An Epic Review of Beowolf

When I got to the end of “Beowulf”, I was almost disappointed. It was an ending fitting for an epic tale of heroism, valor, and strength. Nevertheless, it was action packed and easy to follow and left me wishing Beowulf would somehow supernaturally resurrect from the funeral pyre and live out his days as the immortal he had seemed. The plot, filled with action, bravery, otherworldly opponents, and great moments of conflict, are what legends are made of. I am now inclined to research the character of Beowulf and discover whether he was based on a real person or was an actual person in ancient British history and read the contexts. I have yet to see the film based on the tale.

I found it interesting that the monster and creature characters in the story, Grendel and the dragon, are likened to demonic forces. It seems as though religion was a major part of Danish life, infiltrating several of its aspects. When Grendel is introduced, he is said to have come from the line of the Biblical Cain, who was forsaken by God for killing his brother Abel and that all monsters came from Cain’s line. The text reads, “For the killing of Abel, the eternal Lord had exacted a price: Cain got no good from committing that murder because the Almighty made him anathema, and out of the curse of his exile there sprang ogres and elves and evil phantoms and the giants too who strove with God time and again until He gave them their reward”. This is a very interesting take on the origins of these creatures and gives context to Grendel’s evil powers and the supernaturalism of the great warriors in the text, namely Beowulf, for they must be supernatural to take on supernatural forces of evil.

Though Beowulf seemed supernatural up until his point of death, there was foreshadowing that he was not immortal. When Beowulf defeated Grendel’s mother and was preparing to leave Denmark, the king felt that he would never see him face to face again. The text reads, “And so the good and gray-haired Dane, that highborn king, kissed Beowulf and embraced his neck, then broke down in sudden tears. Two forebodings disturbed him in his wisdom but one was stronger: nevermore would they meet each other face to face.”

I also found it interesting that Beowulf was able to ally two enemy peoples, the Geats and the Danes, and that this alliance ended with his own death. The fact that one man was powerful enough to bring these enemies together and that upon his death the feud would resume is astonishing. When Beowulf is preparing to leave Denmark, king Hrothgar says to him “What you have done is to draw two peoples, the Geat nation and us neighboring Danes, into shared peace, and a pact of friendship in spite of hatreds we have harbored in the past”. In the end, a messenger announces to Beowulf’s warriors, “So this bad blood between us and the Swedes, this vicious feud, I am convinced, is bound to revive; they will cross our borders and attack in force when they find out that Beowulf is dead”.

I also noticed a connection between king Hrothgar and Beowulf. King Hrothgar, much like Beowulf, had been a great warrior in his youth and won many battles. He had brought peace to his territory and had not expected Grendel to show up and attack Heorot in his old age. He states to Beowulf before he departs to Geatland, “Just so I ruled the Ring-Danes country for fifty years, defended them in wartime with spear and sword against constant assaults by many tribes: I came to believe my enemies had faded from the face of the earth. Still, what happened was a hard reversal from bliss to grief. Grendel struck after lying in wait”. This foreshadows what happened to Beowulf when he became king. His reign almost parallels that of Hrothgars. He had fought and won many battles in his youth, and then, in his old age, a dragon is awoken which, unlike Hrothgar, he alone must fight. Because he chooses to fight, he loses his life, and dies a true warrior king’s death.

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