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.
The warrior in the Anglo-Saxon civilization had many duties to fulfill. He was obligated to respect and protect his lord as well as defend his lord's honor. The demonstration of personal valor was also very important in these times. Beowulf is "Higlac's Follower" and works to please his lord. He is afraid that "My lord Higlac / Might think less of me" (l 191-192) if he uses weapons in battle. Not only does Beowulf work to please his lord, but he also works to protect Hrothgar, the lord of the Danes. As the poem shows, when
In his far-off home Beowulf...(l 131)
Heard how Grendel filled nights with horror
And quickly commanded a boat fitted out,
Proclaiming that he'd go to that famous king,
Would sail across the sea to Hrothgar (l 134-137).
Beowulf is going out of his way, "across the sea" to help a lord whom he is not obligated to. He is doing so out of choice to show his respect for Hrothgar, and to help the poor people threatened by Grendel.
... middle of paper ...
...s. Both Hrothgar and Beowulf adequately filled their places as a ruler.
As clearly indicated through the characters of Beowulf and Hrothgar, the ruler-warrior relationship during times of great danger was very important for the survival of the Anglo-Saxons. As long as this relationship remained stable, both the ruler and warrior would remain protected, rewarded, and fairly happy. Beowulf and Hrothgar both men of great valor, were praised by all. This simple system set up between warrior and leader was the basis of society at the times, and destroying this structure would surely destroy a tribe's chances of survival in this time of peril. Therefore, if Beowulf did not honor the Danes' lord and Grendel was allowed to live, Hrothgar and the Danes would surely see their demise. This is perhaps why bravery was of such high necessity in the Anglo-Saxon society.
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