A compelling ending of a literary work does not simply end; it continues evolving in the minds of the readers well past its final pages. In the epic poem Beowulf written by an English monk and translated by Seamus Heaney, the hero Beowulf meets his death as he fights a dragon during the final pages. Previously, Beowulf displays many heroic traits defending King Hrothgar and the Danes against the evil, God-cursed monster, Grendel, and Grendel’s malignant mother. Beowulf returns to his home in Geatland where he rules as king for fifty years. The epic closes with Beowulf defeating the dragon and dying in the process. Beowulf hastily passes on the kingship to Wiglaf before his death since Beowulf has no son who would automatically receive the position. Despite its ambiguities, the ending of Beowulf appropriately concludes the epic because it emphasizes Beowulf’s characteristics of mortality that the reader can relate to, equalizes the balance between pagan and Christian elements, and leaves just enough uncertainty for the reader to fantasize about the events that occur after the poem’s ending.
During the end of the poem, Beowulf displays many mortal traits that readers can relate to which creates a pleasing ending. For most of the poem, Beowulf is portrayed as a valiant hero who fights superstitious monsters and seems virtually invincible. Beowulf’s experiences and his disposition make him a difficult character for one to connect to. However, at the end of the poem, Beowulf exhibits many characteristics and goes through experiences that the reader can relate to, the most prominent of these experiences being death. The poet describes Beowulf’s struggle to fight death: “Beowulf spoke: in spite of his wounds, / mortal wounds, he s...
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...spects, and leaves small inconclusive gaps for the reader to fill with his or her best judgement. Beowulf displays vulnerability and regret during his dying moments, allowing the reader to form connections to him. The forces between pagan and Christian elements are balanced in the conclusion, which clarifies which aspects of Christian beliefs Beowulf has adapted throughout the poem and which pagan beliefs he still holds on to, leaving the reader more satisfied. Furthermore, the ending includes some uncertainty which enables the reader to create their own hypothesis after the poem’s final pages. By using these techniques to create a meaningful ending, the Beowulf poet has produced an epic that has survived thousands of years through oral retellings and printed texts which continue to be read, studied, and translated making Beowulf accessible to an even larger audience.
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