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BEOWULF: FROM A WEAKLING TO A HERO

SUBJECT: LITERATURE I

STUDENT: LUCILA BENAVENTE

PROFESSOR: ALEJANDRA SIMARI

INSTITUTE: INSTITUTO SUPERIOR EN LENGUAS VIVAS JUAN RAMN FERNNDEZ

DATE OF SUBMISSION: SEPTEMBER 10TH

I declare that this assignment is the result of my own work, has not been copied from anyone elses work, and that all my sources of information have been properly acknowledged.

BEOWULF: FROM WEAKLING TO HERO Beowulf is an epic poem that focuses on the deeds of the warrior of the same name. This warrior plays the role of the ideal Anglo-Saxon hero with all the characteristics and values that culture thought worthy. The aim of this essay is to show the development of Beowulfs heroism all throughout the poem, from his youth when he was considered an ordinary man to his old age and death when he became immortalized by his glory. Paying attention to the life of Beowulf in chronological order, it seems that he definitely cannot be the ideal Anglo-Saxon hero he is expected to be. During his youth, contrary to what might be expected, Beowulf is pictured as an ordinary weak man and not as a hero.
[] He had been poorly regarded for a long time, was taken by the Geats for less than he was worth: and their lord too had never much esteemed him in the mead-hall. They firmly believed that he lacked force, that the prince was a weakling; []. (lines 2183-2188)1

This information about his youth is essential for the readers to understand Beowulfs reason to go to Denmark and help the Danes: he wants to be renowned, he is seeking glory, he is seeking his coming of age. This also highlights the importance of the battle against Grendel and Beowulfs need to end up victorious. Killing Grendel is a test he has to pass if he wants to become a hero. As Beowulf arrives in Denmark, he starts to embody, little by little, the typical characteristics of an Anglo-Saxon hero. First, the importance of boasts for the AngloSaxons appears every time Beowulf goes to fight his enemies. This can be exemplified by Beowulfs speech before facing Grendel:
I had a fixed purpose when I put to sea. As I sat in the boat with my band of men,

All quotation taken from: Beowulf. Traducido por Seamus Heaney. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000.

I meant to perform to the uttermost What your people wanted or perish in the attempt, In the fiends clutches. And I shall fulfil that purpose, Prove myself with a proud deed Or meet my death here in the mead-hall. (lines 632-638)

He is boasting about his strength and his ability to defeat the monster. He pictures himself as a savior. Besides, he is ready to die in battle if necessary. His boast clearly shows he has changed: he is no longer a young weak man. For the Anglo-Saxon culture, courage and loyalty were very important values that a hero should embody and Beowulf embodies them both. On the one hand, Beowulf is portrayed as a very courageous man, not only because he faces terrible beasts and shows no fear at all, but also because he does not hesitate to sacrifice his life for the safety of his clan, especially in his old age as it will be explained later. Moreover, his courage is highlighted in opposition to the almost non-existent courage of his men. The more difficult the battle, the more cowardly Beowulfs men become and the more courageous Beowulf himself becomes. In the battle against Grendel, his men at least try to hurt the monster in vain. In the battle against Grendels mother, they just stay in the monsters den but they do not go to face the beast along with Beowulf. In the battle against the dragon, all save one just flee, leaving their old chieftain alone in front of the deadly dragon. As regards loyalty, it seems that there is no one more loyal than Beowulf. He helps another clan and he is loyal both to the Danish king Hrothgar and to his Geat lord Hygelac. Furthermore, all the treasure he gets after the battles is then handed out to Hygelac and he even tells his lord [I] won the credit for you, my king/and for all your people.(lines 20942095). He is fighting so that his lord and people have something to be proud of. His loyalty also appears when he refuses to be king after Hygelacs death and only decides to be king when Hygelacs son is killed by the Swedes. All these instances show how strong the comitatus was for the Anglo-Saxons. However, even though Beowulf can already be considered a hero, his heroism seems to reach the top in his old age. Beowulf ages but the characteristics that make him stand out as

a hero go in crescendo. Perhaps, he is not as strong as he used to be, but his courage and loyalty to his clan cannot be of a better kind.
[]I risked my life Often when I was young. Now I am old, But as king of the people I shall pursue this fight For the glory of winning, if the evil one will only Abandon his earth-fort and face me in the open. (lines 2511-2515)

He does not hesitate in the least when he is told about the threat the dragon is posing. Although he knows he is not as strong as he used to be and that he is going to die, he still goes to face his death. This shows how important it was for him to protect his clan, even if he had to die for it. As Christopher Garca states:
Death for a warrior is honorable, and courage must be shown through deeds, even if it means death. A hero must be willing to die to achieve glory. He must display courage in the face of overwhelming or impossible odds, and he must have the strength to back his courage.

At the very end of the poem, no one doubts the fact that Beowulf is in fact a hero who has given his best all throughout his life. Furthermore, the construction of the barrow to commemorate Beowulfs death makes clear that his heroism has been unparalleled, hence, he deserves to be immortalized by his glory. After all, he has been the greatest hero of all. All things considered, it is interesting to notice how the portrayal of the Anglo-Saxon hero is achieved in the poem by reflecting all Anglo-Saxons values on Beowulfs character. Beowulf has not always been regarded as a hero, but he has managed to fulfill the requirements needed to become one by means of his deeds. His heroism goes always in crescendo, not even his death seems to be a barrier as he has made his way into immortality.

BIBLIOGRAPHY 2000. Delahoyde, Michael. Anglo-Saxon Culture. http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/medieval/anglo-saxon.html [09 Semptember 2013] Garca, Christopher. The Anglo-Saxon Hero. http://csis.pace.edu/grendel/Proj2004A1/hero.html [09 Semptember 2013] Orchard, Andy. A Critical Companion to Beowulf. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, Rollin, Roger B. Beowulf to Batman: The Epic Hero and Pop Culture. 2003. (Captulo: Heroes and Villains) Beowulf. Traducido por Seamus Heaney. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.,

College English, Vol. 31, No. 5. (Feb., 1970), pp. 431-449. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/374059