In what way is Beowulf a celebration of barbarian culture?

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As English literature's first epic poem, Beowulf can mean many things to many different kinds of scholars. Scholars who view Beowulf as a celebration of barbarian culture likely focus on the aspects of barbarian life depicted in the poem that suggest that the civilization surrounding the creation of Beowulf was perhaps more organized and sophisticated than barbarian stereotypes imply.

For example, Heorot, the great mead-hall and palace of King Hrothgar, is described in the poem as a timber structure decorated in gold. The ornamental use of the precious metal suggests a refined aesthetic, or sensitivity to beauty, that is not generally associated with a barbarian culture. That Heorot is an important place in the poem means that the building is significant in general, a place where the so-called barbarians can celebrate their successes and gather to mourn their losses together. This sense of community also challenges the notion that barbarians are a primitive people with little capacity for details of life that are not primarily fixated on survival and animal needs like warmth and sustenance.

A third example can be observed in the role of the queen Wealtheow. Her clothing is described as elaborate, which is a relative term, but the existence of degrees of elegance in the first place is evidence of a sense of sophistication. In addition, her role as peacekeeper is important, and she reminds others of their responsibilities to look after one another to promote a sense of social harmony. Wealtheow's emphasis on harmony defies the typical stereotype of violence that often characterizes barbarian groups.

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