?University of Costa Rica LM-1485 British Literature Steven Garita B04091 Using Mythological and Archetypal Criticism Approaches to Beowulf A Synthesis of Mythic Approaches to Beowulf Beowulf; the most important of Old English epic poems, focuses on the Germanic heroic code which so far has been well marked in the mythological world. Therefore, a mythological and archetypal literary approach is applied to Beowulf since the poem hints certain elements that belong to these two methods of analysis.
In fact, mythological and archetypal criticism emphasize on the history of the heroic heroes, the hero? s journey, God, myths such as religion and resurrection, individuation, universal symbols, and other allusions that are all involved in mythology as Beowulf poem interrelates. Critics who take apart texts by analyzing deeply with the mythological and archetypal approach are looking for symbols. In the literary field, Beowulf is just one of the best examples to explain these approaches. Because of many reasons, Mythic approaches are very applied to Beowulf piece of literary work.
First of all, there is a definite concept for myths as Kari Meyers and Gilda Pacheco expose, Myths can be defined as symbolic projections of human hopes, fears, and values. Myths transcend time and go from generation to generation as a manifestation of a feeling of togetherness. By adopting individual ways and shapes of expression, such as legends and folk tales typical of a particular group or a given region, myths are not only communal but also collective (…)(1) So, this explanation is reflected on Beowulf poem since it is an Anglo-Saxon folk tale that has several symbolic projections being discussed from generation to generation.
The image of “hero” resembles a “myth” in that it is the universal image that everybody shares with. The image of our hero in this story is depicted by a collective psyche that associates the same meaning in a depersonalized dream for Beowulf, as a perfect warrior and hero who fights against monsters, and who at the end becomes the king. That is what the whole community agrees with, the perfect motif for what a hero should be. This archetype for hero is so well defined that the life of Beowulf, as a great hero, can be evidently divided into a sequence of well-marked adventures and the journal of his own life.
For instance, he fights against Grendel, Grendel? s mother and the dragon respectively. Also, there is room to individuation in Beowulf as it is an important characteristic for Mythic approaches. For instance, according to Jung? s theory of individuation, Beowulf? s “persona or mask” is of course that of a hero who is strong, fearless, brave and loyal. That mask represents his role in society, the one he keeps for self-recognition and honor. Perhaps, the Geats in Scandinavia are the “anima” of Beowulf for the reason that they are his force working as a motivation for going on.
Otherwise, the character Grendel portrays the fallen being; the shadow of Beowulf, which must be overcome throughout life. The monster Grendel reflects the fallen part and ancestry clues to the biblical figure Cain, to which all evil beings are recognized with. Grendel represents the hidden evil of Beowulf. On other place, the mythological approach is so interrelated to archetypal criticism approach in the sense that both are manifested by means of archetypes. The archetypal criticism is more applied by means of understanding the symbols significances as a whole.
As well as myths which are depersonalized archetypes, Beowulf poem presents some basic archetypal patterns to deal with. For instance, there is the symbol of God regarding religion as it comes to the Christian religion which symbolizes the fundamentals of good and evil and also Heaven and Hell. In addition, the poem says, Afterwards a boy-child was sent to Shield, a cub in the yard, a comfort sent by God to that nation. He knew what they had tholed, the long times and troubles they’d come through without a leader; so the Lord of Life, he glorious Almighty, made this man renowned. (12-17) The narrator attributes their proficiency to God? s heavenly plan and kindness. Another important characteristic for situational archetypes is the task of Beowulf. In this case, he has to protect the kingdom and identifies himself so that he may reassume his real position; the hero must achieve certain superhuman actions to battle against monsters with super natural powers. Furthermore, the poem states, Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him o hear the din of the loud banquet every day in the hall, the harp being struck and the clear song of a skilled poet telling with mastery of man’s beginnings. (86-91) Here, the opponent is a supernatural demon not being a man frustrated by God’s creation. It is important to know that the mystic features in Beowulf are combined with the spiritual ones. Initiation is another archetype in Beowulf poem. According to Kari Meyers and Gilda Pacheco, “initiation is when the hero matures by overcoming ordeals or facing difficult situations. (2) For example, Beowulf got mature physically and mentally with his victory upon Grendel and Grendel’s mother. That part of his journal life confirms and establishes him as a complete hero. Other significant aspects that prove the archetypal approach are death and rebirth. These Motifs have to do with the cycle of nature and life. At the end, Beowulf dies because the dragon injured him. The resurrection period is seen by the fact Beowulf wants his people to remember him. A tower in the sea next to the Dragon? treasure is what he wishes in order to keep alive people? s memories. However, there is no such real resurrection because this is a pagan story. As a conclusion, the mythological and archetypal criticism approaches are quite useful to the understanding of the story as a whole. The context in which it takes place is so important, and hence within certain archetypes; as the ones covered, readers can interpret the relationship between historical context and these approaches. This epic poem shows the journeys of a great hero and how heroes should behave.
Mythic approaches have had significant influences upon old literature. Besides, careful critics by using these literary techniques can observe the social mythology of a specific culture, as it is exposed in Beowulf? s context. Work cited Meyers, Kari. Pacheco, Gilda. The Perceptive Process. An Introductory Guide to Literary Criticism. Chapter II. A Concise Introduction to Mythic Approaches to Literature. San Jose, CR. Ed Universidad de Costa Rica. 2003. Translated by J. M Dent ; sons ltd. Beowulf. Dover Publications, Inc. London, 1926. Web