The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf is the most important work of Old Englishliterature, and is well deserved of the distinction. The epic tells the story ofa hero, a Scandinavian prince named Beowulf, who rids the Danes of the monsterGrendel, a descendent of Cain, and of his exploits fighting Grendel’s mother anda Dragon. Throughout the epic, the Anglo-Saxon story teller uses many elementsto build a certain depth to the characters.

Just a few of the importantcharacter elements in Beowulf are Wealth ; Honor, Biblical ; Paganistic,and Man vs. Wild themes. Many of the characters in Beowulf are, like in mostepics, defined by their status. But, in addition to status, the Anglo-Saxonculture also adds an element of honor. To the Anglo-Saxons, a character’simportance, as well as their wealth and status, where measured not only inmonetary terms, but it was also measured in terms of honor, fame, andaccomplishments. Hrothgar, king of the Danes, is one example of the Anglo-Saxonmeasurement of importance in Beowulf. In Canto 1 the story teller describes hiswealth and importance, not as mounds of gold or jewels, but instead as hisability to “[lead] the Danes to such glory.” and as his tendency to”In battle, [leave] the common pasture untouched, and taking nolives.

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” Through this display of compassion for the commoner who doesn’tfight in battles, Hrothgar proves the full extent of his honor and therefore theextent of his wealth and status. Beowulf, the hero-prince, also proves his truewealth and status through his deeds as defender of the Danes. As he fights anddefeats Grendel, Beowulf Earns Fame and wealth from his companions, and from theDanes, but more importantly, he earns honor raising him to the level of anarchetypal hero. Grendel, on the other hand, is the total opposite of Beowulf.He has no wealth, no honor, and he in infamous as an evil killer. This lack ofwealth and honor defines Grendel as a symbol of evil and corruption.

In additionto using Honor and wealth to define a character’s character, the story-teller(s)have incorporated alternating Biblical and Paganistic motifs in the epic-poem.The original Epic was obviously Paganistic due to the time period of it’screation. But, as time wore on, the rewriting and touching up of the manuscriptsby various sources including religious monks, caused the characters to haveslight Christian characteristics. These Christian themes have become veryimportant to the epic to add am element of depth that wouldn’t be possible inmodern times due to the lost of the Anglo-Saxon culture and beliefs. An exampleof the Biblical motif in Beowulf is Grendel. Grendel it biblically described asevil in this excerpt: [ Grendel] was spawned in that slime, Conceived by a pairof those monsters born Of Cain, murderous creatures banished By God, punishedforever for the crime Of Abel’s death. The Almighty drove Those demons out, andtheir exile was bitter, Shut away from men; they split Into a thousand forms ofevil-spirits And feinds, goblins, monsters, giants, A brood forever opposing theLord’s Will, and again and again defeated. The Biblical reference in the epichas become a modern day archetypal motif, and serves to give the listener anidea of the extent of Grendel’s pure evil and gives a logical explanation forGrendel’s murderous behavior.

This example, not only shows the evil in Grendel’snature, but also the torture in his heart caused by his Banishment from God. Itserves to give the reader an idea of why Grendel would kill the Danes for noreason other than their happiness. Beowulf also has a religious motif to hischaracter. One example of this is in Canto 6 line 381 in which Hrothgar states,”Our Holy Father had sent [Beowulf] as a sign of His grace, a mark of Hisfavor, to help us defeat Grendel and end that terror.” This religiousdescription shows Beowulf as a sort of messiah sent by god to save man fromevil.

But, more than that, since Beowulf is in fact not a messiah, thisdescription shows the good in Beowulf’s heart and the purpose of his mission.Another Biblical reference in Beowulf is shown in the tower of Herot which isvery similar to the tower of Babel in the fact that it’s built as a sign ofsuperiority and accomplishment. Like Babel, though, Herot only serves as asymbol of downfall more than one of glory because it causes many deaths and thecoming of Grendel.

Apart from Wealth, Honor, and Paganistic vs. Biblical themesand motifs, character is also shown through a certain Man vs. Wild motif. Thismotif shows the difference between mankind’s ways (good), and evil’s wild nature(evil). Grendel for one, is totally wild and is therefore shown as evil.

Hiswild home, “Grendel, who haunted the moors, the wild marshes, and made hishome in a hell not hell but earth.” shows his wild, untamed, and thereforevil nature. Grendel’s wilderness is countered in mankind’s ways, especiallyBeowulf’s. Beowulf is tame and civilized, the epitomy of goodness and purity.

Beowulf doesn’t fight evil in a wild manner, rather, as shown in his firstbattle with Grendel. First off, Beowulf is pure and shows this before his battlewhen he removes his armor and vows not to use a weapon to defeat Grendel.Defeating Grendel, he shows that man, without armor and weapons, can defeat evilin any form including that of his foe Grendel. This deed serves throughout theepic serves as a symbol of Beowulf’s Goodness.

Beowulf has many other sucharchetypal, symbolic themes and motifs, but the most important themes that serveto add depth to the characters are the wealth, honor, religious, man, andwildness themes.Book Reports


Beowulf A writers mind is very intellectual, they tend to have an unparalleled vision within their sense of understanding. The differences of this vision, compared to the levels of understanding, shows itself transversely throughout the novel Grendel and the epic poem Beowulf. Both forms of literature are distinct in the plot and setting, but Gardner’s perceptiveness of Beowulf in his novel differs from the view of the unknown author’s relay of Beowulf in the poem. In the poem, Beowulf is portrayed as an epic hero, brave honorable, and dignified, with vast generosity and munificent loyalty.

While in the novel, he is portrayed as an unsettling stranger that connives his way into everyone’s life by his dangerous nature and entrancing stories.In the poem, the character Beowulf is viewed as a true epic hero. He is very brave, has great strength, and is viewed by his peers as a person like God. He has won many battles, and completed many tasks that normal people wouldn’t have the guts to face.

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One of these tasks is the slaughter of the great monster Grendel. “That I, alone and with the help of my men,/ May purge all evil from this hall. I have heard,/ Too, that the monster’s scorn of men/Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none./ Nor will I.My lord Higlac”. (260-264) In this statement from Beowulf, he is stating his fearlessness to his lord.

This shows he is very brave and loyal, because he will risk his life to rid the beast. He also goes on to tell his people that if he doesn’t survive they can have his possessions. “And if death does take me, send the hammered/ Mail of my armor to Higlac, .. .”(281-282) This shows his generosity and his unselfishness to his people and the reader because he knows that he is not invulnerable.

Because he knows this, he is willing to give up his possessions to the people he cares about, and become a better, dignified hero in case of an emergency. In the novel, there is a whole different representation of the character Beowulf, he is viewed as a conniving snake that is feared by his fellows. People see him in an unsettling manner, with tense attitudes, and resented feelings. “The Danes sat sulking, watching the strangers eat, wishing some one of them would give them an excuse to use their daggers.”(159) The Danes are very jealous of Beowulf’s men.The status of a person, in that time, is determined by the amount of beasts and monsters they have defeated. This is why the character Beowulf and the top man in Hrothgar’s hall are seemingly always on each other’s throat. Beowulf is seen as a threat, not only to Grendel, but to the people of Hrothgar’s hall.

Also, they view him as an insane guy who would do anything to be in the spotlight. “I understood at the last look in his eyes.He was insane.” (162) When a person does anything to get his status , and receive his honor, even to the point of dying for no reason, he is crazy. In the novel Grendel, Beowulf did just so. This makes the people of Hrothgar’s hall fear him, and let him have his way. This results in him killing Beowulf, and the other monsters within Hrothgar’s kingdom.

Gardner’s novel, and the unknown author’s poem, had many similarities including the plot and setting.But the differences were immense in the character of Beowulf. He is everything of an epic hero in the play, and in the novel, he is a cunning fearful snake, that will do anything for fame. These differences go to show how writers have different takes on other people’s work. This creates diversity in the wonderful world of literature.

English Essays.


The story of Beowulf is one of courage, nobility, and heroism. Beowulf possesses each of these attributes both as a young prince and an elder king. These qualities allow him to become the honored king that he was, yet they also lead to his death. His actions are to be viewed as a precedent for young princes and future kings. Clearly every young prince inspires to earn enough respect to become king in their latter years. Beowulf first earns this respect when he sails to Herot to kill Grendel, the monster that has been keeping the soldiers out of their home.

Upon arrival in Herot, Beowulf brags of his past accomplishments, in order to earn some respect from Hrothgar and his men.In my youth I have set about many brave deedsI had bound five, destroyed a family of giants, and at night in the waves slain water-monsters, suffered great pain, avenged an affliction of the Weater-Geats on those who had asked for trouble- ground enemies to bits. And now alone I shall settle affairs with Grendel, the monster, the demon. (Page 32)While this beast has killed many of Hrothgar’s men, Beowulf vows to destroy him with his bare hands. Even after doing as he so promised, Beowulf has still not finished his duties. The following day, he is faced with another challenge; killing Grendel’s angry mother. When Beowulf is asked to perform this task, he accepts whole heatedly , as he sees it as another chance to gain fame, “Let him who may get glory before death: that is best for the warrior after he has gone from life.

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“(page 45) Once again, Beowulf returns successful in his battle with the monster, only to increase his popularity within his people. These courageous and heroic deeds are expected of any young or aging prince. Clearly Beowulf’s brave encounters with these monsters show his king and followers that he is worthy of becoming a fearless leader. However, his ability to rule goes beyond those feats in battle.

Beowulf was showered with gifts of gold and riches for his tremendous achievements of killing the monsters. This is where his manner is shown to be one of strong moral. While he could have easily kept them all for himself, Beowulf gives his rewards to his king, Higlac; as he was instructed to do. In addition, Beowulf declined his first offering at the throne. His sense of morality and loyalty to Higlac tells him that it is only right for Higlac’s son to take the throne before himself. These decent acts should be wisely followed by a young prince.When Beowulf accepts the role of King of the Geats, he does not change as a person or as a warrior. Once again, a monster is brought to the attention of Beowulf, this time in his own land.

Even in his old age, Beowulf vows to fight this dragon on his own. Yet this battle was not to be fought for his own fame, yet for the safety of his people. Beowulf attacks the dragon as he had done so many times in the past, in hope of a victory. However, he quickly learns that his strength and armor are no match for the fire breathing dragon.

As the fight comes to a close, Beowulf lies dying on the ground, with all but one man left to his aid. Although the dragon was defeated, the Geats lost their honorable king. He died doing what any good leader would, defending his land and people. Beowulf’s mistake was to let his ego take over, as he tried to take on the dragon alone. This is especially notable for a young prince to follow. While it is necessary to be brave and courageous, a prince of king must know his own limitations in order to succeed.


Type of Work: Heroic epic poem Setting”Land of the Geats,” southern Sweden and Denmark; c.

sixth century Principal CharactersBeowulf, a Geat heroHrothgar, King of the DanesUnferth, a Danish warriorWiglaf, Beowulf’s nephew and loyal court noble Story OverviewLong ago in Hrothgar’s Danish kingdom lived a gruesome monster-giant namedGrendel, who nightly roamed the countryside. Rising from his marshy home, he wouldstalk to the King’s high hall, and there devour fifteen of Hrothgar’s sleeping warriors.Then, before departing, the monster would seize fifteen more men with his huge armsand bear them back to his watery lair. For twelve years the slaughter continued. Word of this terror spread across the sea to the land of the Geats, ruled by Hygelac.Beowulf, Hygelac’s principal advisor and warrior and a man of great strength andcourage, heard the tale of Grendel’s murderous attacks.

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Straightway, he set sail tofree the Danes from the demon’s depredations. In Denmark, a coast-watcher met the weary company of fifteen seafarers. Learning ofBeowulf’s intended mission, he permitted the Danes to pass. They started out then – the spacious ship remained behind, riding on its rope, …

Figures of boars, bright and fire-hardened, gleamed gold-adorned above the cheek-guards; in war the boarhelped guard those fierce men’s lives … To Hrothgar’s high hall they marched.

There the King spread a banquet feast inBeowulf’s honor; the mead cup was passed around, and the boasting began. But theDanish warrior Unferth, “drunken with wine,” taunted the Geat, reminding him of afive-day swimming contest in which Beowulf was said to have been bested. The Geatanswered boldly, however, that he had not only emerged victorious in the race, buthad been forced to kill nine deadly sea-monsters during the course. After the feast, Hrothgar and his warriors went to their rest, leaving Beowulf and hismen in the hall.

Then came the fiendish Grendel, “with an unlovely light, like a hellishflame in his eyes.” The ironbound door burst open at the touch of his fingers, and herejoiced at the rich feast of human flesh awaiting him. He seized one sleeping warrior,tore him up furiously, bit through muscles and sinews, and drank the blood in streams.Then he quickly consumed the entire corpse “as a wolf might eat a rabbit.” Hereached toward another victim, but the beast was destined to dine no more that night.Without shield or spear, Beowulf took hold of the dreaded monster, wrenching off hisright arm; and the maimed Grendel fled back to his home.


. The wise and bravewarrior from afar/ had cleansed Hrothgar’s hall, reclaiming it from woe.” As a sign ofvictory, Beowulf hung his bloody trophy on the wall above the door inside the hall.The brave hero was honored once more with a sumptuous feast and magnificentpriceless gifts. But on the next night, Grendel’s brooding and miserable mother made “a sorryjourney to avenge her son.” Rushing into the great hall, she seized Aeschere,Hrothgar’s dearest counselor and a famed and heroic warrior, snatched Grendel’ssevered arm from the wall, and fled into the darkness. Asleep in a house at somedistance from the hall, Beowulf did not learn of the she-monster’s visit until the nextmorning. After vowing to rid the people of this second, even more wretched demon,Beowulf turned to comfort the King with his sage philosophy of life and death:Grieve not, wise warrior.

It is betterto avenge one’s friend than mourn too much. Each of us must one day reach the end Of worldly life, let him who can winglory before he dies: that lives on after him, when he lifeless lies. With Hrothgar leading the way, the Danes cautiously approached the dreadedmarsh-lair. Arriving at the moor’s edge, the soldiers came upon the head of theill-fated Aeschere and sighted a stain of blood on the water. Beowulf prepared to descend to the home of the foe. Unferth nobly offered the Geathis own blood-hardened sword – the finest in the kingdom – thus forfeiting a chance towin for himself immortal glory and fame. As Beowulf sank beneath the murky waters, he was immediately encircled byenormous and vicious creatures.

After an immense struggle, he came to the cave ofGrendel’s mother and began to do battle. Beowulf, never lucky with weapons, failedin his first attempt to wound the she-monster with Unferth’s sword and turned to hismighty handgrip, strong enough to “match the strength of thirty men.” Though he wasable to grasp the monster by the shoulder and throw her to the ground, still, in thegrim hand-to-hand battle that ensued, Beowulf was almost overcome.

But fateintervened. On the floor of the lair, in the midst of other weapons pried from thehands of fallen warriors, Beowulf spied a legendary sword that had once belonged toa race of ancient giants. Stretching with all his might, he managed to reach and takehold of the “invincible and strong-edged blade” and plunge it into the heart ofGrendel’s mother.

She rose, then fell in a helpless heap of death. Beowulf turned andsaw Grendel himself, lying crippled on the ground nearby. Swiftly, he swung thesword again, and smote Grendel’s loathsome head from its body. Then, as the hero swam to the surface of the marsh, the wondrous sword melted,leaving only the head and hilt intact. Upon seeing Beowulf alive and undefeated, the Danes rejoiced and feasted him anew.The Geat warrior presented Hrothgar with the sword hilt and returned Unferth’sweapon to him without revealing its failure. Now the time had come for Beowulf to sail back to his Geat homeland. He leftDenmark in great glory.

Upon his return to the court of Lord Hygelac, he was reveredand rewarded with riches and high position. And after several years, Beowulf himselfbecame King among the Geats. One day, after Beowulf had reigned wisely and courageously for some fifty years, aservant, troubled by his lack of prestige in Beowulf’s court, stumbled upon an ancienttreasure. While its guardian dragon slept, he stole away a golden goblet which hepresented to his King, hoping to gain favor.

But the dragon, discovering that thegoblet was missing, rose up in fury and began to ravage the Geat villages with fire.Beowulf was now an old man. Nevertheless, he determined to rid his kingdom of thisscourge and to win the dragon’s rich hoard for his people. Sensing that this might behis final battle, he paused to gather strength, bid farewell to his faithful subjects, and toreflect on his long life of valiant deeds. The moment of confrontation came. Beowulfadvanced toward the dragon’s cave, ordering his warriors to withdraw so that healone might engage the beast in battle..

.. It is not your venture …

to match Your might with the fearful foe’s, to do this heroic deed. By daringshall I gain the gold, or dire battle, ending life, will take your lord away! Finding his shield less protection than he had hoped against the dragon’s fiery breath,he still plunged on through the flames and struck the dragon’s side with his famed andancient sword – to no effect. His foil shattered oil the creatures bony plate, and theinfuriated dragon only belched forth more intense fire. Once again Beowulf wasforced to rely on his iniglity grip. In the savage exchange, of all the Geat-King’swarrior companions, only Wiglaf, a younger kinsman, stood by to defend his ruler. Allothers had fled. The dragon rushed and sank its terrible teeth into Beowulf’s neck. ButWiglaf fearlessly smote the beast on its underside with his sword, and, with hiswar-kilife, Beowulf gave it the death blow.

Weak from loss of blood, the old hero was dying. As his last act, Beowulf gave loyalWiglaf, the last of his family line, kingly jewels and armor. He rejoiced that he hadsucceeded ill winning the treasure for his subjects, but mourned the fact that he mustnow leave them. The Geat troops honored their fallen lord with magnificent funeral rites. The body oftheir hero was burned on a pyre, according to pagan custom; then the precious hoardwas taken from the dragon’s lair and buried in the great i-nound covering the King’sashes. Thus his hearth-companions in the hostof the Geats mourned the going of their, lord: they said that of worldly kings he was,the mildest of men and the gentlest, most kind to his people, most eager for fame. And so, with due ceremony, the Geats mourned the passing of the dauntless Beowulf,who had crowned a heroic life with an equally heroic death.CommentaryBeowulf, the great masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon literature, was orally passed fromgeneration to generation by North European peoples.

The highly artistic, action-fillednarrative is replete with Christian theology entangled with pagan mythology, testifyingto the great upheavals that occurred in northern civilizations as the poem took formduring the early middle ages. Continuously, the principal narrative is interrupted byspeeches, pronouncements, songs, chants, and remembrances of battles past -excellent mnemonic devices for transmitting oral history. The poem contains a valuable record of customs and values from a harsh and heroictime. It embodies the message: “Do your utmost. A good name, a glorified example,and fame after death are all you can win in this world.

It is the courage to strive – notsuccess which ultimately reveals and ennobles the true hero.”


Beowulf Within the first piece of written literature known to man during the early Middle Ages comes a character which exemplifies the characteristics of a hero. A hero possesses certain qualities which include the desire to help others, bravery, courtesy, courage, superhuman feats, and the ability to boast about his accomplishments. According to English tradition, this heros name is Beowulf.

Within the epic poem “Beowulf” there is clear evidence that Beowulf exemplifies the qualities of a hero which are the desire to help others, bravery, courtesy, courage, super human feats, and the ability to boast about his accomplishments. Beowulf possesses the qualities of the desire to help others, courtesy, and the ability to boast about his accomplishments which proves he is a hero.First of all, Beowulf lives in the land of the Geats. He hears from others that Hrothgar, the leader of the Danes, is having problems with a monster killing off his men for the past twelve years. Beowulf goes to the king of the Geats, Higlac and asks him to let him take some of the best men and go over to the land of the Danes to help fight this monster. This proves that Beowulf possesses the desire to help others. Furthermore, when Beowulf arrives in the land of the Danes he shows his courtesy by praising Hrothgar of his noble birth and telling how brave Hrothgar is for his victories in battle.

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Beowulf further shows his courtesy when he leaves all his weapons on the shore of the land of the Danes to make sure the Danes know that he comes in peace.Beowulf does leave some of his men by his ships to protect them. Beowulf does everything that Hrothgars men ask to show his courtesy. This proves Beowulf is a hero as he possesses the quality of courtesy. Lastly, Bewulf shows how he has the quality of a hero in his boasting to Hrothgar. When Beowulf first meets Hrothgar he tells him how his youth has been filled with glory and that his people told him he must go and help Hrothgar as he is a great soldier.He drove five great giants into chains, chased all of that race from the earth, and swam out of the ocean killing them one by one.

This proves that Beowulf possesses the qualitites of a hero as he is able to boast proudly about all his accomplishments. Beowulf certainly possesses the qualities of a hero with his desire to help others, his courtesy, and the ability to boast as well as other qualities of a hero. Beowulf further possesses the qualities of a hero during the Anglo-Saxon times as he shows real bravery and courage. Beowulf tells Hrothgar that he will fight the monster, Grendel, to the end to save Hrothgars mead hall and his men. Beowulf explains to Hrothgar that he will fight the monster without any weapons and with out any help, proving his bravery and courage.Futhermore, when Grendel comes again to the Mead Hall as all the men are sleeping, Hrothgar sees him and stops his men from helping him. He battles the monster himself and tears off the monsters arm.

The monster runs back to the sea to die, and Beowulf hangs his arm in the hall to show that they have won. Grendels mother comes to the hall to get revenge for his sons death. Beowulf takes a magic sword given to him by Unferth to battle Grendels mother. Beowulf goes into the deep sea, finds Grendels mother and with superhuman strength, bravery, and courage he kills her.This certainly proves Beowulf has real bravery and courage which heros of the times possesses. The last quality of a hero is the ability to perform super human feats.

Beowulf performs super human feats along with his courage, his bravery, and his desire to help others. When Beowulf fights Grendel he does this without using any weapons only his bare hands. He pulls the monsters arm right out of its socket, a super human feat.Plus, when battling Grendels mother, Beowulf goes under the waters of the sea to find the monsters mother and to kill her with a magic sword. He completes this feat with super human strength. Lastly, Beowulf returns to his own land after helping Hrothergar and becomes king of the Geats. He rules for many years.

When he is an old man, his land is ruined by a fire dragon.This dragon has a great treasure which it is protecting. Beowulf goes out to fight this dragon to protect his people even though he is too old. While fighting the fire dragon with his sword, the dragon cuts Beowulf at the neck. But Beowulf fights back and ends up killing the dragon with one blow of his sword. He cuts the dragon right in half.

The killing of this fire dragon uses super human feats, courage, and bravery which definitely shows that Beowulf has hero qualities.To show his honor and concern for others, Beowulfs last request is that the treasure of the fire dragon be given to his people and that a monument be built to show all other sailors the safe way home. This last request certainly shows Beowulf is a real hero of the Middle Ages. Repeat thesis – summarize by using all the beginning or opening sentences and a simple example . Then end with Beowulf proves that heros must have certain qualities to gain the title of “hero”.


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