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What is the moral of Beowulf?

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The moral presented in the epic poem Beowulf is the recognition that human destiny is controlled by God. The protagonist’s actions highlight the human struggle between good and evil. Beowulf recognizes his fate as a heroic figure locked in constant battles with evil and concedes that he, like all human beings, can only triumph over evil if it is the will of God.

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The moral of Beowulf is that it is better to die young with heroism and virtue than to grow to a ripe old age being cowardly and avoiding your responsibilities. Beowulf shows great courage and fortitude as he protects the community by fighting Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon Wiglaf. Honor is more important to him than preserving his life.

Beowulf dies doing the right thing, but what is more important is that his memory will live on because of the way he lived. He exemplified the ideals of honor, loyalty, great physical courage, and self sacrifice that were the highest virtues in his culture. His body may have died but he achieved a form of immortality through the poem written about him, which we are still reading more than a thousand years later.

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The moral of Beowulf is that good conquers evil. In the epic, bravery, honor, and loyalty concur evil. The story highlights the importance of the values in individuals.

Beowulf, the hero of the story, goes to the aid of King Hrothgar. King Hrothgar’s people are suffering at the hands of the monster, Grendel. By the time Beowulf gets to the Danes, Grendel has claimed the lives of warriors and ordinary citizens. Beowulf is brave enough to challenge the monster. He fights Grendel and wins. He also remains loyal to Hrothgar and helps fight Grendel’s mother.

Wiglaf is also loyal to Beowulf, and when the other warriors abandon him during the fight with the dragon, Wiglaf stands his ground and fights alongside Beowulf.

Beowulf, Hrothgar, and Wiglaf are honorable men as demonstrated by their motivation to keep their promises. They understand the value of friendship, and they stand with their friends in their time of need. By expressing their virtues, they are able to conquer their enemies.

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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.

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If you remember that moral of the story is like the lesson or principle the author wishes to convey, think about what you learned from  the story.  With each new story about the antics of another boy in the class named  "Charles", the reader finds humor both in the parents' reaction to the naughty boy stories and in the stories themselves.  When at the end, the parents find out that there is no boy named "Charles" in their son's class, and that it is their own son creating the havoc described, they must face the truth that Laurie is the culprit.  Being a parent myself, I believe that Jackson is making us look at childhood as a learning time for parents and child, that mistakes made can be fixed or learned from, that nothing is so great that it cannot be dealt with even if the parents are unaware at first.  I also think that Jackson is making a gentle statement about the difficulty of parenting and raising the child you want him to be, especially if you remain unaware or unquestioning with your child.

Because you are younger than I am, you may find another moral in the story which fits as well as mine.  Look carefully at what principle you learned from this story.

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I think the first answer certainly is not wrong.  I'm merely going to suggest an alternative.

Because Beowulf is a classic epic - a tale of a hero, with specific super-human heroic qualities battling evil and winning - I'm not sure that there is a moral beyond the most obvious: good wins over evil through the virtues of courage, strength, loyalty, and integrity.

Consider that Beowulf possesses all of these qualities, in almost nauseating quantities.  Consider also that he battles and defeats two monsters ALONE (as if he is the only one who can do so, because he is the only one who possess his heroic qualities).

Finally, in the last battle (the one with the Dragon) although Beowulf is defeated, his most loyal apprentice, Wiglaf, summons up similar qualities found in Beowulf and wins on behalf of his mentor, leader, and friend.  It seems simplistic, but that is the nature of an epic.

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What is the lesson in morality in Beowulf?

The moral lesson I'm always struck with in Beowulf is selflessness. Hrothgar has been plagued by the ravages of Grendel for a long time; when Beowulf finally hears of it, he simply gets ready to leave.  He gathers some men, tells the King--to whom he owes his allegiance, his time, and his talents--he's going to go.  His explanation and his motivation are simple:  I can defeat this marauder and rescue Hrothgar's kingdom, so I will.  That is the pinnacle of selflessness. 

Beowulf has a distant connection to Hrothgar, through his father, but this is not a place or a people he owes anything to for any reason.  Yet, he goes because they are in need and he knows he can help.  He is rewarded at the end, it's true; however, it's just as likely he could have lost his life in the effort.  (He does lose one of his men, and Beowulf himself ends up battling both Grendel and Grendel's mother--an unexpected and fierce opponent.)

When I think of Beowulf, I think of the selfless civil servants--those who serve as firemen, policemen, EMTs, and so many more--all over the world who do such brave things daily without the promise of anything but a thank-you and their normal (and certainly not grand) paycheck in return. Loving one's fellow man more than one's own self is the epitome of moral thinking and action.

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What is the lesson in morality in Beowulf?

Beowulf is an epic that came out of a warrior culture and was used not solely to entertain but also to teach the values of this culture.  The Anglo-Saxons valued bravery, heroism, strength, loyalty, fame through glorious deeds, and the desire to fight evil.  Their leaders were their best warriors.  Beowulf himself embodies all of these qualities, and you can find examples of these throughout the text.  He is the strongest and best warrior in his country, and after he defeats Grendel and his mother (among other victories) he becomes king.  Wiglaf, who becomes Beowulf's successor, also embodies these traits.  When all of the other soldiers abandon Beowulf in his fatal battle against the dragon, Wiglaf does not.  He displays courage and loyalty in helping Beowulf defeat the dragon, which is why he is named the next leader.  It is true that Beowulf fights these monsters to help his tribe and the Danes, but he also does so for fame and glory and hopes to be remembered for such deeds, which is why, on his deathbed, he requests that a monument be erected to remember him and how great he was.  In seeing this monument, future generations will remember Beowulf and the qualities he embodied, reminding them to fight evil forces with courage and strength and to always be loyal.  Anglo Saxon culture did not value humility.

Another interesting aspect to note is the idea of Christianity.  By the time Beowulf became a written text and not just an oral story, Christianity had begun to spread through Britain.  As such, certain Christian ideals and language are sprinkled throughout the text we read.  The most significant Christian value in this text is the connection between God and good.  When battles against evil are won, the characters praise God and rely on him to help.  However, the idea of faith is at odds with the pagan concept of fate, which is often associated with unfavorable conditions and results in the text.

So, to simply answer your question, a moral person in Beowulf is one who bravely and courageously fights evil for the sake of his people (and others) and for fame, someone who strives to be strong and is loyal to his leaders/followers; increasingly, over time, this morality also began to include a faith in God's help to win battles against evil.

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