Beowulf Coming Of Age Analysis

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In modern literature, coming-of-age tales are usually reserved for angst-ridden teen protagonists who curse the cruel world and hopelessly try to "fit in" before finally having the epiphany that "fitting in" is meaningless. In Old English literature, the definition of a coming-of-age story is somewhat different. The Old English epic poem Beowulf tells of a man who transforms from a young warrior establishing his reputation to a wise king who embodies the ideals of Anglo-Saxon warrior culture. Beowulf has a central device which moves its title character through the stages of his life: his three major fights against Grendel, Grendel 's mother, and a dragon. Each successive fight is more difficult for the hero, and in each he employs different…show more content…
After Beowulf murders her son, she seeks revenge for his death, as was acceptable in Anglo-Saxon warrior culture (Garret). She murders Hrothgar’s faithful thane Aeschere, and Beowulf again comes to Hrothgar’s aid to avenge this death. Beowulf swims to the bottom of the mere where Grendel’s mother is known to lurk so that he may kill her and stop the murder of the Danes for good. Though Beowulf was able to defeat Grendel without weapons, the same cannot be said for his defeat of Grendel’s mother. He is only saved from her fierce claws by “the mesh of the chain-mail [shirt] (Heaney 105)” that he wears on his journey into the deep. Beowulf does use his superhuman strength to kill Grendel’s mother, but in wielding a sword made for giants “…so huge and heavy of itself/only Beowulf could wield it in a battle (Heaney 109)” rather than in hand-to-hand combat. He decapitates her with the sword, then proceeds to decapitate Grendel, who had returned to his mother’s lair to die after Beowulf had mortally wounded him. After the blade of the giant’s sword dissolves in Grendel’s mother’s poisonous blood, Beowulf returns to the surface of the mere with the sword’s gilded hilt and Grendel’s severed head. The Danish kingdom has finally been saved, and Beowulf can return to his king Hygelac with the confidence that he has proven himself as a…show more content…
He has assumed the leadership of the Geats after the death of king Hygelac and his direct descendants, and has been a powerful and respected ruler; he has transformed from a headstrong young man into a wise old man. The Geatish kingdom has prospered for years under Beowulf’s rule, and he has become complacent with his own success as a ruler. But suddenly, a threat looms over the kingdom for the first time in many years: a servant has accidentally awoken a dragon by stealing a golden chalice from his treasure-hoard, and the dragon is now destroying everything in its wake. Though he is no longer the strapping warrior of his youth, Beowulf proclaims that he alone must defeat the dragon because he feels that it is not “up to any man except [him]/to measure his strength against the monster/or to prove his worth (Heaney 171).” He desires to kill the dragon alone, but enlists the help of eleven men to keep watch at the entrance of the dragon’s lair in the event that anything should happen to him. Because of the dragon’s sheer size and power, this fight is much more difficult for Beowulf than either of the previous two. Beowulf attempts to strike the dragon, but is mortally wounded by its flame and realizes that he will soon die. His only loyal thane, Wiglaf, rushes to his aid, protecting him with his shield and weakening the dragon with his sword, and Beowulf is able to deliver the fatal blow to the dragon
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