Beowulf is an epic poem written anonymously sometime around 1000 AD by an author commonly referred to as “the Beowulf Poet.” The work itself presents a moral struggle between good and evil and raises more than a singular moral. The poem infuses the significance of traits like courage and loyalty into the character of Beowulf. In literature, a moral is a message related directly from an author to readers or a lesson demonstrated by a story. The main message repeated in this heroic poem is found in the protagonist’s repeated references to God as the controller of human fate and destiny. The poem breaks down the action in the story into three major battles between good and evil: the battle with Grendel, the battle with Grendel’s mother, and the final battle with the dragon.
Each of the monsters confronting Grendel metaphorically represent evil. Grendel is a perversion of nature. He is an ugly beast; he's not quite animal but less than human. He possesses enormous strength and is hell-bent on destruction. In one of many biblical references, the reader learns that Grendel has descended from Cain. Beowulf has also been blessed with great strength and power. When Hrothgar, King of the Danes, summons Beowulf seeking his help, he is convinced Beowulf has been sent by God. During a feast as songs in praise of God are being sung, Grendel attacks:
Grendel stalking under
the weight of God's anger.
That wicked ravager
planned to ensnare
many of the race of men
in the high hall.
He is defeated by Beowulf and the protagonist credits God with his victory.
Again, when Grendel’s angry evil mother seeks revenge for the death of her son, Beowulf kills her in a vicious contest and praises God for his victory. The Beowulf Poet makes it clear that the protagonist envisions himself as being directly and personally subject to the will of God and whether he is successful in life’s struggles depends on that will.
Just as in the first two major battles with evil, Beowulf believes he must accept death, if it comes, in his battle with the dragon, but death is worth it if he courageously dies doing what he feels is necessary behavior for a worthy cause. He is aware that his fate is up to God and willingly accepts it.
The anonymous poet suggests that it is possible for good to triumph over evil because evil is not natural. He implies that evil is the result of human sin and can only be destroyed with God’s intervention. God controls human fate and destiny.