Warfare in Beowulf

Warfare in Beowulf

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Warfare in Beawulf


Warfare is defined as military operations between enemies. The second definition is an activity undertaken by one country to weaken or destroy another (The Merriam Webster Dictionary). In Beowulf, warfare is extremely important for it is a way for a man to prove his strength and courage against others. War is also to protect others, and in Beowulf, the anonymous author seems to be rooting for, rather than against, warfare due to the many battles that Beowulf encounters.

Beowulf begins with Grendel attacking the Danes out of vengeance and hatred. Grendel is the relative of Cain which means that he is outcast to eternal darkness as punishment for the crime of Cain killing his brother Abel. Therefore, when Grendel hears laughter in the hall named Heorot, he is angry and a little envious, so he goes on a killing spree in order to put an end to the warriors’ happiness. Because of Grendel’s attack upon the Danes, Beowulf arrives in order to put an end to the killing spree: “And now alone I shall settle affairs with Grendel the monster, the demon” (Donaldson, p.8). The author offers no other solution to solving this issue with Grendel but battle, and after the battle is fought and Beowulf wins, Grendel’s hand is preserved as a trophy. Beowulf is rewarded with gifts for his courage, and now the Danes are at peace.

The poem then takes another turn when Grendel’s mother comes to avenge her son’s death by killing one of Hrothgar’s most trusted companions. By doing this, she is following the warrior code of the Anglo-Saxons which is an eye for an eye. The other alternative is to pay for the crime committed which is called a wergild. Once again the Danes are made uneasy because another monster is at large, and Beowulf agrees to put an end to her. Although Beowulf seems to respect the action that Grendel’s mother has taken by saying, “It is better for a man to avenge his friend than much mourn” (Donaldson p.25), nonetheless, he has to kill Grendel’s mother because he has a duty to protect the Danes. Beowulf is not afraid of fighting Grendel’s mother because glory comes before death and to him that is best for a warrior: “let him who may get glory before death; that is best for the warrior after he has gone from life” (Donaldson p.

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25). Beowulf fights Grendel’s mother, wins, is rewarded, and once again, the Danes are at peace.

Finally another situation arises in the poem when a slave steals a jeweled cup from a dragon. The dragon gets mad and wants his jeweled cup back so he starts to spit flame all over Beowulf’s town, and in the process, burns down Beowulf’s hall. Once again, because the dragon has burned down Beowulf’s hall, the Geats are threatened and he must kill the dragon and restore peace to his people the Geats. Beowulf fights the dragon, wins, but unfortunately, he is wounded in the fight and killed in the process. The dragon now lies dead as is Beowulf, but the Geats are not at peace. Now that their king is gone, they will be enslaved by other tribes for they are without the protection of their lord.

The poem Beowulf shows readers that a man is born to fight and eventually will die in battle, and that fighting is necessary for protection and peace. Beowulf spends his entire life fighting monsters and eventually dies in a battle fighting a monster and for this he is respected and praised. He is viewed as an honorable, courageous, and kind man who is very eager for fame: “Many a man said not only once--that, south nor north, between the seas, over the wide earth, no other man under the sky’s expanse was better of those who bear shields, more worthy of ruling” (Donaldson pp.15-16).
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