Fighting his enemies alone, when his sword fails he resorts to his fists. When his adversary had no armor, he strips himself of his own armor to even the odds. Some see this as arrogance or overconfidence, but his achievements do not lie. Beowulf is deserving of his title as an epic hero for saving Heorot from Grendel, slaying Grendel’s mother the she-wolf, and when Beowulf became king he protected his kingdom fifty years. The Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf was written in the 7th century as a poem, was modernized in Richard Wilbur’s “Ceremony and other poems”. Elizabeth Thomason explains, “Wilbur’s response to the epic is to change the Anglo-Saxon attitude toward heroes into a world-weary postwar sensibility. While he retains the original setting, he incorporates modern feelings into his lyric retelling”.Â The story was later translated into a novel by Burton Raffel.
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Beowulf, is already a renowned warrior for having won wars and felling mighty sea beasts, Richard Wilbur emphasizes Beowulf’s confidence, “One day the stranger shows up from beyond the sea, boasting that he can kill the monster that no one has been able to touch for years”. He would end Grendel’s blood-filled night-raids on Heorot. When the almighty light disappears behind the mountains, the night-terror Grendel begins his prowl. Carl Mowery says, “the day was “swiftly old,” and “the night put out no smiles”. Grendel stalks the city and waits until the towns-folk are sleep then he steadily infiltrates Heorot and picks out his prey, who he’ll eat now and who to take home for later.
“Now he discovered-once the afflicter of men, what it meant to feud with the almighty God” (809-11) for the one he seized that night was Beowulf the mightiest of warriors. Beowulf fought Grendel with honor and without any weapons or armor he latched onto Grendel holding him in place, it was Grendel’s first time feeling fear, for he was in Beowulf’s hands now. He wanted nothing but to escape, and escape he did missing an arm.
When all seemed peaceful, tragedy struck the Danes again. Grendel managed to escape, seriously wounded and his life fading. He ran back home and spent his last moments in misery. At the sight of her lifeless son Grendel’s mother was struck with anger and a lust for vengeance. She attacked the Danes as they slept and left with a snack for later, but that snack was the kings closest friend. The kings heart was heavy and he mourned his loss, he then asked Beowulf to avenge his friend, and so he did. Beowulf swam into the she-wolf’s den and swung his sword to no effect, he was quickly thrown to the ground and when all seemed lost he saw a giant’s sword mounted on the wall. He took it and “Beowulf struck with all [his] strength, caught her in the neck and cut it through, Bones and all”. (1565-77)
Tyrus Miller states, “Having performed his single task, the hero departs, loaded with the gifts granted a warrior and the glory of his deeds”. He returns home to Geatland where he became a king; and a great king he was bringing peace and prosperity to his kingdom. Beowulf ruled in Geatland for fifty years, now old and wise when a dragon awakes from its slumber and burns down a village. Old and past hisprime Beowulf intends to face the dragon alone. His subjects do not wish for him to face the beast alone and volunteer to help slay the dragon. So there wouldn’t be any needless death he and a few trusted soldiers venture to the dragon’s lair.
At the sight of the beast all the soldiers run off except for Wiglaf who truly admired Beowulf. The dragon ignites the air and Beowulf blocks flame with shield inching closer to the beast. His shield burns to ash and he is engulfed in fire, but he presses on and strikes the dragons head with all his might shattering his blade. The dragon wastes no time and latches into Beowulf’s neck. Wiglaf seeing his hero in danger rushes in to help. Stabbing the dragon in the lower neck smothering its flames “Beowulf then drew his battle-sharp dagger”. (2701-02) Remembering days of glory he quickly cut the beast in half, it fell but so did Beowulf.
His neck began to swell, he felt the dragon’s venom taking effect, and knew his time was short. He told Wiglaf to build a monument after his death and to claim the dragon’s wealth and disperse it throughout the kingdom.
Throughout his life Beowulf had had a multitude of achievements he’s won wars, defeated Grendel and his vengeful mother, fell mighty sea beats and many more unmentionables. But Beowulf’s last act of heroism was undoubtedly his greatest, slaying a dragon and attaining its treasure for his people, a noble deed for a noble hero.
- Mowery, Carl. “Beowulf.” Poetry for Students, edited by Elizabeth Thomason, vol.
- 11, Gale, 2001, pp. 1-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
- Miller, Tyrus. “Beowulf.” Poetry for Students, edited by Elizabeth Thomason, vol. 11,
- Â Gale, 2001, pp. 1-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
- Thomason, Elizabeth. “Beowulf.” Poetry for Students, vol.11, Gale, 2001, pp. 1-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
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