During the Anglo-Saxon Period, heroes of society could be simply distinguished from the customary man. Beowulf, the prodigious antagonist of the epic, Beowulf, is an ideal hero in the poem. He demonstrates: perfect heroic ideal, acts as a valid leader, and is a true warrior. The epic poem that the hero thrives in is Beowulf, a truly compelling epic, translated by Seamus Heaney, that contains the universal idea of God, and how he intervenes with the Anglo-Saxon life. Along with many allusions to the Christian Bible, It’s obvious that wryd, a term for fate, is a key factor in the results of the epic. In Anglo-Saxon culture, a hero was a warrior comprised of intelligence, strength, and courage. Because it was such a vulgar, brutal time period, for a hero to emerge in society like Beowulf, was a true feat. Comitatus, a bond between the lord and his followers, was important to a successful Anglo-Saxon tribe. The Anglo-Saxon period was a productive, original piece of history that brought many new things to the world today. The story of Beowulf is a tale in which a hero name Beowulf, initiates on his journey to exterminate an evil monster, Grendel. Once Beowulf proves his worth in the phenomenal battle, he seeks revenge on the mother of the demon. Yet again, Beowulf succeeds in the fight. However, this time, the hero gets shaken rougher than usual. As he regains his glory and returns home to seek his friends and family, he discovers that an evil dragon poisons the land. Beowulf, of course, challenges the dragon and succeeds, but he dies in the process, leaving the Geat’s throne unattained. Out of the three main battles Beowulf fights in, it is apparent that the first battle best demonstrates him as an Anglo-Saxon hero. While some critics argue that Beowulf’s battle with Grendel shows his heroic ideal the best, it is evident that the first battle does not portray the hero’s true potential. Consequently, it is valid that Beowulf initial battle with the demon, Grendel, best demonstrates the hero’s true success through guile, strength, and bravery.
Beowulf’s compelling guile greatly aids him in the first battle, and works to ensure his victory over the “hell-spawn.”When Beowulf departs Geatland, he must prepare for his battle with Grendel. While in Herot, among the Danes he devises a plan to quickly execute the monster. He does this out of the cleverness and heroic instincts in his mind. In this scene, the hero in the epic is in the land of the Danes, where Grendel lurks nearby. Beowulf’s initial battle against the demon best demonstrates his guile because he shows his battle instincts, when he strategically allows Grendel to kill one of the Geats before he strikes. He uses this intelligent scheme to “keenly watch” Grendel and identify exactly how to assault the demon. Beowulf chooses a reserved plan so that he can study the “terror-monger” enough to inflict death upon him precipitously. The crafty Anglo-Saxon, Beowulf, further validates his guile in his plot to assault Grendel. Another clear example of “heroic Beowulf’s” guile is visible when Grendel’s “talon was raised to attack Beowulf where he lay on the bed” (ll. 745-746). Beowulf plans a sham appearance that he is asleep to trick the foolish demon.In doing so, Beowulf can obtain the upper hand in the battle and instantly have an advantage over Grendel. Although this plan is risky, Beowulf’s intelligence allows him to forecast Grendel’s lunge, and then counter. Beowulf has more guile in his first battle than any other, because he wisely plans the clash and hardly gets damaged. Through Beowulf’s cleverness, he is proven to be great hero, who can tactfully win a battle when initiated. However, Beowulf’s guile didn’t win him the battle alone, the task was succeeded with the help of the hero’s outstanding strength.
In Beowulf’s legendary battle with Grendel, his strength is best portrayed, therefore, declaring him a great Anglo-Saxon hero. Once commencing the battle with Grendel, he must use his mightiest tactics. While in Herot, among the Danes he prepares himself for the hardy monster. Beowulf knows the importance of the battle and he will take nothing other than victory. Acting accordingly, Beowulf demonstrates his valor when:
The captain of evil discovered himself /
in a handgrip harder than anything /
he had ever encountered in any man /
on the face of the earth. Every bone in his body /
quailed and recoiled, but he could not escape (ll. 749-754).
Beowulf’s best feature, his vigor, is excellently shown while he demolishes “God-cursed Grendel.” Immediately as the clash commences, Beowulf pins Grendel down in a “handgrip harder than anything.” Because Grendel is similarly a mighty figure, it’s evident that Beowulf is taking control of the battle when he pins him down. The monster, desperate to escape the deadlock, has no chance and suffers promptly. An alternative instance of the hero’s impeccable power during the battle is when he pulverizes the entire arm and shoulder of the demonic creature. Beowulf had shredded the poor monster’s body with his bare hands. Because of his awe-inspiring strength, he had single-handedly torn the sturdy composure of Grendel’s “sinews” and “bone-lappings.” The fact that Beowulf completed this task with his own bear-hands is an unbelievable achievement, which he is fortunately granted praise for. Even though Grendel managed to escape the scene of destruction, Beowulf had placed a death toll on his life. Consequently:
“His fatal departure /
is regretted by no-one who witnessed his trail, /
the ignominious marks of his fight /
he’d skulked away, exhausted in spirit /
and beaten in battle, blooding the path, /
hauling his doom to the demons’ mere” (ll. 840-846).
Like a poison, the fatal wounds Beowulf infects are enough to give Grendel a slow, despicable death. Beowulf’s incredible strength finally finished the “heathen-soul” and had been sent to hell. Beowulf almost instantly defats his enemy in this fight, unlike all other battles. The Anglo-Saxon hero’s strength is clearly best portrayed in the fight with Grendel, because of Beowulf’s amazing performance. Two of Beowulf’s awesome battle traits, guile and strength, are glorified; however, these are not the only reasons he succeeds.
Beowulf completes his heroic ideal by showing copious amounts of bravery in his first fight. Once Beowulf is in the midst of his battle, he makes many contentious, crafty decisions. In the royal mead-hall, Herot, Beowulf causes a ruckus while attempting to destroy the demon, Grendel. The hero displays his bravery before the fight when he decides he is going to challenge the demon “bare-handed.” Beowulf realizes that Grendel is a fierce monster and that he is capable of unleashing mass havoc. However, Beowulf’s pride and glory controls him and he decides to take the more heroic route, and use only his fists when“the captain of evil discovers himself in a handgrip harder than anything… The latching power in his fingers weakened” (ll. 750-770). Weaving through the motif of hands, Beowulf’s sturdy “spear-shafts halls” weaken, yet, he proves efficacious in the end. This shows that Beowulf is truly a force to be reckoned with. Beowulf’s confidence and bravery flies to the “skies abroad” so that he can have God’s advantage, along with wryd. Beowulf openly shows his true bravery when he decides to accept King Hrothgar’s plea, and defeat Grendel. Residing all the way in Geatland, Beowulf was forced to cross the treacherous sea where many monsters lurk. In doing this, it’s valid that Beowulf’s proud assertion is the response of a true warrior, one who will win or die trying” (Bruce 4). By taking this challenge so easily, Beowulf’s true courage is evident. Lastly, The hero displays his bravery before the fight when he decides he is going to challenge the demon “bare-handed.” However, Beowulf’s pride and glory controls him and he decides to take the more heroic route, and use only his fists. This shows that Beowulf is truly a force to be reckoned with. Beowulf goes into this battle with more confidence than ever before, because his is in his prime. Beowulf’s confidence and bravery flies to the “skies abroad” so that he have God’s advantage and wryd. Beowulf is visibly an Anglo-Saxon hero; this information is best portrayed in the first battle.
Although Beowulf shows some acceptable heroic characteristics in his first battle, it most definitely doesn’t depict an accurate portrayal of his place as an Anglo-Saxon hero like the epic does in the second battle. For example, during Beowulf’s battle with Grendel, he willingly allows Grendel to kill one of his men, therefore breaking the comitatus bond. By breaking a heroic epic convention like this, Beowulf is not portrayed best in this battle. Also, In the process of battling Grendel, Beowulf destroys part of the mead hall, therefore running Hrothgar’s hard work. Lastly, in the first battle Beowulf fails in his goal, and the monster runs away to live for some more time. These arguments are weak and invalid. The reason Beowulf let his fellow Geat die was for a much greater purpose than the man’s life. If Beowulf had not first learned Grendel’s strategies, the catastrophe would’ve been much greater with many more deaths. In conclusion, Beowulf still succeeded in the battle because he put an incurable death toll on Grendel, so he was bound to die in the end. For these reasons, the presented arguments are useless Beowulf is a flawless hero, role model, and leader who best demonstrate his positive traits in his first battle.
Through the Anglo-Saxon hero’s guile, strength, and bravery, it’s definite that Beowulf’s supreme, major battle with the “terror-monger” Grendel, best glorifies him as the true hero he is. The first battle is the perfect representation of the hero’s abilities. Beowulf’s guile is shown through his actions, when he observes Grendel’s strategies and pretends to be asleep. He shows his strength when he keeps Grendel trapped under him for a long time, when he tears his shoulder off, and when he inflicts the eternal wounds to finish the vile creature off. Lastly, Beowulf’s bravery is evident when he decides to fight the monster barehanded and decides to help Hrothgar. Greater than Beowulf’s futile second and third battle, the first battle he partakes in is the only liable option to portray the hero’s value. During the inhumane Anglo-Saxon period, how could a ruler of less kleos emerge as leader?
Bewoulf: A New Verse Translation. Trans. Seamus Heany. New York: W, W, Norton and Company, 2000.