Essay on Beowulf
“Beowulf- The Anglo-Saxon Hero” The Anglo-Saxon culture embraces virtues such as courage, strength, loyalty, cunning, and generosity. These virtues are exemplified by the epic hero Beowulf. Beowulf possesses each of these characteristics. Throughout the epic tale of Beowulf, the hero displays each of these virtues through his actions and adventures. The first of these characteristics is Beowulf’s strength. He is often referred to as “the strongest of the Geats”. Beowulf displays this great strength when he faces Grendel.
Grendel had caused great losses to the Danes, but Beowulf vows to defeat him unarmed. Beowulf indeed defeats Grendel without arms, and displays his overwhelming strength. During the encounter, it is stated, “the captain of evil discovered himself in a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any man on the face of the earth” (p. 1648). Another display of Beowulf’s strength is the fact that he rips Grendel’s arm completely off, when Grendel was trying to escape. The next virtue displayed by Beowulf is courage.
He was fearless of all, and displayed this courage throughout the epic tale. The first display of courage was the fact that he was willing to fight Grendel. Grendel was terrorizing a neighboring country and Beowulf elected to rid the country of the menace. Not only did he fight Grendel, but he did it with unarmed hands. Another tale of Beowulf’s courage was when he chose to fight the dragon. He was an older man, but he vowed to protect his people. It is stated that he says, “I risked my life often when I was young. Now I am old, but as king of the people.
I shall pursue this fight for the glory of winning…” (p. 1688). Although Beowulf seems to know what lies ahead, he fights the dragon anyway. Another characteristic of Beowulf is loyalty. While Beowulf displays loyalty to his people by fighting the dragon, he also displays loyalty toward Hygelac (his uncle). When his uncle (king of the Geats) was killed in battle, Beowulf avenged his death by defeating the Hetware. After Hygelac’s death, Hygd offered the throne to Beowulf over her own son. However, Beowulf’s loyalty would not allow him to take the throne over Heardred (Hygelac and Hygd’s son).
Beowulf would assume the throne of Geatland, when Heardred perished in a battle against the Swedes. Some other characteristics displayed by Beowulf are generosity and cunning. Generosity is displayed by Beowulf sharing his rewards and treasure with his king. Upon his return to Geatland, Beowulf could have kept the treasures to himself and his troops, but he shared them with his king, Hygelac. This act of generosity is showed when Beowulf states, “I was paid and recompensed completely, given full measure and the freedom to choose from Hrothgar’s treasures by Hrothgar himself.
These, King Hygelac, I am happy to present to you as gifts” (p. 1680). A good example of Beowulf’s cunning would be during his fight with Grendel’s mother. Beowulf was struggling during the battle due to his weapons having failed him, but he spots a sword from Grendel’s mother’s arsenal. He grabs the sword and strikes the beast in the neck. This quick thinking allowed Beowulf to go from his certain doom, to being a hero again. All of these virtues allow Beowulf to be a classic Anglo-Saxon hero.
He is characterized as being a fearless warrior who possesses strength that no man can match. Along with this strength, he also exhibits great loyalty, generosity, and cunning. These particular characteristics make Beowulf one of the greatest heroes. Several heroes are characterized as being great and fearless warriors, but few also posses the other virtues that make a hero seem like a great human being as well. References “Beowulf. ” Norton Anthology of World Literature. Volume B. Second Edition, 2002 pp. 1626-1702.