The two Old English poems titled Beowulf and “The Wanderer” present title characters whose various similarities and differences include the following:
- The Wanderer implies that he is a man “eager for fame” (Donaldson translation), and certainly a desire for fame is one of Beowulf’s motivations as well.
- Both the Wanderer and Beowulf lose, through death, the kings they obviously love.
- Both the Wanderer and Beowulf have spent much time at sea, although this seems to be especially the case with the Wanderer.
- Both the Wanderer and Beowulf are familiar with loss and mutability.
- Both the Wanderer and Beowulf know the importance of being wise.
- Both the Wanderer and Beowulf ultimately place their trust in God, as when the Wanderer concludes his poem by stating,
It will be well with him who seeks favor, comfort from the Father in heaven, where for us all stability resides.
- The Wanderer seems much more lonely than Beowulf, who is often surrounded by loyal followers.
- Nothing suggests that the Wanderer is a particularly high-ranking person, unlike Beowulf.
- The Wanderer seems sadder than Beowulf, who is generally a confident, even up-beat character.
- The Wanderer has apparently been an exile, a fate not suggested about Beowulf.
- The Wanderer seems to think that he cannot (or should not) share his thoughts freely with others, whereas Beowulf is typically outspoken and eloquent.
- The Wanderer seems far more dependent on others than does Beowulf.
- The Wanderer seems anxious about his future on earth, whereas Beowulf (until the very end) seems generally confident.
- The Wanderer seems preoccupied with a strong sense of loss and nostalgia, whereas Beowulf generally looks to the future and assumes that he will be able (with God’s help) to meet most of the challenges life may bring his way.