Compare and Contrast Characters in Beowulf and The Niebelungenlied

Powerful Essays
The hero of Beowulf, one of the oldest written Germanic epics, is a leader of the Geats and a hero unlike all others before him. He is able to conquer foes that no one else can, and he charges into every battle with the full force that he can muster, without any of the encumbrances that others may have. His greatest desire is fame and glory, and he performs whatever difficult tasks he believes will bring him closer to that goal. Beowulf’s quest for power drives him to seek fame by challenging Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and finally a giant dragon that causes his death. Though Beowulf’s strength and courage lead him to power and its accompanying responsibility, the power that he accumulates has negative consequences for those who rely on him. This very thirst for power is Beowulf’s fatal flaw, causing him to ignore his duties towards his people and leave his kingdom unprotected and vulnerable; however, it also serves as the force that allows him to accomplish unbelievable feats.

Beowulf’s obsession with power leads him to disregard everything else that should be important to a leader and a king, including his duties towards his citizens and his country. Before he is made king, Beowulf travels to Hrothgar’s kingdom to fight Grendel and achieve glory by defeating the widely feared monster. After he wins the fight with Grendel and defeats Grendel’s mother who seeks revenge for her son’s death, Beowulf announces his victories to Hrothgar and his court, claiming fame as a successful warrior. Along with his congratulations, Hrothgar also gives Beowulf a warning about the dangers of power: “Do not give way to pride. / For a brief while your strength is in bloom / but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow; illness or the sword to l...

... middle of paper ...

...5 - 577). Beowulf reveals the positive result of his fatal flaw through this boast – he is able to do what others cannot, ridding the world of dangers that not only give him wide fame and glory, but help those who live in fear of them.

Beowulf is a complex character that is cast as the ultimate hero and champion, whose greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. Though his obsession with power yield him courage and strength that allow him to defeat enemies most other warriors cannot bring themselves to fight, his unilateral quest for glory leaves his citizens and kingdom desolate and unprepared for the difficulties they face. Beowulf may be the greatest warrior of one of the greatest epics written, but as is said in the last words about him in the book, his most notable trait is not his greatness as a leader and king but that he is the “keenest to win fame”.
Get Access