A Comparison of Fierceness in Beowulf and in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

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Fierceness in Beowulf and in The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

Is fierceness mentioned only in Beowulf or is it an element common also to this famous Icelandic saga? Is fierceness described the same way as in Beowulf?

The Anglo-Saxons prior to 1000AD were as a race fierce. They possessed great courage. Beowulf reflects their fierceness and courage in a variety of ways. Beowulf complains to Unferth in the Danish court: “Grendel would never have done such horrors … if you were so fierce as you suppose.” The hero, who had earlier killed nine sea monsters, opted to face Grendel in mortal combat WITHOUT sword or shield or the assistance of others: “but I shall seize my enemy in my hand grip and fight.” Later when the hero’s sword failed against Grendel’s Mother, he remained “resolute” and seized her by the shoulder and fought till victory came. Thus “Beowulf, fierce in war, received the cup from Wealhtheow.” Later, the hero went up against and killed Daghrefin, the Huga champion, without weapons: “Nor was my sword his death, but my hand grasp broke his bone-house, tore out his surging heart.” After fifty years of kingship, when the fire dragon molested his people, Beowulf, the old man, did not lose his fierceness; he was “ready to die … life from body parted … I am brave in mind.” In the final battle brave Wiglaf showed his own fierceness and advanced to help his lord who was englulfed in flames: “With him I will embrace the fire … he doesn’t deserve to suffer alone.”

The Anglo-Saxons were also fierce in the sense that they delighted in slaughter. George Clark in Beowulf states regarding the epic: “Swords, shields, coats of ring-mail, helmets with sourmounted boar figures . . . all furnish the poem and are ...

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... husband King Hjorvard to rebel against King Hrolf. With her magic King Hrolf was killed along with his forces. So the story ends on a sad note due to the fierceness of a diabolical queen.

In conclusion, the type of fierceness mentioned in Beowulf is common also to this famous Icelandic saga, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. Additionally, there are other types of fierceness in the latter associated with maiden-warriors and with the use of magic.


Alexander, Michael, translator. The Earliest English Poems. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977.

Clark, George. Beowulf. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, translated by Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
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