Beowulf, one of the oldest surviving epic poems of Anglo-Saxon literature, is a heroic adventure of a great Scandinavian warrior battling dragons and ogres. Beowulf is a very memorable story because it makes use of exemplary examples of literary elements. It also demonstrates values of bravery and loyalty that were important during the warrior era. Three elements that help develop the poem are bravery, antagonists, and imagery.
Bravery is one of the key elements of this poem. Beowulf, the main character and hero, is colossal and brave. We are told that he has the strength of thirty men. When he learns of the killings of Hrothgar’s warriors, he leaves his home on his own free will to go and help without asking for anything in return. In his battle with Grendel, Beowulf refuses to wear armor or use weapons because Grendel does not use weapons either. When Grendel’s mother seeks to avenge the demise of her son, Beowulf once again shows great courage and bravery by going through dark swamps and a cave to track her down and slay her. Because of his bravery and heroism, when Beowulf returns home he is named King. However, Beowulf’s bravery does not end here. About fifty years later, a dragon seeks revenge against his kingdom forcing Beowulf to protect his people again. Although he no longer has youth on his side, Beowulf insists on going to slay the mighty dragon. The use of bravery in the character development of Beowulf lets the reader find a monumental hero to admire.
Just as every story needs a hero it also needs a villain. In this poem there are three wicked antagonists, Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. Grendel, the first antagonist, is a huge and powerful ogre who is livid and jealous of the people of Heorot. Part man and beast, Grendel has two arms with claws, two legs, and a head. Nonetheless, he is gigantic, mighty, and protected from man’s weapons with magic. Grendel often defeats a dozen men at a time and carries them back to his home to consume. The second villain is Grendel’s mother. She is not as gigantic or as petrifying as her son. However, she is driven by deep rooted scorn that only a mother can feel. She seeks retribution for her conquered son and retrieves his claw from Hrothgar’s hall. The last antagonist, a dragon, comes much later in the story and ultimately claims the life of the protagonist, Beowulf.
The third element that hugely impacts the poem is