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Beowulf Essay: The First

1393 words - 6 pages

There are a plethora of different themes, motifs, and symbols to choose from in Beowulf. A recurring theme throughout Beowulf is generosity and hospitality, along with the importance of ones identity. One portion stands out the most against the first theme and it is; The Finnsburg Fragment. A motif that came to mind while reading Beowulf had to have been the importance of the Mead Hall. Something else to think about is the relation to the fall of the hall in The Finnsburg Fragment being told right after Beowulf’s victory against Grendel.
The entire fragment goes against generosity and hospitality. It starts off in the middle of a battle and ends with the death of Hnæf and his son. Though one character is not mentioned, Finn, it is pretty much implied since Hnæf and his party were staying at Finn’s mead hall. It did not end with the surrender of Hnæf’s troops instead it was a standstill, a draw. In Beowulf the theme is prominent though not always followed either with the burning of the mead hall. However, unlike The Finnsburg Fragment, Beowulf showed its theme many more times. It is a shame there isn’t more of the Finnsburg than just the fragment but it seemed time had taken it and thrown it away.
It is unclear why exactly Hnæf and Finn are going against each other but part of it might have to do with the waring countries. What it has to do with Beowulf was how important the poet seemed to feel it was by mentioning it. Back in Beowulf’s time, or better stated, the time of the poet generosity and hospitality were very, very important. No one knew if one of the gods, who frequently came down in human form, might come to visit. It was better to be polite then risk the wrath of the gods. The Finnsburg Fragment took that mentality and threw it out the window.
The general rule of thumb for generosity and hospitality, apart from the god portion, is that the ruler of the land would give his ‘retainers’ or worriers a share of the treasure, land and weapons taken in battle. The leader in Beowulf held tightly to the name, ‘ring giver’, or ‘treasure giver’. It was one of the reasons they were loved by their men. In The Finnsburg Fragment instead of holding onto those names the leader spurred his men on by his actions and his words. However there must have been some of that before the fragment though I cannot be sure. It would be, given the time period, a chief reason the men followed their leader into battle and fought as fiercely as they did for that reason.
The importance of identity comes in right away for Beowulf because of the introduction. It is as if no one isn’t important in this piece for how long they talk about some people. It is also good to note how before The Finnsburg Fragment even happened Hnæf was mentioned in the poem. Not necessarily the introduction but he is in the poem. I think it might have to do with the importance of the Danes and since he was a leader of the Danes it would make sense. Beowulf’s identity is important because of...

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