The story of Beowulf is one of the most well-known Anglo-Saxon works of all time. This story follows all of the basic characteristics of Anglo-Saxon literature, such as alliteration, fitts, and caesura. More importantly many themes are expressed in this epic that are common to Anglo-Saxon culture. The story deals with heroism, religion, and death. Bravery is one of the most admired traits at the time this was first spoken. It is obvious when reading Beowulf the influence of religion on the author, who is anonymous. The Anglo-Saxons did not believe in a loving, forgiving God but more of a powerful and protective God.
One of the most fascinating things about the story of Beowulf is the way it is fractioned. There are the obvious breaks in the story such as the three battles and various funerals but there are also the breaks between the evolution of Beowulf himself. Throughout the story, this hero goes through a series of changes as observed by the audience. Beowulf is one of the most intriguing characters in the story. He is the protagonist. A protagonist is the main character in a story. The story takes place in Denmark. King Hrothgar, King of the Danes, is dealing with a monstrous creature called Grendel who is terrorizing his people.
Out of options, King Hrothgar feels hopeless; this is where Beowulf comes in. As a Geat, Beowulf is an outsider. He enters the mead hall, called Heorot, extremely confident. He has an attitude about him that others can really feel around him. He is one of the most famous heroes among the Geats and he has gone to Heorot to continue his heroism and prove himself. He comes across as slightly arrogant when he rejects the help of anyone else. He wants to prove his bravery and strength to everyone around him. He truly believes he is the only one in the world who can defeat Grendel, which he most certainly does.
The battle against Grendel proves that Beowulf has almost superhuman strength and bravery. He is praised by all. In this beginning battle, Beowulf is very young and innocent. Although he is seemingly, overly confident, Beowulf exemplifies all the characteristics of a classic hero: loyalty, bravery, and pride. After the battle, Beowulf’s heroism and success are celebrated among the Danes. The arm of Grendel is hung for everyone to see in the mead hall. It is a constant reminder of Beowulf’s success in the battle. From this point on, he is respected by the Danes as well as the Geats.
Because of this battle, he has brought honor to himself as well as his people and his king. As the story continues, the maturity and age progression of Beowulf is distinctly shown. This time Grendel’s mother poses a significant threat. She wants to avenge her son’s death. She is very strong and powerful. With the battle against Grendel’s mother, Beowulf is again confronted with a challenge which he willingly accepts. The difference between this battle and the battle against Grendel is that Beowulf decides to wear armor as well as bring a sword. In his first battle, Beowulf fought Grendel with his bare hands.
He won the battle on pure strength. The fact that Beowulf feels he needs armor shows that he needs protection. The reader can sense a vast difference. Even the location shows Beowulf’s evolution. In the first battle, the fight is located in a great hall. Everything about the first battle is over the top and excessive: the location, Beowulf’s confidence, and the celebration. The second battle takes place in a “hellish turn-hole”. It is on Grendel’s mother’s territory. Beowulf doubts his own strength and brings a sword to the fight. Beowulf struggled to escape every time Grendel’s mother grabbed him.
In order to defeat Grendel’s mother, Beowulf uses a giant sword that he finds. This shows Beowulf’s weaknesses and struggle. The progression of Beowulf is clear. He goes from being a young, arrogant warrior to a realistic hero. In both cases he is heroic in his deeds and he is successful in both cases. In the final battle of the story, Beowulf is yet again found to be a different character. Fifty years have passed since the battle with Grendel. Beowulf is now king of the Geats. Over the course of his life, he has most certainly proved his bravery and loyalty.
He has all the heroic features to make him a great king. This battle takes place with a dragon. The dragon wants to revenge for the treasure being stolen. Beowulf and a small army take on the difficult task of defeating the dragon. Just like in the previous battle, Beowulf again wears armor and brings a weapon. He sees this as being fair since the dragon has a built in weapon of fire. This time it can be seen by the readers that Beowulf is going into battle not for the glory that comes from winning, but instead is going into battle for the sake of being a responsible king.
He knows he has a duty to protect his people. This makes him even more of a hero. Some may see he is also foolish. As a king he also has a duty to stay alive, lead his people and keep them protected. In his last act of heroism during the battle against the dragon, Beowulf must sacrifice himself. Because the dragon is so fearsome, all of the warriors except one flee. Wiglaf, one of Beowulf’s warriors, comes to Beowulf’s aid after the dragon bites him in the neck. As Beowulf is bleeding to death, Wiglaf desperately tries to help and stabs the dragon in the stomach.
In his last act, Beowulf pulls out a knife and stabs the dragon with a fatal blow. In the end, both the dragon and Beowulf are killed. During the battle, Beowulf’s determination never falters. Even when he is fighting alone, he still has the confidence and the strength to keep trying to defend his tribe. Beowulf is a character that everyone can understand. The readers can sense the fight in his soul and know that he has all the characteristics of a true hero. Although Beowulf had a tragic end, his successes of these three battles will never be forgotten.
By showing the progression and evolution of Beowulf, the author shows that the character’s personality ages as well as his body. The reader can feel as though he/she really knows Beowulf and has been there with him through all of the battles. Beowulf starts off as a young man eager to prove himself and find glory to a grown king who understands responsibility. One of the most important aspects of Beowulf that does not change throughout the story is that he was and always will be considered a great hero.