The Story Of Beowulf Takes Place In A Time When

1163 words - 5 pages

The story of Beowulf takes place in a time when Christianity was beginning to spread to early Danish pagan societies which valued heroic deeds and bravery above all else. The creatures that Beowulf kills with his superhuman strengths make the story an epic which celebrates the life of a great hero. Among Beowulf's triumphs against the three great monsters, many Christian virtues also come to light. The virtues of loyalty and sacrifice for the good of others, as well as the negative consequences from greed and excessive pride are woven into the story. The characters of Grendel, his mother, and the dragon are devices used by the author to teach these values, and also tell an entertaining adventure story of an epic hero.Grendel's character helps paint the image of Beowulf who contrasts as a great hero. Grendel is first described as "the creature of evil, grim and fierce, and was quickly ready, savage and cruel, and seized from the first thirty thanes." [Heaney, 5] There is a strong Christian influence as well because Grendel is a descendent of Cain and is therefore rejected by God, damned to live in eternal suffering. When Grendel appears, he is "wearing God's anger" which is the opposite of the Danes who celebrate God's grace in their victory feasts at Heorot. [Heaney, 15] Grendel is described as an "unhappy creature" while the Danes are regarded as living in "joy and blessed." [Heaney, 5] After a long reign of terror, Beowulf eventually kills Grendel by ripping off his arm. The arm is a symbol of Beowulf's strength since it is from his hand to hand battle with Grendel. Beowulf is depicted as the great hero who gains victory over a supernatural being, which no other man could defeat. When the arm is hung up in Heorot, Beowulf's bravery is celebrated and it is obvious that bravery is a virtue that is highly respected among the Danes.Beowulf's actions could be seen as a quest for glory and fame, but his bravery can also be interpreted as the ultimate sacrifice. Time after time Beowulf puts his life in the hands of fate to help others. Another Christian virtue is self-sacrifice for the good of others. Beowulf risks his life when he fights Grendel and later on, Grendel's mother at the bottom of the lake. His trip down to the bottom of the lake is similar to a journey to hell. He travels downwards and on his way "many monsters attacked him in the water, many a sea-beast tore at his mail shirt with war tusks, strange creatures afflicted him." [Heaney, 29] Beowulf kills Grendel's mother even though the odds are stacked against him since he is not in his own element. Beowulf is in the lair as a "blaze brightened, light shone within just as from the sky heaven's candle shine's clear" appears to Beowulf as Grendel's mother falls dead. [Heaney, 30] This is a testament to the pure evil in the lake which was lifted at the moment of Grendel's mother's death. Pagan influence is seen as well in this passage in the sword which was used by Beowulf. Giants,...

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