In Beowulf, what challenges of Anglo-Saxon life are represented by the monsters Beowulf faces?

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wshoe | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf's battles with supernatural monsters represent the challenges facing the Anglo-Saxons.  The Anglo-Saxons were constantly facing attacks by other tribes.  Peace was not something that could be enjoyed for long.  The leaders carried  the burden of protecting their people.  For the Anglo-Saxons, loyalty, bravery, and respect for the tribal leader were especially important.  

The monsters in the epic poem represent the threat from outside attacks that the leaders faced during this time of constant battle.  When Beowulf arrives in Denmark many of Hrothgar's men have abandoned the old king.  Beowulf shows respect for the king by asking for his permission to fight Grendel.  However, he asks that Hrothgar's men not help in the battle.  Beowulf wants all of the fame and glory for the success to stay with the Geats.  The act of leaving Herot to these strangers to use overnight would certainly have been shameful for Hrothgar's remaining warriors.  

It is Beowulf, not the Danes, who finally "End(s) the grief, the sorrow, the suffering/ Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people/ By a bloodthirsty fiend" (l.512-514). The Danes' inability to defeat Grendel shows how mighty men faced defeat in the Anglo-Saxon society. Men had to be the strongest and the bravest to keep their warrior reputations and to achieve fame.

Beowulf's battles with Grendel and Grendel's mother earn Beowulf a great deal of fame.  By the time he battles the dragon, fifty years later, he is the king of the Geats.  His battles illustrate how difficult it was for an Anglo-Saxon leader to protect his people and to maintain the tribe.