Anglo Saxon society revolves around violence: constant fighting, the revenge ethic, pride in battle. Despite seeming like the most qualified leader would take the throne, warrior kings inherently were driven by these same values to be overly prideful and violent. This is apparent in Beowulf, where Beowulf himself can not manage to both follow this warrior code and successfully survive. Despite doing everything he can to be a good king, his need for honor and glory drives him to make reckless decisions. In Beowulf, the anonymous author kills Beowulf- the epitome of Anglo Saxon values- ultimately suggesting that living by Anglo Saxon values does not allow for a stable society.
Based on religion, honor, and glory, Anglo saxon values focus on …show more content…
Anglo Saxon values are centered around honor and pride, with God as their ultimate protector, depicting their culture as one full of constant battle. Anglo Saxon culture credits everything to God, which highlights how religious this culture is. When discussing who is in control of society,Hrothgar tells Beowulf that “[God] possesses power over all things” (Anon 325). Not only do these people believe in a higher power, but they believe that God protects men in battle, and provides them safe travels. Since they believe that God “possesses” this power over them, they essentially believe that they belong to God. They accredit all aspects of life to God, and try to serve him in every way they can. Furthermore, an Anglo Saxon expert asserts that in Anglo Saxon culture, honor and pride are highly valued, yet can …show more content…
The Anglo Saxon value of revenge ethic is dangerous, and inherently results in an endless cycle of violence. Hildeburh lost both her son and her husband to the revenge ethic, and this caused a cycle of violence between clans. (Anon 71-76). The revenge ethic inevitably punishes all in an endless cyclical pattern of violence; when one attacks, the other shortly follows. Following this code in its essence leads to constant death and feuding, which accomplishes nothing other than more violence. Thus, Anglo Saxon culture rewards violence with the idea that pride and honor can be won through avenging deaths, which demonstrates how dangerous a culture focused on war-based pride can be. The excessive pride that Anglo Saxon warriors have blinds them to reality, and prevents them from seeing the true risk of their plight. Despite the known power of this demon, Beowulf, when fighting Grendel, refuses to use a sword (Anon 52-54). Grendel killed many men who came to fight him with swords and other various weapons, and Beowulf was well aware of this fact. However, he makes the conscious decision to go into battle unarmed. Since he succeeded in doing without a sword what other men could not do with one, he gets more pride and prestige; it proves his
In Beowulf, the essence left behind by a true hero is extremely important. In epics such as this one, leaders tend to have the determination and boldness of a hero. On the other hand, the main character, Beowulf, does not only display these certain traits. In this heroic poem, respect and trust come naturally. Honor and integrity are present throughout the poem. There are many moments in Beowulf that manifest the many traits that a person should have. This proves how important these attributes are to the characters and the Anglo-Saxon society. Although Beowulf has no known author, it embodies many of the beliefs and morals of the early Germanic society. The author of this epic poem uses many approaches in order to demonstrate that respect and trust are fundamental characteristics of a leader and hero.
Within the tale of “Beowulf” four character traits can be found which define the Anglo Saxon Hero. The first is loyalty, as demonstrated by the relationship between Lord and thane. According to page 23 of the “Beowulf” introduction, “a relationship based less on subordination of one man’s will to another than on mutual trust and respect.” The second and third characteristics are strength and courage. The importance of these specific traits to the Anglo-Saxon people is clearly presented during the reciting of Sigemund’s tale within Heorot. As the song states, “He was adventurer most famous, far and wide through the nations, for deed of courage – he had prospered from that before, the protector of warriors – after the war-making of Heremod had come to an end, his strength and his courage” (38). The final piece which comprises the Anglo-Saxon hero is the notion of fame. The only after life a warrior could ever aspire to have was immortality through fame. One again this is explained by the introduction to the story, “Beowulf’s chief reward is pagan immortality the memory in the minds of later generations of a hero’s heroic actions” (24-25). By understanding what defines a hero it is a simple matter to comprehend why Beowulf is considered by some to be the greatest of all. He posses unfaltering loyalty to his king and allies, and save for his final battle his thanes show the same devotion to him. His strength is unparalleled, as he is able to defeat each of his opponents and perform feats of unmatched endurance. Beowulf’s courage, though motivated primarily by his own notion of fate, is, none the less, unwavering. And as a hero he achieved his desire for immortality through the poem itself. Each of the four heroic traits can be identified within the three battles in which Beowulf participates: His battle with Grendel, his undersea struggle with the Grendel’s Mother, and his final fight with the dragon. Before going off to do battle with Grendel, Beowulf gives a speech that may appear conceited to the modern reader, but is in actuality a simple device used to insure his immortality through fame. Beowulf states, “I claim myself no poorer in war strength, war works, than Grendel claims himself. Therefor I will not put him to sleep with a sword… and then may wise God, Holy Lord, assign glory on whichever hand seems good to him” (35-36).
One characteristic a person must have in order to be considered a hero is honor. The Anglo-Saxons thought highly of this trait, and believed that being honorable was almost a requirement in order to be considered a hero. This was because they believed that a hero was supposed to be a role model to others. If one had no honor, he or she would not be a role model to others, causing him or her to not have the privilege of being considered a hero. This trait is portrayed differently in the book and movie. Throughout Beowulf and Grendel, Beowulf constantly proves that he is honorable, in which he shows a tremendous amount of respect for not only the Danes, but Grendel as well. Though he kills Grendel at the end of the movie, he shows a great am...
The strongest ties of loyalty in their society were to kin and lord. A kingdom was only as strong as its war-leader king. In order to have loyal men, the King needed to repay them. In other words the men were paid for loyalty. They were sometimes given, land, gold, money, food, armor and other things for a reward after battle. Both the Anglo-Saxons and the characters in Beowulf are willing to risk their life at any moment-they are inattentive to danger. The Anglo-Saxons acquired riches by plundering treasures of their enemies. Every family formed a bond of loyalty and protection. A family was bound to avenge a father or brother’s death by feud with the tribe or clan which had killed him. This duty of blood revenge was the supreme religion of the Anglo-Saxons. The family passed down this hatred forever until avenged. Always staying loyal to family and the lord. (Allen, 12-14)
Epic heroes usually exemplify the character traits most admired in their societies, and Beowulf is no exception. "Beowulf" is set in the Anglo-Saxon society, a time when war was rampant among the many peoples trying to take over the different kingdoms of England. In this dangerous, violent time people lived in constant peril and jeopardy. These conditions only allowed people of great bravery to survive and men of outstanding courage were admired the populous. These warriors fought for their leader and tribe in return for treasure and protection. This relationship between the lord and his men was the basis of the Anglo-Saxon society. The epic poem "Beowulf" is a perfect example of how this system worked in these trying times.
In contrast, Beowulf is seen as a hero, even when exemplifying the violent and dangerous qualities the dragon is feared for. Anglo-Saxon society prized loyalty, personal valor, and fame. In order to be a hero, one must recognize the need to act, and not shy away from it. The dragon, based on that definition, embodies the Anglo-Saxon idea of a hero: it is loyal to its cause, it is a good warrior, and it recognizes the need to act. It even has a sense of justice and a sense of wrong, shown by the way it reacted to the theft of the chalice. The dragon becomes vengeful and defensive, using cruelty as a means to correct the wrong. Described as “the guardian of the mound” (2302), the dragon’s intent is identical to Beowulf’s. Beowulf is seen as a hero not only because of his actions, but because he is human. The only thing that makes the dragon different is its inhuman qualities, and therefore it is a monster, a “ground-burner” (2713). Heroism in Anglo-Saxon society is a concept embodied by warriors and guardians, who would vie to be the most well-known. Heroism, to the Anglo-Saxons, is an excuse to use cruelty as a way to further one’s fame. It is a social crutch of sorts, leaned on for the vain chance to be immortal. When Beowulf agrees to fight the dragon, it is to have a heroic death, so he may be remembered. In the battle, just as with Grendel and Grendel’s mother,
First off, Beowulf shows the characteristic qualities of an Anglo-saxon hero by being selfless. Beowulf would always help everyone and he helped the townspeople by getting rid of Grendel. Beowulf risked his life just to save the people of the town, and he did just that. He took Grendel's life, and ripped his arm off. Another way Beowulf is selfless is that the last thing Beowulf tells Hrothgar is to take care of his men if he dies in battle. His first thought was towards his men and what would happen if he died. Another example of Beowulf's selflessness is when "Beowulf gave a battle-sword to the
A common thread that runs through the Anglo-Saxon culture’s warrior clan is glory. According to the Beowulf packet, glory was something that is highly admired in the clan. Their values were stated as, “The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic tribe who valued bravery, honor, and glory in battle” (Jones 3). The values would come into play during battle and Glory would motivate warriors to brawl against evil. A warrior will do whatever he can to achieve the glory he feels he deserves. Beowulf’s men were willing to fight to
In this essay, I will uncover the countless insights that can be learned about the characters in Beowulf, as well as the society as a whole, based on the weapons the characters choose to use in battle. During the Anglo-Saxon time, roughly between 400 and 1066, swords were considered the most precious weapon someone could own. Although it is not certain who wrote Beowulf, and when, many people believe it was composed in the middle to end of the Anglo-Saxon period. Analyzing the different weapons, and significance of each, in Beowulf, and comparing them to the weaponry at the time, provides the readers with a great deal of insight into the society during this period. The use of weapons in Beowulf not only provides the readers with insight into
Picture a world shrouded in darkness and despair, where war is inevitable and its inhabitants live with a relentless sense of fear. Medieval Europe was not a peaceful or secure place, but rather a world filled with turmoil, suffering, and unrest. Commoners living in medieval Europe never strayed far from the security of their homes because evil and suffering lurked within every facet of society. The story of Beowulf recounts the life of an idealized warrior, whose desire for honor instills deep convictions of justified violence. In many ways, Beowulf’s attitude parallels the warrior instinct exhibited by the crusaders as they attempted to recapture the Holy Land. Hence, the world of medieval Europe painted suffering for a just cause as an honorable
The Anglo-Saxons were a people who lived in and ruled England from the fifth century AD until the Norman Conquest. They were a people who valued courage and leadership. They lived under kings who were "keepers of gold" and were guarded by their loyal thanes (knights). They were a Pagan culture until the Normandy conquistadors came. They believed in fate and believed the only way to live forever was if you had fame. In the Anglo-Saxon book, Beowulf, there was a combination of many different people. The characters in Beowulf are defined by their status. Their status was in form of their fame and accomplishments. Beowulf was a very famous warrior, who sails to the Danes to kill a monster who is murdering their people. Beowulf kills Grendal, Grendal's mother and a dragon throughout the entirety of the story. Every time he receives more fame and more glory. Beowulf became a king. He was a great king who received honor and loyalty from his men. Although, during the fight with the dragon Beowulf's men run away and as a result Beowulf dies. The book claims that Beowulf had fate against him in his last battle against the dragon, but also says that Beowulf had Christian morals. By having two conflicting religions (paganism and Christianity) it makes the story more interesting. This book is composed of four main characteristics: fame, kingship, fate, and God, which play very important roles throughout the book.
The Anglo-Saxon culture ran on the outline of the heroic code. The warrior pledged allegiance to his lord in exchange for protection (“Beowulf” 38). Through acts of strength and bravery in battle, the warrior rose in levels of nobility and received rewards from his lord for his bravery (“Beowulf” 38). Hrothgar, king of the Danes and lord of the Scyldings, builds a mead hall, Heorot, to honor his warriors and give gifts to them (Beowulf 67-73). A savage demon named Grendel attacks the great hall and kills thirty of Hrothgar’s men (Beowulf 122). Beowulf, a young Geat warrior, leaves his homeland to aid King Hrothgar in purging the Danes of Grendel. Beowulf’s act of allegiance extends past the kingdom of his homeland by ‘rescuing’ the Danish people. His actions not only illustrate courage but the principle of allegiance to his family and himself. Upon arriving on the Danish shore, Beowulf states, “We belong by birth to the Geat people / and owe allegiance to Lord Hygelac. / I come to proffer / my wholehearted help and counsel” (Beowulf 260-1, 277-8). Beowulf declares his allegiance to his lord and is willing to come to the Danes’ aid. Hrothgar knows that Beowulf is only in Denmark to “follow up a...
In history, evil men have reigned supreme across many cultures. Some people say that being evil is inherent in every human. If this is true, then writing may be the ultimate way of releasing hatred of the world without hurting anyone. In Beowulf, all of society's evil men can be personified within the demons of Cain. The main demon presented in Beowulf is Grendel. Grendel personifies the exact opposite of what the Anglo-Saxons held dear. Beowulf, the story's hero, is the embodiment of what every Anglo-Saxon strove to become in their lifetime. Grendel is constantly angry, afraid and unsure of himself; while Beowulf is fearless and loyal to his king.
In the epic poem of Beowulf, written by an unknown monk in about 725 AD, the Anglo-Saxon virtue of comitatus is displayed as a slowly dying aspect of life. Comitatus is the basic idea that everyone protects the king at all costs even if it means a warrior giving up his own life, and if a king is killed, the warriors must avenge the death of the king or they can no longer serve as warriors for the next king. This value of comitatus is displayed mostly through the three battles that Beowulf encounters during the epic poem. An analysis of the three battles is important because Beowulf’s choice of weapons, behavior of the Thanes, and preparation for and attitude toward battle all emphasize the death of the Anglo-Saxon virtue of comitatus.
To start off, Beowulf, identified as the greatest Anglo- Saxon, pursues glory and fame. He brags about himself and his accomplishments. When it was time to battle Grendal, Beowulf states “my youth have been filled with glory”. (143-144). He boasts about what the people have witnessed. Beowulf says to his men, “They have seen my strength for themselves, have watched me rise from the darkness of war, dripping my enemies’ blood. I drove five great giants into chains, chased all of the race from the earth” (151-155). In addition to Beowulf bragging about himself and his accomplishments, Beowulf embodies that fame and glory mean more than anything else. When Beowulf helmet failed him, he jumped back in battle because