The Perfect Ruler in the Epic Poem, Beowulf

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The classic poem Beowulf presents the concept of the perfect king/leader/ruler. This is presented in two modes: the ideal Germanic king and the ideal Christian king. Literary scholar Levin L. Schucking in “Ideal of Kingship” states: “I have already tried to prove that the author of Beowulf designed it as a kind of Furstenspiegel (“mirror of a prince”) – perhaps for the young son of a prince, a thought with which Heusler later agreed” (36). So the author of Beowulf had in mind a human ideal of the perfect leader/ruler which he was trying to convey to the young man who was in search of the proper way, the ideal way that a ruler, a king, should govern his kingdom. This analysis seems so reasonable since the scop lived in the king’s court, and he would have daily contact with the princes living there in the royal hall. A prime component of the making of the ideal ruler is the possession of the virtue of treue or loyalty. The Venerable Bede in The Ecclesiastical History gives a true-to-life example of the loyal reciprocity ideally existing between a warrior and his lord, in the story of Lilla: He entered the hall on the pretext of delivering a message from his lord, and while the cunning rascal was expounding his pretended mission, he suddenly leapt up, drew the sword from beneath his cloak, and made a rush at the king. Lilla, a most devoted thane, saw this, but not having a shield in his hand to protect the king from death, he quickly interposed his own body to receive the blow. His foe thrust the weapon with such force that he killed the thane and wounded the king as well through his dead body (85-86). So the ethic of loyalty in Anglo-Saxon society was perhaps as strong as the duty to one... ... middle of paper ... ...78ff.). These words celebrate the deceased as a ruler who has shown a father’s benevolence and warmth of heart in relation to his people. This is Christianity in action, the gospel applied to life, the perfect king. BIBLIOGRAPHY Chickering, Howell D.. Beowulf A dual-Language Edition. New York: Anchor Books, 1977. Collins, Roger and McClure, Judith, editors. Bede: The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede’s Letter to Egbert. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969. Robinson, Fred C.. “Differences Between Modern and Anglo-Saxon Values.” In Readings on Beowulf, edited by Stephen P. Thompson. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,1998. Schucking, Levin L.. “The Ideal of Kingship in Beowulf.” In An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism, edited by Lewis E. Nicholson. Notre Dame, In: University of Notre Dame Press, 1963.
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