The Rightful King. The Beowulf Epic Hero Essay Example


Unequivocally, hubris has led to many “invincible” characters demise; Achilles at Troy being a notoriously popular example. Beowulf in his own right indulges hubris himself, flinging into battle against any who would dare threaten Heorot, and it’s inhibitors. In the story Beowulf, written by an author who’s anonymity still prevails today; the main character, Beowulf is subjected to three fights, the final of which kills him, making readers ask, what could Beowulf have done, if anything to prevail in all three trials? Based on the evidence provided in the epic text of Beowulf, it’s clear to see that the Warrior’s Code along with Beowulf's own pride result in his inevitable doom, from an analytical perspective many decisions could have been tweaked or altered intellectually, providing greater advantage for Beowulf. 

To first understand the plight, and decision making of Beowulf, it must be understood that this story is not about some random, strong, Anglo-Saxon demigod. The deep rooted and rich story of Beowulf is issently clad with symbolism; the most frequent of symbolisms is the mystery behind the inevitably slain monsters. Grendel is the first beast that Beowulf encounters; while the reader interprets Grendel’s attacks on Heorot as vile, and even maybe petrifying, it’s easy to miss the beast’s backstory, and what that means for his character arc. In lines 105-108, Grendal gets a short but extremely important backstory: “the banished monsters, Cain's clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel the Eternal Lord had exacted a price”. 

The most important excerpt is “Cain's Clan”, this is informing the reader that Gredel is a direct descendant of Cain, a character in the bible who kills his own brother in a murderous craze. Grendel also symbolizes what Beowulf could become if he was unfounded in his belief; Grendel is a monster who acts on impulse, if he would like to kill, he does so absent-mindedly, same goes for destroying a town. While Beowulf could easily do all the same, he has control, a belief set that separates him from Grendel, and elevates him to not only a higher moral standing, but a superior and undying prowess. Grendel’s mother proves to be fascinating if not more than her son. 

Viewing Grendel’s mother as an evil character can almost be viewed as hypocritical to the Anglo-Saxon code; Gredel was slain by Beowulf, this action alone would prove that retribution was valid despite her son's actions. Even direct quoting of lines 1384-1387 "Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. For every one of us, living in this world guides their lives means waiting for our end.”, proves that if anything, Grendel’s mother followed in the Anglo-Saxon code… in her own right of course. The only information that informs the reader that she is inherently evil is the knowledge that she is a direct descendant of Cain, as was her son, tying them both to the epitome of sin. With this prior information withheld, it would be easy to see how one could view Grendel’s mother as an adversary, fighting for the same set of rules. Beowulf’s final challenge is the fierce and mighty dragon. 

This fight in particular raises many questions about morality of man, disturbing the peace, and indecision. While the dragon doesn't necessarily share the Anglo-Saxon code, he was provoked. A thief stole a fortuitous jeweled chalice from a treasure that the dragon was guarding, in response the dragon terrorized the whole town and set it ablaze. Though this is controversial, this action can be viewed as justified. Humans would kill other humans for much less than stealing; is it really wrong that the dragon responded harshly to someone stealing its prized possession? While a case can be made that the dragon is the most immoral, due to its placed seclusion, hoarding of currency, and killing of potential innocents in contrast with Beowulf, who is generous, and treats his people fairly; the dragon still was provoked, this provocation demanded a serious answer, from which the townspeople suffered, and man’s sin of greed prevailed.

One of Beowulf’s character traits that resides through the entirety of the story, is his hubris in battle. It would be exceedingly difficult to consider Beowulf to be a master tactician, someone who waits, and views a pattern of attacks before deciding how, and when to engage. Instead Beowulf is consistently reactionary, brazenly attacking those who would seek harm to Heorot. While this warrior ethos proves effective for Beowulf during his first two fights; It can be argued that his brash actions got him killed in his final fight against the dragon. Even the fight with Grendel shows's remarkable arrogance; to fight a beast that's repeatedly sacked a town, and killed indiscriminately is ludicris. 

The act of Beowulf only using his bare hands in this fight, believing in his god given strength is beyond an irrational approach. If Grendel proved to be stronger than Beowulf the fight would have swung in the polar opposite direction, It’s incredibly important to keep in mind that while Beowulf shows a great style of adaptation to combat, he also shows a profound ineptitude to being adequately prepared with the tools that could aid him. This isn’t limited to just weapons and armour either: Beowulf also doesn't incorporate a strength in numbers plan. With exclusion of the dragon, Beowulf fights Grendel, and his mother alone, This mindset if frankly counter intuitive to the Anglo Saxon code; By taking on these monstrous enemies alone, he sets up the rest of the men for failure; By Beowulf slaying the monster’s he takes away the fortitude, and plight that the men needed to endure, to see the fruits of their sacrifices, and understand why they must fight. 

That isn’t to say that Beowulf couldn’t have helped the men, but taking the monsters on alone was a mistake. This is proven in his final fight with the dragon. Though Beowulf called off his men to not fight the dragon, due to fear of them dying; this was not his place to do so, those men had an equal part to play in the fight, and they retreated… all except for one, Wiglaf, This is the true story, and success of Beowulf. Wiglaf was the shining example of what the deeds come to light when one is courageous enough. Hopefully by Wiglaf’s succession of Beowulf, a greater society was born. These events would see the men who didn’t help Beowulf exiled, and scorned; thus bringing the Anglo-Saxon code to full circle, and promoting bravery for the next generation to come.

 

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