17 April 2013
A Hero's Legacy The poem Beowulf written by an unknown anglo-saxon in the 8th century, is a story about a hero. A hero who kills monsters with his bare hands and slays dragons with a steel sword. He has incredible strength, and he receives great amounts of gold and treasure for his deeds. He is a king who rules his kingdom fairly, and is loved by all. It's these extraordinary deeds that bring this ancient story, set in 6th century Denmark, to modern day readers. So why is Beowulf considered a hero of epic proportions? He risks his life for the sake of his people, he shows loyalty in times of hoplessness and because of all this, he is highly glorified by others. Beowulf risks his life for others many times in this story. The first is when Beowulf fights the man-eating monster Grendel. Beowulf tells King Hrothgar's people, My purpose was this: to win the good will of your people or die in battle, pressed in Grendels fierce grip. Let me live in greatness and courage or here in this hall welcome my death. (7. 364-369).
By saying this, Beowulf meant he wanted to either defeat Grendel, or die trying. Needless to say, Beowulf kills Grendel, but then he has to face Grendel's mother who wants revenge for her son's death. Beowulf kills her and his life is great for many years, until a dragon starts terrorizing his homeland. Beowulf then risks his life one more time to kill the dragon with the help of his loyal friend Wiglaf. Loyalty was one of the most important qualities to the anglo-saxons, and Beowulf was especially loyal. When Beowulf was a young man, he and his friend Brecca had a swimming race. Even though Beowulf knew he could easily defeat his friend, he chose to stay by his side for five days until a storm blew them apart. Beowulf says, ...He could never leave me behind, swim faster accross the waves than I could, and I had chosen to remain close to his side, I remained near him five long nights until a flood swept us apart... (6. 274-278).
This shows just how loyal Beowulf was to his friend. Another example of Beowulf's loyalty is the fact that he went to help King Hrothgar in the first place. The Danes had helped Beowulf's father by paying off another country to avoid a huge war and they also gave him refuge for a time. Beowulf felt obligated to pay his father's debt