Epic Beowulf essays
Beowulf Essay: Scandinavian Family Values
Building on the style and content of Old Norse Sagas and Icelandic Eddas, the unidentified poet who composed the legend of Beowulf’s noble death and adventures, and whose writings have precariously survived the centuries on only one fire-scorched manuscript, focused his attention, and did so eloquently, on the dominant values, bonds and ties of Sixth and Seventh Century Scandinavian society.
The warfare, battles and attacks featured throughout this poem, which cannot be truly classified an “epic” in the Homeric sense, nor really an “allegory”, reveal a life built on courage, valor, bravery and honor, but also on fealty, love, and respect.
Further, Seventh Century Nordic Society seems to have revolved around an admixture of superstition, Old Testamentary Law vaguely reflected in the exploits of Hrothgar and Beowulf, and vengeance.
Beowulf, son of Scyld, the tribal leader of the Geats perishes three-fourths of the way through this saga, but not before the rise and exploits of the Danes, and of his tribe, are explored in detail.
The invention of primeval enemies, such as the Dragon Grendel, is central to providing a backdrop for a dazzling array of battles and confrontations.
The acquisition of wealth (gold, jewels and tribute) is also a contrived “causa belli” and highlights the motives, heroic exploits and adventures of these early Scandinavian Tribes which either disappeared mysteriously into the mists of history, or ultimately migrated to Scotland and England.
Interlinked with this ethic of violence and glory are the bonds which Beowulf’s and Hrothgar’s followers consider most highly cherished. These ties are specifically those of “king and subject”, “tribe and members”, as well as “parents and children.”
The loyalty and love which these people display are authentic and timeless values which represent the closest of bonds and remain strong during time of war, tragedy and danger. Emotions are powerfully rendered, including hatred of enemy peoples and monsters, portrayed realistically in third-person narrative style, as in Chapter 10, “The Fight with Grendel.”
Terminology used throughout the poem is largely militant and war-like.
Such phrases as “breast-plate”, “armor”, and “fighting-men”, among others, are used liberally. A mood of ominous expectation is thus built, bringing into focus the qualities, bonds, and ties typifying the entirety of Beowulf.
The heroism, tribal loyalty and high emotion of this serious, tragic, but spell-binding story, create the fabric of the classic Anglo-Saxon work that this oldest of English-language legends has become. .