Beowulf is the epic story of a young hero who battles the monster Grendel andhis mother.
Beowulf, a prince of the Geats, the son of Ecgtheow who voyages toHeorot, the hall of Hrothgar, king of the Geats and the great grandson of thehero . There at Heorot, Beowulf destroys the monster Grendal, who for twelveyears has haunted the hall by night and slain all he found therein. WhenGrendals mother, in revenge, makes an attack on the hall, Beowulf seeks herout and kills her in her home beneath the waters. There are many differentevents in this story.
First, there is the pagan warrior system. In this system,the relationship between the lord and his men, known as the thanes, is veryimportant. It is the responsibility of the thanes to defend their king and theirlands and also to fight his wars whenever possible. The relationship between thelord and the thanes is one of mutual trust and respect. The warrior vows hisloyalty to his lord and eventually becomes his companion. In return, theking/lord is responsible for repaying these men for their favors and eventuallyprovide for their households. He offers them shelter, helmets, gold rings,bracelets, swords, beer, mead, and a home.
(Norton, 23.) In the warrior society,there are two forms of retribution, quiet vengeance and the wergild or the”man price” (Norton, 23.). A killer is responsible for paying for thedeath of a warrior, by paying a member of his family: “Each rank of societyis evaluated at a definite price, which has to be paid to the dead man’s kinsmenby the killer who wishes to avoid their vengeance – even if the killing has beenaccidental.” (Norton, 23.) There are also the ideas of fate and courageportrayed throughout the story of Beowulf. The warriors believe that fatecontrols their lives and their beings. Beowulf, the ultimate hero, shows thistrait throughout Grendel’s attack and also in his battle with Grendel’s motherafter her vengeful attack on the hall of Heorot.
He even tells Unferth, theboastful warrior, of his fate before defeating Grendel, when Beowulf says,”Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good.” (Norton,34.) After, Beowulf’s successful victory over Grendel, the warriors enjoy theirfeast and then settle down for their night’s rest in the great hall Heorot.
Theydo not know that Grendel has a kin who will come that night to avenge his death.Grendel’s mother then arrives and snatches the first person she sees and hurriesback to the mere. When it is discovered that the man, who happens to beHrothgar’s dearest advisor, Aeschere is dead, everyone is sorrowful. Once again,all of Danes are now in sorrow for the death of Aeschere. Hrothgar mourns hisfriend’s death, but Beowulf encourages him when he says to Hrothgar,”Sorrow not, wise warrior. It is better for a man to avenge his friend thanmuch mourn.” (Norton, 45.
) Beowulf now attacks Grendel’s mother and givesvictory and freedom to the Danes over the monsters that have been plaguing themfor over twelve years. Hrothgar is described as a “hoary warrior”.(Norton, 45.) He is old, tired and cannot control his kingdom. His thanes canboast, but cannot face the monsters that try to overthrow his kingdom. Not onlydoes Beowulf shows his courage and his fighting ability as a young warrior, butin the end of the poem, at an old age, he again shows his courage by attackingthe dragon who eventually takes his life. At the time he is about to attack thedragon, Beowulf says, “In my youth I engaged in many wars. Old guardian ofthe people, I shall still seek battle, perform a deed of fame, if the evil-doerwill come to me out of the earth-hall.
” (Norton, 59.) Beowulf’s successoris Wiglaf. Wiglaf is the young warrior who sticks by Beowulf’s side while hefights with the dragon. Wiglaf is very similar to Beowulf in that he is alsocourageous and is humble.
He is very courageous and shows his courage when hetries to help Beowulf attack the dragon.