Beowulf And The Destruction Of Feminine Power

1453 words - 6 pages

Beowulf is an epic story that tells many things in ways that are not obvious if the symbols used are not recognized and placed within an accurate context. It is, among other things, a story of dragons and battles, Christianity versus paganism, and the story of a man and his pride. It is also a story about the evils of and the destruction of feminine power.
Because of historical context, it is helpful to understand the period of its writing and similar stories in history. For the scope of this discussion, comparisons against Arthurian lore are used as well as religious historical context. Beowulf was written, at best guess, between 800 and 1100 CE while Arthurian lore was established in the fifth century, three to six centuries earlier. Because of the nature of oral story-telling and culture, sufficient time will have passed and provided ample opportunity for elements of Arthurian lore to be used in Beowulf. They both contain dragons, magical swords received by a female figure in a lake, and strong references to Christianity. Because of religious historical context, these symbols also carried with them contexts that are religious in nature.
Some of the symbols used for feminine power are swords, any body of water or division of the earth, the night or moon, and the dragon. Swords, sun or daytime, hands, Christianity, God, and lord are all symbols of masculine power. It is important to realize that a symbol of gender can also stand in for a person figure. As such, hands can stand in for a male presence and a lake is interchangeable for a feminine presence.
It is also critical to note that the context of a symbol changes the gender representation of that symbol. A sword in a cave becomes a feminine power but when held by a man, it reverts to a masculine power. Marriage transforms feminine power into an extension of masculine power. The dragon under the lake is transformed into the biblical dragon Tiamat while simultaneously transforming the sword into a representation of Jesus Christ. This method of context transformation is consistent throughout the epic and can be applied at any point to accurately see the underlying meaning.
Near the beginning of the story, the context of masculine versus feminine power is clearly set. The mead hall is clearly a place of male bonding and is therefore a seat of masculine power. Grendel, a creature who represents feminine power, attacks under the cover of night and does so for twelve years. It is not impossible that the timeframe of “twelve years” is significant as the feminine cycle is considered to be a lunar month and therefore the measure of the life of a mature woman is measured in months with twelve months in a year. Grendel is further described as having dominion over borders, moors, hollows, and fens. All of these are divisions of land (feminine) and therefore makes Grendel an authority of feminine power. Because Grendel and his mother are both representations of feminine power and are descendents...

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