Good vs. Evil in Beowulf
The story of Beowulf initially took place in the Anglo- Saxon period in English history. The Anglo- Saxon times were dark and full of war, evil was very plentiful. The author tries to demonstrate this evil in this story and how it is taken over by the good of man. Throughout every chapter there is an abundant amount of evil and there is also some good, this is shown through symbolism and a strong use of words. The story takes place in an Anglo- Saxon society that is haunted for thirteen years by the presence of evil. The evil is also known as Grednel. Grendel is a monster the lives under a marsh right by the guest hall. Many attempts to kill Grendel were made but none succeeded. Then Beowulf came along to give it a try.
In the beginning of the story Hothgar’s men are staying in the town’s guest hall, or “Mead Hall”. These men are like the army of the town. It is made very clear that evil is present under that building. ” A powerful monster living down in the darkness growled in pain, impatient as the music rang day after day in that loud hall.” This is just one of the descriptive passages used to describe the evil that lurks in this town. Later that night the men go to sleep and the angry monster appears to take all of their lives. ” The monster’s thoughts were as his
greed or his claws. He slipped through the door and there in silence he snatched up thirty men, smashed them and unknowing in their beds and ran out with their bodies, as the blood dripped behind him. Then he went back to his lair, delighted with his night’s slaughter. ” After this night the survivors stayed somewhere else as Grendel and his evil presence took over the once joyful hall and left the town in thirteen years of darkness. There are a lot more passages that can clearly describe the evil in the first part of the story, but there are also a lot of symbols such as “demons”, “hell forged hands”, “blackness of nights”, “savage assault”, and “seeking no peace”.
There is much evil but there is some good in these first few chapters. The author shows this mainly through symbolism, as well as some passages. For instance, ” The harp’s rejoicing call and the poet’s clear songs sang of the ancient beginnings of us all, recalling the Almighty making the earth and shaping these beautiful plains marked off by oceans”. This passage leaves the reader with a good, if not, biblical sense, when all that is evil surrounds them in the story. There is more symbolism for good in these first few chapter’s than there is passages. Some symbols that sound like they are a reference to the good in the story are “harps rejoicing”, “warrior’s song of pleasure “,” heaven and earth, “protected by God”. There is a lot of suggestion to God, “The Almighty”, as the one who keeps the balance between good and evil, and that he is sure to overcome if they keep there faith in him.
In chapter’s eight through ten the battle between good and evil persists. There is a lot of symbolism in the three chapters. Most of the symbolism, once again, is of evil, and very little refers to good. Some symbols that seem to be universal for evil in these few chapters are, “shepherd of evil”, “guardian of crime”, “darkness”, “hell”, “hot flames”, “evil soul”, ” sin stained”, and ” murky darkness”. Most of the symbols of evil come from the understanding that evil lurks in hell, and hell, as well as demons, is referred to a lot in the symbolism of evil.
There is very little reference to good in these chapters because these are the chapters where evil reigns and good is trying to overcome the evil. Some good symbols are “beautiful walls”, “gold covered”, “splendor”, “glory”, “delight”, and “Almighty God”. These are some symbols of obvious good but there is one that is a symbol of good that seems to be evil, and that is “bloody water”. In these chapters the first fight between good and evil takes place and good wins. The water is bloody because the monster was fatally injured and his blood was everywhere to show that he was defeated.
In chapters eleven through thirteen there is very little symbolism to represent evil, but there is a lot passages. One such passage refers to the lair of Grendel’s mother. ” At last he saw the mud of the bottom. And all at once the greedy she- wolf, who ruled those waters for half a hundred years, discovered him. Saw that a creature from above had come to explore the bottom of her wet world. She welcomed him in her claws and clutched at him savagely but could
not harm him.” This passage shows Grendel’s mother pulling Beowulf down into her liar, to kill him in her hell. Another passage is when she grabs him to take him down into her inferno. ” The fight brought other monsters swimming to see her catch, a host of beasts that beat at his mail shirt, stabbing with tusks and teeth as they followed along. They could not hurt him. A brilliant light burned all around him, the lake it’s self was a fiery flame”. In these passages Grendel’s mother is referred to as a ” water witch”. This is a big battle for Beowulf he is brought to a hell on earth, a hell below earth the earth’s surface. These chapters are all about his battle, and a lot of evil is present.
Despite all the evil there is some good, because Grendel’s mother falls into death at the end of the battle. Beowulf, with a clean sweep, cuts off her head. There is no real good symbolism in these chapters because evil seems to be the stronger party in this battle, but good eventually overcomes. ” If that shining woven metal had not helped- and Holy God, who sent him victory, gave judgment for truth and right, Ruler of the heavens, once Beowulf was back on his feet and fighting”. This passage shows that God gave the good warrior, Beowulf strength to go on as he passed judgment on the battle. Another example of good in these final chapters is when Grendel’s mother is finally defeated. ” And struck with all the strength that he had left, caught her in the neck and cut it through, broke bones and all. Her body fell to the floor lifeless, the sword was wet with her blood, Beowulf rejoiced at the sight”. This passage is good because evil is defeated once again,
Throughout the whole story the battle of good and evil is definitely present. The author makes the passages and symbolism between good and evil very indisputable. It seems that the evil is mainly represented through demons and the devil, the root of all evil. It seems that the good passages all refer to God, the Almighty Creator, and all of the wonderful things that he has done for the people, how he protects and mainly how he created the earth, as well as glory and gold. The two fight it out just as they did in the beginning, and just as they have throughout all of time, into the present, and most likely into the future. There has been and always will be the struggle, it just seems to settle for a while before the battle breaks out again.