Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon Culture
In modern times, our culture consists of a high diversity of people. The United States is a very diverse and free nation. However, in the 8th century, culture was nowhere near as developed or diverse. In the 8th century, Anglo-Saxon culture dominated the living of many. Beowulf is the epitome of this culture. He is a warrior, and a hero who wants only fame and fortune. Anglos believed that if you became a hero, you would become immortal and live on forever. Three characters of this time that best showed off the Anglo-Saxon culture were Beowulf, Grendel, and the speaker from Seafarer.
Beowulf is the main protagonist from the story Beowulf. He is the hero and the almighty in the story, meaning almost no challenge can stop him. He is mortal though, but he still believes in immortality from fame. He soon fulfills his destiny, defeating all in front of him and becoming the almighty king. Even as king, he still wants to show off his strength. For example, when his city is being devastated by a dragon he stands up to fight the monster. Beowulf says, “I have never known fear, as a youth I fought in endless battles.
I am old, now, but I will fight again, seek fame still” (Beowulf 56). Even as king he still wants to fight and wants to keep his name high. He still seeks immortality and wants to show it forever. However, in this fight Beowulf is outmatched, though he does land the killing blow, he is mortally wounded and has a final saying before death. He says to Wiglaf, who gives him all the treasure from the Dragon’s Lair, “For this, this gold, these jewels, I thank Our father in Heaven, Ruler of Earth that His grace has given me (Beowulf 61).
Even though he is of Anglo culture, there are still modern day Christian beliefs in his words; Beowulf can now die in peace, knowing that his fame and his deeds will never die. Although Grendel is Anglo-Saxon, his beliefs contradict most heroes beliefs. For example, Grendel pokes fun at Unferth for being a so-called hero. Grendel says “I have never seen a live hero before. Ah, ah it must be a terrible burden, though, being a hero (Grendel 84). Grendel is referring to being a hero as a burden because everyone will rely on you to save the day.
Grendel, however, is unkillable, which is why his statement is true because he can’t be killed by a hero thus making heroes look weak and never seen. Grendel also thinks it wears on you to be a so-called hero. For example, he tells Unferth that being a hero must really be hard on a man. Grendel Says, “Always having to stand erect, always having to use noble language. It must wear on a man” (Grendel 84). He is saying that heroes have to portray themselves as the high almighty and they must show class and stand tall no matter what.
This must make it a hard life for a man and in Grendel’s words, a terrible burden on them. The Speaker from “The Seafarer” is most likely exiled, causing him to be very lonely. His beliefs are also contradictory. He wants to be with society but he would rather be alone, but being alone makes him suffer with sorrow. For example, He talks about how miserable the sea is to a man. He says “How wretched I was, drifting through winter On an ice-cold sea, whirled in sorrow, Alone in a world blown clear of love (Seafarer 19).
He is saying how dreadful it is being alone, and in Anglo-Saxon culture most people weren’t alone, they were in groups and most were warriors under a leader. Just like in Beowulf , the speaker thinks home is the mead-hall, where all men gather and have a good time. Ironically, the speaker also sounds comfortable at sea. For example, he says that he finds himself staying on the path to the sea.
The speaker says, “And who could believe, knowing but the passion of cities, swelled proud with wine and no taste of misfortune, how often, how wearily I put myself back on the paths of the sea Seafarer 20). Him saying this shows the Anglo belief of a hero in which the hero never backs down no matter how troublesome the hardship may be. In conclusion, Beowulf, Grendel, and the Speaker in The Seafarer all have their own ways of showing their Anglo-Saxon culture. They all believe in Wyrd, and all tie into the culture in some way or another. These three protagonists were the epitome of the time and showed off the culture in the most perfect of ways.