Why is boasting acceptable in Beowulf's society? And do his boasts serve as a type of resume for why he is qualified to fight Grendel?

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The style of self-presentation that Beowulf uses in this epic might well be regarded as “boasting” in modern terms, but in considering its function in that era, the analogy of a resume is probably more appropriate. Beowulf had become a hero by demonstrating his prowess as a warrior, and his...

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The style of self-presentation that Beowulf uses in this epic might well be regarded as “boasting” in modern terms, but in considering its function in that era, the analogy of a resume is probably more appropriate. Beowulf had become a hero by demonstrating his prowess as a warrior, and his fame had already spread before he embarks on the mission to defeat and destroy Grendel. Although it is made clear more than once that he was interested in adding to his achievements, there is also ample evidence that the young man had a strong service ethos. When he hears about the devastation that Grendel has inflicted, he does not hesitate to step up and help Hrothgar and the people of Denmark, and he successfully encourages his fellow Geats to accompany him. When he and his men arrives, upon being questioned by the sentry, Beowulf does not boast of his exploits but appropriately praises his father and locates himself in the lineage:

We are sprung from the lineage of the people of Geatland,

And Higelac's hearth-friends. To heroes unnumbered

My father was known, a noble head-warrior

Ecgtheow titled...

He goes on, saying that he unselfishly hopes to counsel and aid the Danish king, whom he also praises:

From feelings least selfish

I am able to render counsel to Hrothgar,

How he, wise and worthy, may worst the destroyer...

This approach convinces the sentry that they are not there to invade and conquer, and when they reach the palace, it is confirmed that the king remembers his father and knows of his reputation, calling him Hrethel’s “battle-brave son.” Beowulf’s presentation to Hrothgar is highly effective: the king not only accepts his offer to take on the monster, but even gives him authority over the great palace, Heorot.

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