Beowulf begins his story as a fairly unknown warrior from the Geat tribe of Sweden who comes to Denmark to aid the king of the Danes, Hrothgar. He has heard of a terrible monster, Grendel, who has mostly destroyed Hrothgar 's great mead-hall, Heorot, and has killed many men in his reign of terror. He declares "...I mean to be a match for Grendel,/ settle the outcome in single combat (Heaney 29)," meaning that he will fight the monster one-on-one and eschew all weapons. Hrothgar grants Beowulf control of Heorot, a fairly unprecedented honor, so that he may accomplish his task. The night after Beowulf and his thanes have settled into Heorot, Grendel attacks and Beowulf is able to make good on his word. The fight is fairly easy for Beowulf, as he exhibits "a handgrip harder than anything/[Grendel] had ever en...
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...uccessful way to solve a problem. He is bestowed with an entire dragon’s hoard as a trophy upon this realization, showing that it is the most important realization of all. Beowulf kills the dragon, but does not wish to take any of its body parts as a trophy. The purely material nature of this trophy symbolizes that his growth from this fight was not physical in nature, but spiritual. These differences in the techniques and trophies of each fight serve to represent Beowulf’s growth in the poem.
Beowulf’s coming-of-age is not typical. He works his way through a series of improbably difficult fights throughout his life, and his reward for discovering himself is a gruesome death. But though it may not be typical, it is powerful. Beowulf transforms through his three fights into someone who can conquer even the most difficult foe, truly completing his evolution as a hero.
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