Archetypes in Beowulf
An archetype is an ideal and generic model of an object, an idea, a concept, or a person which serves as patterns for other objects, persons, ideas, or concepts. In other words, it is a perfect example of a certain type. Archetypes can also pertain to a stereotype, which is an oversimplification of a personality or an epitome, which represents example of a certain type.
In the epic, Beowulf, there are several archetypes. Possibly the best archetype in the story is the main protagonist, Beowulf himself. Generally, Beowulf, together with his band of warriors, represents possibly the greatest example of good in the story. They serve as saviors of a kingdom that is terrorized by evil forces and agents that restore order and balance to a society that is upset by darkness.
Because of Beowulf’s courage, valor, selflessness, and heroism, he serves as an ideal example for other people to emulate. On the other hand, Grendel, the monster who terrorized Hrothgar’s kingdom, serves as the ideal example of evil. The monster ruthlessly kills anyone it wants to kill and strikes fear in the hearts of the kingdom’s citizens.
In effect, Grendel also represents the archetype of fear and chaos. Another character in the story that can be considered an archetype is Grendel’s mother who has constantly tempted kings to lustfully desire her. In short, Grendel’s mother not only serves as a model of evil but an ideal example of temptation as well. This is depicted in her successful seduction of Heorot’s kings, including Beowulf.