"Dripping with my enemies' blood. I drove five great giants into chain, chased all of that race from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one; death was my errand and the date they had earned. Now Grendel and I are called."
Notice in the lines above, from Beowulf, that Beowulf boasts about past victories that required superhuman strength and courage. Why might have people of Beowulf's time have valued such traits?
1 Answer | Add Yours
Beowulf is an Anglo-Saxon poem and therefore reflects the values and beliefs of that time. The people of Beowulf's time were strong believers in Fate (Wyrd); because of that, they valued fame and glory here on earth, knowing that the time one had here could be limited. Great acts of valor, especially supernatural ones, were praised, lauded, and rewarded with great celebration.
Beowulf is considered an epic hero because he demonstrates "superhuman strength and courage" against foes of every kind.
"Dripping with my enemies' blood. I drove five great giants into chain, chased all of that race from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one; death was my errand and the date they had earned."
While modern readers might consider this to be excessive boasting, the Anglo Saxons would have seen it as impressive evidence of valor. The superhuman elements (swimming for days, eliminating an entire race of men) gave them assurance that Beowulf was a man on whom Fate smiled.
Even more, Beowulf's people would have taken heart that such a man was now here to assist them in getting rid of their marauding pestilence, Grendel. Past victories gave them home for future victories. Getting rid of Grendel is of inestimable value to them, and they would have been thrilled that a man with superhuman abilities was going to do battle with their supernatural nemesis--Grendel.
We’ve answered 320,085 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question