This poem was passed down through the oral tradition over many generations, and modified by each following bard, until the existing copy was made in Anglo-Saxon England.
The only surviving copy Of Beowulf was written in the 1 lath century y Christian scribes, whom may have been the ones who inserted the Christian overtones to the story. Beowulf all in all is like a pagan story draped in Christianity. Beowulf represents the values of the heroic middle age, the honor system that existed between a king, or feudal lord, and his warriors (thanes). The thanes swore fidelity to their leader and vowed to fight audaciously, to the death if required, for their leader.
If the king should perish, his thanes must avenge his life. In return, the leader rewarded his thanes with treasure, protection, and land. Out of the pagan virtues listed: rage, discipline, fidelity, honor, industriousness, perseverance, and self reliance Beowulf depicts absolutely all of them. In similarity Beowulf possesses pretty much all the Christian values of temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, and humility as well.
Beowulf tells a tale of its eponymous hero, and his consecutive battles with a monster, named Greened, with Grenade’s revengeful mother, and with a dragon which was guarding a hoard of treasure. Our first battle happens to be with Greened, a man-eating monster descended from the Biblical Cain (Cain was marked by God, in the Old Testament of the Bible, for the killing of his brother Able, and so society would cast him out. ). The biblical ties of villainous characters exemplify the presence of Christianity within this epic.
Greened raids the hall of Heart which belongs to King Warthogs, snatching men and eating them, continuously. Greened is certainly a thing of evil, lines within the epic shows the wrath (one of seven sins) he unleashes on those living under Warthogs; “Sad lays were sung about the beset king,/ the vicious raids and ravages of Greened, ‘his long ND unrelenting feud,/ nothing but war; how he would never/ parley or make peace with any Dane Nor stop his death-dealing nor pay the death-price. No counselor could ever expect ‘fair reparation from those rabid hands. ‘All were endangered; young and old/ were hunted down by that dark death- shadow ‘who lurked and swooped in the long nights Ion the misty moors; nobody knows ‘where these reapers from hell roam on their errands. ‘So Greened waged his lonely war, /inflicting constant cruelties on the people, / atrocious hurt. He took over Horror, [haunted the glittering hall after dark, / UT the throne itself, the treasure-seat, ‘he was kept from approaching he was the Lord’s outcast” (Beowulf 37).
His reign of terror persists for twelve years, until Beowulf, a young warrior of the Seats in southern Sweden learns of Grenade’s mischief and decides to give a helping hand in defeating the beast for King Warthogs. Beowulf believes he is the man for the task because at his time there is no man mightiest than him and maybe others believed so because no one denied his departure. In fact Beowulf claims he was supported by those in his land to defeat Greened. Lines 415-441 are a clear description of Beowulf heroic values.
He displays courage (the ability to face his fear and defend his family and other kin in the face of danger), honor (keeping his family name pure by maintaining his oath as a warrior), discipline (doing what is right, just and fair against bribe or threat), perseverance (working against all odds to get the job done), self-reliance (using the skills he has acquired to gain and keep independence) and fidelity (staying true to those he protects). The following quote gives heed to Beowulf Christian values: “… E privilege of purifying Horror, ‘with my own men to help me, and nobody else. II have heard moreover that the monster scorns ‘in his reckless way to use weapons; ‘therefore, to heighten Haggler’s fame land gladden his heart, I hereby renounce ‘sword and the shelter of the broad shield, ‘the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand ‘is how it will be, a life-and-death ‘fight with the fiend. Whichever one death fells ‘must deem it a just judgment by God” (Beowulf 43). Beowulf risks his life to fight Greened with no weapon besides himself.
What other act than that to represent charity (self-sacrifice or the love of God first and then for the love of others including oneself), diligence (capability of not giving up), kindness (unselfish love and benevolence without bias) and humility (courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult). Beowulf encounter with Greened was interesting. For Greened had never come across a man with as must guts and brawn to challenge or overpower him; “He was evenhanded, manacled tight by the man who of all men was foremost and strongest in the days of his life” (Beowulf 50).
However, in the end it was Beowulf who won by the grace of God. “The monster wrenched and wrestled with him/ but Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength/the wondrous gifts God had showered on him: ‘He relied for help on the Lord of All, Ion His care and favor. So he overcame the foe, ‘brought down the hell-brute” (Beowulf 61). Since the Pagans were polytheistic the belief in one God who is an almighty entity belongs to those under Christian faith. With a trophy of sorts Beowulf returns with Grenade’s arm to declare victory to King Warthogs.
In return, Warthogs gives a celebratory’ feast at Horror in Beowulf honor for Beowulf honor. But all DOD things must come to an end, and with that end Grenade’s mother-‘the monstrous hell-bride”- lurks terror to avenge her son’s death. Our second battle takes place in the lair of Grenade’s mother. Like Greened, his mother is also a descendant from Cain and she is a creature of evil. As any good, dutiful warrior would Beowulf is loyal to King Warthogs and guarantees there will be no escape for Grenade’s mother.
He ensures that he will do everything he can so she will pay for what she has done at Horror. Grenade’s mother’s lake is in a dark and rocky area almost alike a place of hell, a true nightmare. It is described as “… Infested/ with all kinds of reptiles. There were writhing sea- dragons land monsters slouching on slopes by the cliff, ‘serpents and wild things such as those that often/ surface at dawn to roam the sail-road/ and doom the voyage” (Beowulf 64). This does not sway our protagonist for he continues on in the face of danger.
This act represents a Pagan virtue, industriousness (in holding nothing back from what was pledged). It also embodies other Pagan virtues, courage, discipline, fidelity, honor, industriousness, perseverance, self reliance. Here is another instance where Beowulf has not cowered when he is confronted by danger. Beowulf dives into the lake and swims for hours where he reaches Grenade’s mother’s cave at the very bottom. Grenade’s mother is immune to normal weapons so once again Beowulf must show Courage and fight with his bare hands, as these monsters do.
However Beowulf is not fighting this woman beast alone, as Holy God determines who will win: “The son of Goethe would have surely perished/ and the Seats lost their warrior under the wide earth/ had the strong links and locks of his war-gear/ not helped to save him: holy God/ ecocide the victory. It was easy for the Lord, / the Ruler of Heaven, to redress the balance/ once Beowulf got back up on his feet” (Beowulf 67). Once again Beowulf will defeat his opponent through the grace of God because he then discovers a mighty sword that only he could be able to operate which will slay Grenade’s mother.
Before finding the sword Grenade’s mother was proving to be a worthy adversary, for she meets him blow for blow. The charity, diligence, and humility amongst other Christian-like characteristics of Beowulf push him on top to conquer the” hell-bride”. This time Beowulf uses the head of Grenade’s mother as a token of triumph back to King Warthogs. Just as expected there is another celebration for Beowulf and his honor. This epic is one of repetition, endings and beginnings because as stated above all good things come to an end and what is ending is Beowulf s time with King Warthogs and his people.
Beowulf has done exactly what he said he would and extra, excelling each challenge brought to him, and can go home even more so of a supreme warrior. Our last and final battle happens to be when Beowulf is of old age. In between this ultimate duel and him leaving King Warthogs, Beowulf turns over most of his treasure (armor, weapons, gold, and horses), loses 2 kings (who were father and son) and becomes a king himself who rules for fifty years. In his younger days Beowulf was surprisingly not seen as a courageous warrior, but that changed due to his extraordinary feats.
As any king should be, Beowulf epitomizes a prosperous man of good deeds and wisdom. He is a reflection of not only Pagan virtues but Christian ones as well. Unfortunately, Beowulf s peaceful reign is upset by the presence of a dragon. The dragon guards an underground barrow full of treasure, which is accessible only by a secret passage. The greedy dragon’s actions of hoarding treasure shows this is another ungodly creature that needs to be taken care of by Beowulf.
The dragon is furious because of theft taken place in its barrow so it burns land and buildings in retaliation, uncaring of whose it is. Beowulf decides to fight the dragon just as he once fought his other foes. The difference is at that time he was a young warrior. Now he’s an older king, who is responsible for his people, someone should be fighting for him and heir people. Beowulf exhibits not only courage, but loyalty to kinship when he refuses to take the throne from his cousin. But that selfless devotion to leads his prideful decision to fight the dragon.
Even Beowulf acknowledges his age and what lies ahead of him: “Beowulf spoke, made a formal boast Beowulf s last boast/for the last time: “l risked my life/ often when I was young. Now I am old, / but as king of the people shall pursue this fight/ for the glory of winning, if the evil one will only/ abandon his earth-fort and face me in the Open ‘”‘ (Beowulf 86). Despite knowing this battle may be his last Beowulf makes the decision to fight the dragon weaponless because it’s the way he knows.
It goes to show that he is a man of many things; courage, discipline, fidelity, honor, industriousness, perseverance, self reliance, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, and humility. Beowulf proceeds to say, “This fight is not yours, / nor is it up to any man except me/ to measure his strength against the monster/or to prove his worth. I shall win the gold/ by my courage, or else mortal combat, / doom of battle, will bear your lord away” (Beowulf 87). Together Beowulf and his warrior accomplice Wigwag finish off the dragon after an intense combat that leaves both men bruised and battered but Beowulf the mortally injured.
The dragon managed to bite Beowulf in the neck during his attack and that bite was the one thing to seal Beowulf fate as it was poisonous. As he lay dying Beowulf praises God for everything he has done for him and allowed him to accomplish, not only for himself but his people:” To the everlasting Lord of All, ‘to the King of Glory, I give thanks/ that I behold this treasure here in front of me, / that have been allowed to leave my people ‘so well endowed on the day I die”(Page 92).
Beowulf uses his treasure as his final gift to his people, and passes kingship to Wigwag, who is able enough to lead over the people Beowulf ruled, the Seats. However, no one will lead like Beowulf did for his people so his battle, death, and endowment are pointless.