Beowulf’s Contrasting Motifs Throughout his battles, Beowulf personifies the motifs of reputation, vengeance, and fate which contribute to the overall epic theme. Each of these contrasting themes contribute as to why Beowulf was such a tremendous epic hero. Beowulf, a young warrior with an honorable family name to be upheld, must venture off and seek his own reputation and identity among the sprawling branches of the family tree. With this thought, he seeks out to battle the mighty fiend Grendle armed with his two own bare hands.
With much vengeance being sought out, Grendle’s mother goes after Beowulf for harming her son which only prevokes Beowulf’s own revenge on Grendle’s mother for slaughtering one of Hrogthgar’s best warriors, Esther. Later on in life as an aged and wise king, Beowulf single handedly faces his own fate by battling the dragon. By crumbling under the dragon’s rage, death has been accepted and has furthered his name. Coming from a highly valued family name, Beowulf must earn his own reputation within his own family.
With this seemingly impossible task infront of him, he comes to face to face with the great monster Grendle armed only with his own bare hands. From deep within the muddy marshes, Grendel emerged. He radiated his anger and annoyance at having been awakened from a deep slumber. He grunted and groaned in disapproval. But quickly his anger turned to pleasure at the mere thought of filling his belly and diminishing the insistent hunger that threatened to engulf him. His pleasure was soon to be short-lived.
With a vicious rage, Grendel tore the heavy, bolted door of the secured hall from its hinges, savagely stomped across the threshold, and finally his hunger drove him to crunch the bones of the nearest warrior in sight. Still starving, Grendle snatches up the next available warrior with his claws, but this time one with much powerful strength. As he tried to pull away from Beowulf’s grasp, Grendle only became weaker and weaker until his unfaithful demise. Beowulf had single handedly harmed Grendle, therefore he was a mighty hero who had finally earned his name.
Grendel’s mother has just been to Heorot to seek revenge for Beowulf’s victory over Grendel. She has grabbed one of Hrothgar’s men and taken Grendel’s arm down from above the hall door and taken the man and the arm back to her under-water cave. King Hrothgar asks Beowulf to chase after her and one of his men leads Beowulf to where they believe her home to be. Beowulf puts on his mail armor and takes Unferth’s sword, Hrunting, and swims down through the water looking for Grendel’s mother.
It takes him hours upon hours to swim down through the water but eventually Grendel’s mother and other monstrous beings swim up to meet him and fight with him in the water. Beowulf and Grendel’s mother fight in her cave and she crushes him fiercely with her claws but his life is only protected by his armor. He tries to kill her with Hrunting, but it will not even begin bite into her thick flesh. Eventually he sees Grendel’s mother’s own giant sword on the wall; the sword is so large that he is the only man in the world strong enough to wield it, and Beowulf uses it to murder her.
Beowulf tells also how he repaid Hygelac’s gifts of treasure and land with loyal service, not only leading Hygelac’s warriors into battle, but also killing the Frankish king who killed Hygelac in battle. Now, Beowulf says, he shall fight once more only this time against the dragon. So “Beowulf sought out the dragon, dared it into battle, but could never know what God had decided, or that death that would come to him” (Lines 3066-3068). The dragon charges Beowulf and Wiglaf.
Their shields are burned and their armor offers them little protection. Beowulf strikes the dragon’s head with his sword, driving it in to the bone, but the sword, Naegling, breaks and the dragon bites Beowulf in the neck. As Beowulf staggers, Wiglaf stabs the dragon in the stomach, and gets his hand burned in the process. Beowulf then takes the chance to pull a knife he wears on his mail shirt and stab the dragon. Together, Beowulf and Wiglaf kill the dragon.
But the bite in Beowulf’s neck begins to burn and swell from the dragon’s poison. With this final blow, Beowulf at last crumbles and faces his demise under the dragon’s rage. Each of the three monsters lived and died for their identities and their demise. Death is what all they lived for, and now, this is what they would all die for. The roles of reputation and vengeance all lends themselves to the inevitable fate that faces us all. Fate can not be determined by glory nor stature, but nature itself.