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Beowulf’s Courage and Sacrificein the War Against the Monsters in the Poem Titled Beowulf
Beowulf is introduced in the poemas a powerful being that fought in four battles and emergedvictorious in all of them. The first battle involved a monster namedGrendel. He then fought Grendel’s mother, sea monsters, and lastlythe dragon. However, the battles with Grendel and later his mother,as well as the last one which involved the dragon, are perceived tobe the major battles that Beowulf encountered. These battles arecrucial in the life of Beowulf as they prove his main values in life– sacrifice and courage. This paper will show that Beowulf’sbattle with Grendel and his mother proved his unique strength and hisweak side respectively while his confrontation with the sea monsterdemonstrated his resilience and the loss of the swimming competitionshowed his selfless nature.
Beowulf fights with Grendel,which illustrates his extreme power, resilience, and braveness. Whenhe was informed about how Grendel was causing mayhem in Danes byattacking the king’s wealthy mead-hall and killing his warriors andeating some of them, Beowulf offered to destroy the monster. Thereason he chooses to help Hrothgar to get rid of the beast is becausethe king had helped his family at some point in the past. Althoughthe Grendel had killed many of King Hrothgar`s soldiers, Beowulfoffered to deal with it without the aid of any other person. When hewas challenged by Grendel, “The captain of evil discovered himselfin a handgrip harder than anything he had ever encountered in any manon the face of the earth” (Beowulf 749-752). Before facing Beowulf,Grendel was used to dismantling every human being that dared tochallenge him. However, Grendel never had in his life came across aperson as strong as Beowulf (Orchard 201). Besides, although themonster would fight a group of soldiers and kill the all, a singlegrip from Beowulf was enough to incapacitate him.
Besides, Beowulf takes up thechallenge of fighting Grendel without any weapon and body armorending up destroying the monster’s arm, which is a show ofsacrifice of his safety to prove the value of his incrediblestrength. However, even if he did not have any weapon, Grendel “wasoverwhelmed” by Beowulf’s strength (Beowulf 787). This shows thatGrendel was no match to the indomitable Beowulf that is why thelatter chose not to use any weapon. He crushes Grendel’s arm,characterized with steel and pulls it out of the socket as a sign ofvictory. According to Williamson, Beowulf removed Grendel’s armcompletely from the socket and placed it as a trophy as a reminder ofhis victory (95). Incapacitating the monster was not enough forBeowulf he wanted to humiliate and incapacitate him as well.
Consequently, Beowulf proved thathe “was foremost and strongest in the days of his life” (Beowulf789). This is after he manages to dismantle the monster with muchease. Even after dismantling Grendel, Beowulf wished that he hadkilled him to prove that he was stronger than anything else (Grigsby116). However, the injury that he had inflicted on Grendel duringtheir fight made it impossible for the latter to survive.Consequently, after his arm was ripped off from his body, the monsterruns into the desert and dies there.
Beowulf fights with Grendel’smother, who battles him in revenge for the loss of her son in theformer`s hands. The situation of the fight is described as “ahellish turn-hole” (Beowulf 1513). This is because Grendel’smother was much stronger and experienced than her son. Besides, sheharbored much desire to eliminate the human being who was a threat tothe existence of all the monsters. For this reason, Grendel’smother was prepared to finish Beowulf by all means possible (BookCaps25). If she emerged victorious, the monsters would continue doing asthey wish with the human beings as they did before Beowulf came intothe picture.
The battle with Grendel’smother was a clear example of human weaknesses, which implies thatBeowulf sacrificed his safety to defeat the monster. This is seen inhis use of a large sword to kill Grendel`s mother. Grendel’s motherstruggled to overpower Beowulf and, “managed to catch him in herbrutal grip” (Beowulf 1501-1502). Unlike Grendel who was“overwhelmed” by Beowulf’s power and hence did not offer muchresistance, her mother was much stronger. Consequently, Beowulfstruggled to release himself from the firm death grip of Grendel`smother through sheer difficulty (Stanley 339). In his war againstGrendel, it was the monster that encountered problems trying torelease himself from the firm grip of Beowulf. However, thingschanged when Beowulf faces the more experienced and stronger creaturethan Grendel.
Sacrifice is crucial for Beowulfto win over Grendel`s mother, who was a strong devilish than her son.Beowulf killed Grendel’s mother when he, “flung his deadly foe,and she fell to the ground” (Beowulf 1503). Unlike what happenedwith Grendel, Beowulf could not overpower the mother monster withouta weapon. Beowulf finally finishes off Grendel’s mother with agiant sword (Roberts 56). By using a sword to kill the femalemonster, Beowulf sacrifices his pride of being the strongest being onthe land.
Besides, Beowulf encounters seamonsters twice when he takes part in a swimming competition withBreca and another time while in the hideaway of Grendel`s mother.Beowulf narrates that he fought the sea monsters with his sword suchthat they had, “little pleasure” (Beowulf 566). Unlike othersoldiers who would have been terrified by the sight of a monster,Beowulf finds joy in challenging himself by fighting strongercreatures. Besides, Karl Wentersdorf describes the battle with thesea monsters as “an adventure in which two youths spend seven daysand nights swimming at sea is more than extraordinary” (141). Onthis note, by referring to the battle with the sea monsters as “anadventure” Beowulf demonstrates that he found joy in fightinggiants. More so, by using the expression "two boys" whendescribing his little “adventure” Beowulf shows that according tohim, he was equal if not stronger than all beasts.
Beowulf attempts to fight the seamonsters but he is dragged under the water. He claims that they sleptlate, "lulled by his sword" (Beowulf 566). Even if he waspushed under the water, Beowulf has much trust in his ability to usethe sword since its presence brought solace to him. Beowulf used asword to protect himself from the sea giants and while engaging in atussle with Breca in the sea waters for about five days and nightsuntil when he is pushed into the deep sea by the monster, ultimatelylosing the swimming competition (Earl 285). The fact that he wasengaging in a battle with the sea creatures did not stop him fromcontinuing with the swimming competition. This shows that he wasconfident that the sea monsters were unequal to him hence he hadanticipated that he would not spend much time defeating them.
Beowulf finished off nine seamonsters, which made him lose the swimming competition against Brecabut emerges a victorious person. He says about the sea giants, “Thatwas no small suffering they endured” (832). Beowulf pities the seamonsters as seen in the way he praises them for the much sufferingthat they had to endure while fighting him. Beowulf was washed tothe sea shore, feeling victorious after holding a strong fight evenif he lost the swimming competition (Biggs 313). Losing a swimmingcompetition against human beings but managing to kill nine seamonsters shows Beowulf’s willingness to sacrifice his happiness forthe safety of his people.
Beowulf fights with the dragon ashis last battle, which marked the epitome of his heroism andcommitment towards proving the human strength and resilience even atold age. He strikes the "loathsome monster a little lower hisbright and burnished sword penetrated the beast`s blaze began todwindle" (Beowulf 2554). The fact that he strikes the loathsomebeast a little lower shows that he was not as stronger as he was whenhe was fighting Grendel and his mother. This shows that althoughBeowulf was aware that his strength was fading away as he aged hechooses to continue fighting to prove his strength, resilience, andcourage (Alexander 17). Beowulf could have backed down or evenresigned as a soldier when he started losing his power because of hismany years but he chooses not. His willingness to engage the dragonin a battle even when he is aware that he is disadvantageddemonstrates his courageous nature.
Additionally, he manages to killthe dragon by sacrificing his strength, age, and life. Beowulf spokehe knew… that the tale of his days had fled and that death wasnear” (Beowulf 2568). At this point, Beowulf acknowledges that hehas lost some of his strength and that a day was coming when he wouldnot be able to defend himself leave alone his people. However,despite his ill-health Beowulf does not surrender to the will of thedragon. Instead, he kills it by sinking his sword into his chest(Crossley-Holland 68). Even in his last days, Beowulf is courageousenough to kill a dragon by pushing his body to fight even if it isnot as strong as it was when he started eliminating giants.
Lastly, although Beowulf provesto be the strongest man he succumbs to the fatal injuries that heacquires in the battle with the dragon. “That final day was thefirst time when Beowulf fought, and fate denied him of glory inbattle" (Beowulf 2571-2573). The mention of the term fate showsthat Beowulf was destined to die during his battle with the beast.The wounds he acquired from the fight with the dragon were critical,and life ebbed away from his frail and beaten body (Heaney 42). Notonly was fate against him surviving, but Beowulf`s beaten-up bodyalso could not overcome the injuries that he sustained when he foughtthe beast. This means that the dragon was no match for Beowulf had henot aged terribly and destined to die in the battle against it.
The war against Grendel is aclear example of sacrifice or forfeiting of a specific charactertrait, personality, factor, reward or activity for the sake of otherimportant features, such as heroism. Beowulf fights with Grendel andhis mother, sea monsters and the Dragon and makes specific sacrificesthat reinforce his inner character and depicts him as a hero. In thefight against Grendel, Beowulf sacrifices his safety by fightingwithout weapons to prove his incredible strength and courageousness.In the fight with Grendel’s mother, Beowulf chose to overcome hisweakness (lack of sufficient strength to fight off a powerful demon)and killed her with a giant sword. When battling the sea monsters,Beowulf sacrifices victory in the swimming competition (chose to losebut fight off the monsters). Finally, in his war against the dragon,Beowulf sacrifices his age, strength, and life to fight the dragonand dies afterward as a true hero.
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