Time after time, social values keep changing as humanity emerges to a new generation. What was acceptable back in history might not be so tolerated nowadays, and what considered to be normal these days might have been forbidden among ancient societies. Therefore, literature works such as poems, songs, and stories from different periods of time and places can reflect the beliefs system as well as social values that people uphold, or frankly, even sacrifice their lives for what they believe in. Beowulf was an excellent example of a poem that reflects on social values during medieval period. Beowulf allow us to relive and understand the past by portraying variety of well respected characteristics such as code of honor as well as the destruction of greed from people around this time frame.
Beowulf was created as early as eighth century, makes it one of the very first poems in the literature history of human. The poem is about an epic hero named Beowulf who fights against cruel and evil creatures, which rampage among innocent people and destroy their live, in order to bring back long lost peace to the land and fulfill his destiny as a shield covers above his people. Through Grendel and the Dragon, the code of honor as well as fears of people during the medieval period are fully described and turned into words, but they are not simply just express their well honored characteristics and fears, they also contribute to the understanding of ethical and social values of Anglo-Saxon society.
Throughout the poem, Grendel and The Dragon are two really important devious creatures whom Beowulf defeated during his journey on earth. Grendel was a monster who hates God, therefore when king Hrothgar’s choir sings about The Almighty, Grendel is triggered and makes his way to the meadhall and begins the massacre of the hall warriors. Accordingly, Grendel is a descendant of Cain, whom the Bible describes as a man who kills his own brother out of jealousy. Therefore, Grendel gets enraged when people praises to God, the one who punishes his ancestor Cain, “He had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain’s clan, whom the Creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts” (104-107). In other words, Grendel is a cowardly monster who attacks at night time, when the guards were sleeping and feed on their fleshes. The corrupted, hideous, nasty monster Grendel equivalent to those who does not honor the code of honor, to stab behind people back when they are least suspect, and murder them out of hatred. In contrast of Grendel’s characteristics, respected value is the code of honor, which are brave, prudent, selfless and loyal to the King. For example, although Beowulf is strong, prudent, defeats multiple monsters and was treated as a prince by king Hrothgar, his loyalty always lie with king Hygelac, to his blood family.
On the other hand, The Dragon is a fire breathing creature who guards on a mountain of treasures, who then process to destroy several villages in response to a thief trying to steal a single goblet from the horde. Different from Grendel, the Dragon is awaken from the sinful act of the thief when he brings himself to the horde and tries to remove an item that was not belong to him, leads to the destruction of the land “Then, to his delight, the day waned and he could wait no longer behind the wall, but hurtled forth in fiery blaze. The first to suffer were the people on the land” (2306-2310). Differently, the Dragon is not a type of monster that sneaks in someone house and kill them. The only reason he is awaken and leave a destructive path behind him is because someone steals from his horde, where he guards all the treasures to himself for years. In the life lesson of the powerful Dragon and the thief, the poem expresses greed as the weapon of mass destruction and the ultimate path to death. It also reflects that rather than greed, respect can be earnt through generosity, especially among kings and rulers. For example, leaders in Beowulf are known for rewarding their people very generously to earn their warriors’ trust and loyalty “And a young prince must be prudent like that, giving freely while his father lives so afterward in age when fighting starts, steadfast companions with stand by him (20-23).
In Beowulf, Grendel and the Dragon are external factors, or supernatural forces, or at least that what they seem to be, which mean humanity has no way of controlling over them. However, they can also be seen as the monsters within each person. That monster is greedy, cowardly, always ready to stab someone in the back and betrays anybody whom it finds as a disadvantage or as an obstacle in its path. During this time period, true heros have to slain these monster to answer their divine call along with the duty to protect their own people or the whole humanity in general . Along the way, these heroes could also build a legacy for themselves, the legacy which will be passed on to later generations such as their children, grandchildren and so on. But epic heros are not the only one who has to fight these monsters, ordinary people also have to fight against these monster in their daily lives as well. They have to fight against their temptations to steal, to betray, to take advantages of people around them, and these battles are no less dangerous than the one their heros are fighting. In the other words, Grendel and the Dragon are the bad deeds that need to be avoided in order to success in society and earn a good place in the after life.
In conclusion, despite the fact that Grendel and the Dragon both represent evil, they are indeed very different type of evils in their own ways. Through Grendel actions, he is the representation of betrayal in the family. His ancestor, Cain, kills his own brother because he felt God favors his brother over him. In Anglo-Saxon society, loyalty to the king as well as families is expected from everybody. Consequently, any actions against your own families and against the code of honor are considered the act of devil, just like Grendel. On the other hand, the Dragon is the ultimate representation of greed and its destructive consequences. Therefore, Kings and princes in Beowulf are known for their well award toward their followers, that means a leader have the responsibility to take care of his people, not keep all and enjoy the prosperity of the nation to himself. In another words, the Dragon represents the well-know weakness of human, that is to be blinded by treasures and lost their life to the bitter golds that they could not bring to the after life.
Writing an essay on Beowulf: key themes and topics
When writing an essay about Beowulf, there are many important themes and topics that should be discussed. These include the concept of good vs. evil, loyalty, heroism, fate, and Christian influences.
Good vs. evil is a common theme in Beowulf, and there are many examples of this within the poem. Beowulf is a heroic figure who fights monsters and dragons that represent evil. He is also loyal to his people and puts his own life in danger in order to protect them. This is a clear example of the good vs. evil theme, with Beowulf representing the good and the monsters representing the evil.
Loyalty is another important theme in Beowulf. Beowulf is loyal to his people and is willing to risk his own life to protect them. He also follows a code of honor, which is another example of loyalty. This theme is important because it shows how Beowulf puts the needs of others before his own.
Heroes are also important in Beowulf. Beowulf is a heroic figure who is admired for his courage and strength. He is also brave and willing to face danger in order to protect his people. The poem also explores the idea of heroism and how it can be used to fight evil.
Fate is another important theme in Beowulf. Beowulf is aware of his own mortality, but he is still willing to fight the monsters and dragons that represent evil. This theme is important because it shows how Beowulf is willing to accept his fate and fight against evil, even though he knows that he may not survive.
Finally, Christian influences are an important theme in Beowulf. The poem was written during a time when Christianity was spreading throughout Europe, and many elements of Christianity can be found in the poem. This includes references to God and the afterlife, as well as the concept of good vs. evil.
These are some of the important themes and topics that should be discussed when writing an essay about Beowulf. By exploring these themes, it is possible to gain a better understanding of the poem and its relevance to modern society.