Essay on The Allegory of the Dragon in Beowulf

Essay on The Allegory of the Dragon in Beowulf

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The Allegory of the Dragon in Beowulf


     In the Book of the Apocalypse, Rome is represented by several allegories: the beast of the land, the beast from the sea, the harlot, Babylon, and the dragon. The Beowulf-poet also manipulates the dragon allegory to represent Rome, but his dragon represents not Rome, pure and simple, but a hostile area of the (former) Roman empire, the Romanized Britain or the Roman-British .

There is increasing consensus among critics--against Tolkien's views--that the dragon is "a different sort of creature from the Grendel tribe" (Gang 6) and that among the innumerable dragon stories "there is probably not one which we can declare to be really identical with that of Beowulf" (Chambers 97). Of course, nobody denies that the dragon is like the Germanic worm that dwells in a barrow and guards treasure. He does not symbolize evil like Grendel of the devilish brood of Cain; he is merely provoked to deeds of slaughter and destruction. The dragon, unlike, Grendel, is given no clear ancestry, no companion; he is not an ellorgæst (807), though an attorsceatha (2839); he is autochthonous; he is kind of ageless (wintrum frod, 2277); he has been keeping the treasure for a long time (2277-78); the messenger in the poem thinks that the dragon belongs where he dwells: "We could not give our beloved prince ... the good advice not to attack the guardian of the gold, but let him lie where he had been so long and remain in his own abode till the world's end" (3079-83). Though the dragon is not God's foe--it is good to remember that the British people were already Christians in the fifth century--, yet he is the enemy of the Geatish nation (theodsceatha, 2278, 2688); therefore, a confrontation is bound take pla...


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Nicholson, Lewis E. "The Literal Meaning and Symbolic Structure of Beowulf." Classica et Mediaevalia, 15 (1964): 151-201.

Niles, John D. Beowulf: The Poem and Its Tradition. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1983.

Niles, John D. "Ring Composition and the Structure of Beowulf," PMLA 94 (1979): 924- 935.

Paschoud, François. "La doctrine chrétienne et l'idéologie impériale romaine." in L'Apocalypse de Jean. Eds. R. Petraglio, et al. Geneva: Droz, 1979: 31-72.

Risden, Edward L. Beasts of Time: Apocalyptic Beowulf . New York: Peter Lang., 1994.

Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, ed. Dorothy Whitelock. New York: Appleton, 1966.

Thundy, Zacharias P. "Beowulf: Meaning, Method and Monsters," Greyfriar 24 (1983): 5- 34.

Thundy, Zacharias P. "Doctrinal Influence of Jus Diaboli on Beowulf," Christian Scholar's Review 2 (1973):150-169.  

 

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