How does Beowulf convey the values and norms of the Anglo-Saxon society?
The Beowulf poet is unknown. What we do know is that the epic poem was probably composed in the seventh or eighth century, possibly in Scandanavia. Later, around the year 1000, it is believed that the poem was recorded in written form by monks in England.
At this time England was near the end of what we usually refer to as the “Anglo-Saxon” period. This name derives from the people who migrated to England from Europe, following the Roman departure in the early fifth-century. The migrating Anglo-Saxons brought a religious, warrior based culture to England. This culture was composed of rival clans that fought each other for centuries, before England became a unified country following the Norman invasion of 1066. Their religious life was formed by both the ancient pagan mythologies and the growing influence of Christianity.
In the poem Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon warrior culture is represented by Beowulf's bravery and attitude toward war and fate. He defeats Grendel and Grendel's mother single-handedly, when no else could. Later, in his old-age, when he has returned to the land of the Geats and become their king, he prepares to battle the dragon that is tormenting his people. In the following excerpt, he expresses the values of his culture:
When he comes to me
I mean to stand, not run from his shooting
Flames, stand till fate decided
Which of us wins.
Note the bravery, and also the acceptance of his fate, whatever it may be. Beowulf is brave, but not certain of victory. However, he is willing to accept whatever God has in mind for him in the form of fate.