hero because he did not fight for the right reasons, such as for “loyalties…[and] love.” However, after a close reading it is evident that there is another side to this argument. Beowulf is a hero because he exemplifies the major characteristics of one and had a deep inspirational effect on major characters in the poem. Beowulf’s heroic deeds are exemplified throughout the poem. In the beginning Beowulf demonstrates his dedication to a tribe that is not his own. He offers the lord of the Danes his “wholehearted help and counsel” to defeat the monster Grendel and prevent the Danes from being destroyed (Beowulf 278). Beowulf and his tribe the Geats feel that it is important to help out the Danes because Beowulf “owe[s] allegiance to Lord Hygelac” since he helped his father in the past (261). Unferth is a character that tries to diminish Beowulf’s heroic deeds. Before the fight with Grendel, Unferth remarks a story from Beowulf’s past—a swimming match with Breca, whom Beowulf lost to. Unferth could not comprehend why Beowulf is receiving so much heroic recognition. It makes him “sick with envy” that anyone has higher “regard” than him especially when Beowulf’s heroic resume is not stellar (502-505). In spite of this remark, Beowulf conducts himself in a selfless manner and says that he was off fighting sea monsters so the “sailors would be safe” (568). Beowulf does not talk about this match to glorify himself, rather to illustrate his capabilities as a warrior. Beowulf’s fight with Grendel exemplifies his bravery during battle. He makes himself a larger-than-life hero by fighting man-eating Grendel alone with his bare hands. He defeats Grendel and saves Heorot hall and all the people in it. Next Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother, who is even more powerful than her son. He throws his swords aside remembering that Grendel was impervious to blades, and once again fights with his bare hands. They both wrestle each other but Beowulf comes out on top only holding Grendel’s severed head and one sword from Grendel’s mother’s lair which had a lot more treasure. This portrays that Beowulf is truly fighting to help the Danes and not for the riches. Not only was Beowulf a hero, but he made a lasting inspirational impact on Wiglaf, a fellow Geat. Before Beowulf’s fight with the dragon, Wiglaf reacts to Beowulf’s reputation in such high regard. He remarks that he pledged his loyalty to Beowulf, for he “honored” him and believed that him and his fellow