Beowulf the Monster?
Michael David Tapscott English 225 Essay #1 Dr. Heyworth Beowulf the Monster? This poem focuses on the protagonist, Beowulf, and his three harsh battles with different monsters and his rise to king. The poem in many ways can be perceived as a riddle concerning the role of Beowulf. It is debatable whether he plays the role of hero, great king or monster driven by self-will. The writer frequently draws you into believing Beowulf is assuming one of these characters.. The poem starts opens by describing a funeral of an excellent king who founded the Danes and portraying a successful hero.
A great king is described as one who performs heroic deeds for the safety and benefit of his people. A great king achieves victory over other clans and exacts tribute from the conquered. The great king inspires deep loyalty from his warriors through his strength and by paying the warriors treasure and gold. The writer really stresses the importance of distributing treasure among his warriors in exchange for loyalty in time of war. These beginning lines foreshadow the deeds of Beowulf that arguably make him a great king. The name, Beowulf, has been translated as bear or wolf, which would explain his strength and fighting abilities.
Early in the poem, when Beowulf first speaks to Hrothgar upon his arrival, he brags of his accomplishments requiring supernatural skills and abilities. He states: when I captured five, slew a tribe of giants, and on the salt waves fought sea-monsters by night (420-422). Beowulf asks permission from Hrothgar to rid Heroet of Grendel, an evil monster that was the subject of tremendous tales of horror. Stories about Grendel fighting battles without weapons intrigues Beowulf and convinces him to do the same. I have also heard that evil beast / in his wildness does not care for weapons, / so I too will scorn (433-445).
Beowoulf then describes the incredible strength of his grip: but with my grip I / I shall grapple with the fiend and fight for life, (439-440). No normal man feels obligated to grapple a monster known to fight thirty soldiers at once. Beowulf’s desire to fight alone against a single foe, Grendel, with no weapons points to similarities between Beowulf and his monster enemies. Beowulf’s ambitions of fighting alone with only his bare strength against Grendel also show strong heroic characteristics similar to the descriptions of a beloved king in the beginning of the poem.
Indeed, by defeating Grendel, Beowulf allows the Danes to feel even the worst types of evil can be overridden by the power of good. However though his pride and self-will can override what is right with greedy and egotistical accomplishments. I DON’T WHAT THE PREVIOUS SETENCE MEANS Grendel’s mother seeks revenge upon the Danes by killing Eschere, Hrothgars advisor, for the actions of Beowulf. Beowulf seeks revenge not merely for what is right but also for fame and pride, which can be disastrous behavior in certain situations.
Beowulf begins to believe that he is immortal when speaking to Hrothgar about avenging Escheres death. Each of us shall abide the end / of this world’s life; let him who/ can bring about death (1386-13880). Revenge from Grendel’s mother perspective can seem justified, while Beowulf appears to be motivated by self-glorification. A foreshadow of Beowulf’s fate can be seen in his fight with the mother of Grendel. His character is even compared to an earlier heroic monster slayer known as Sigemund. Sigemund is described as a great warrior who slayed giants with the help of his men until he faces a dragon by himself.
Beowulf resembles Sigemund when he travels to the evil lair where Grendel and his mother reside. The tale of Sigemund foreshadows a fate that is to come for Beowulf: had killed a dragon, keeper of a hoard: / alone he dared to go under gray stones, / a bold deed. (887-889). While Beowulf resembles all the monsters to some degree, he most closely resembles the dragon. Like Grendel and his mother, the dragon also fights as a loner. During the epic dragon battle, both fighters have a form of protection or a shield. While the dragon has scales to protect against the word, Beowulf wields a shield that shelters him from the flames of the dragon. Although Beowulf sometimes seems a complete monster, his heroic deeds can also contribute to his being compared to a good king. In times of horror and despair, his deeds saved his people in multiple instances. The slaying of Grendel freed Heorot and the Danes of a great fear. When Hygelac, king of the Geats, is slain during the bloody battle with the Swedes, king—like characteristics are visible when Beowulf returns with the armor taken from Geat warriors. Beowulf is known far and wide for his deeds demonstrating courage and skills of war.
These compare favorably to the early description of great kings. I visualize his character more as a monster-like hero with a destined fate than a great king. I feel Beowulf is motivated more by self-gratification than a desire to do what is right. While the writer foreshadows invasions in the near future from the Swedes, Beowulf still wants revenge upon the dragon. Terrorizing actions from the dragon can be justified in early Anglo-Saxon traditions for stealing of the gauntlet in his hoard. All the foreshadowing for his high destiny comes together when Beowulf decides to challenge the dragon.
His “will monster” behavior overrides the king-like characteristics as he acts very similarly to Germanic legend Sigemund. When Beowulf’s possible successor to the throne, Wiglaf, speaks in a depressive tone for his characteristics as a king, he criticizes Beowulf for his decision to seek revenge at the hoard of the dragon. While reading Wiglaf’s speech, you almost feel as if Beowulf chooses his fate as a heroic monster seeking fame instead of fulfilling his role as a king. Wiglaf criticizes Beowulf’s decision to challenge the dragon without a strong army as foolish.
We could not persuade our dear prince, / shepherd of a kingdom, with any counsel, / that he should not greet that gold-guardian, / let lie there where he long had been, / inhabit the dwellings until the end of the world: / he held to his high destiny. (3079-3084). Beowulf failure’s to act as a king is also expressed by a Geatish woman who complains of the hard days to follow the death of the king during the great funeral. Once again the writer leaves you certaint of future invasions by the Swedes after the death of their beloved king: she dreaded the hard days ahead, / the times of slaughter, the host’s terror, / harm and captivity. 3153-3155) Even though his people benefited from the heroic deeds, the writer allows you to see that Beowulf acted in a manner opposed to the behavior of a good king. Beowulf was a compete monster who thrived on self-gratification and fame for his war-like behavior. At times, he completely resemble all the monsters from his battles. His character was a complete loner, like the monsters, and preferred a high destiny fate over the welfare of his people. The author explains that a great king that would not risk his leadership role to achieve fame in battle or war.
Because of the foreshadowed attacks by other clans, a strong leader was badly needed. Beowulf’s death came with heroic fame and treasure, but his death ultimately did not help his people in a time of great need. His dying wish was to build a mighty hall to hold the treasures, but the treasures, ironically, were of no value because they burned. Beowulf was a monster with some hero characteristics but he fell short as a king. The final lines of the poem state his “will-power” monster behavior did benefit his people during his life, but those benefits did not survive his death. The kindest to his folk and the most eager for fame. (3183).