The story of "Beowulf," the oldest known poem written in English, served as a testament and guide to a life that a typical Anglo-Saxon might wish to achieve. In a time of desperation, a great warrior sweeps in to save a nation from a certain evil, a "monster" by the name of Grendel. This newly proclaimed hero vanquishes his enemies and overcomes adverse circumstances in order to save others (Acocella 70). While his respectable deeds seem rewardable in the eyes of the people around him, Beowulf 's actions toward Grendel serve as a window into the true Anglo-Saxon society and the intricate details and values on which it is based.
The initial conflict is directly introduced at the beginning of the poem. Grendel, "a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark, nursed a hard grievance" against the Danes (Heaney 43). He is described as a descendant of Cain, filled with evil and thirst for blood. For twelve years, the monster has listened to the praises and parties of Danish knights, and for twelve years, he would attack at night, killing all in his path. Unleashing terror, he would grab "thirty men from their resting places...blundering back with the butchered corpses" (Heaney 44). Eventually, news spread of the Danes ' hardships, and a hero was needed then more than ever (Acocella 70).
The poet then shifts to the seemingly perfect solution: Beowulf, the thirty-something warrior from Sweden. Beowulf claims that he can be the one who puts an end to Hrothgar 's, leader of the Danes, problems, and he does just that. He goes on to defeat the monster Grendel. Celebrations and gift giving ensue soon after. Then, when Grendel 's mother pursues revenge, he wins the fight once again (Emerson 118-19). ...
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...or trait could keep a person from murder or success. While it is interesting to discover the ticks of Anglo-Saxon culture, so to speak, it is even more interesting to think about the fine line that determines many outcomes.
This is where the audience finds the flaws that are encompassed in Anglo-Saxon society, and it is through Grendel that the weaknesses of this society are revealed. This culture is very complex given the rather simple time in which the story is set; it even resembles many societies today. Actions are based less on the instinctive will to live and more on the wish to have a life remembered. It is important to note what an impact details such as lineage, religion, or even stereotypes play in life or death. People who lived so long ago are uncannily similar to the way people live today, and perhaps that is what makes the Anglo-Saxons so fascinating.
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