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Beowulf comes to the assistance of the Danes Scyldings for complicated reasons. Certainly he is interested in increasing his reputation and gaining honor and payment for his own king back in Geatland. However, we soon learn that a major motivation is a family debt that Beowulf owes to Hrothgar.

The young Geat is devoted to the old king because Hrothgar came to the assistance of Beowulf's father, Ecgtheow, years before. Now deceased, Ecgtheow had killed a leader of another tribe in a blood feud. When the tribe sought vengeance, Hrothgar, then a young king, sheltered Beowulf's father and settled the feud by paying tribute wergild in the form of "fine old treasures" to Ecgtheow's enemies.

Hrothgar even remembers Beowulf as a child. The tie between the families goes back many years, and Beowulf is proud to be able to lend his loyal services to Hrothgar. When the hero returns to Geatland, he continues his loyalty to his uncle and king, Hygelac, risking his life even when the tactics of the ruler are not the best. After Hygelac is killed in an ill-advised raid on Frisia, Beowulf makes a heroic escape ff. Beowulf could become king then but is more loyal than ambitious. Queen Hygd offers Beowulf the throne after her husband dies, thinking that her young son Heardred is unable to protect the kingdom; Beowulf refuses and serves the young king faithfully.

After Heardred is killed, Beowulf does become king and rules with honor and fidelity to his office and his people for 50 years. In his final test, the burden of loyalty will rest on other, younger shoulders. Preparing for his last battle, with the fiery dragon, Beowulf puts his trust in 11 of his finest men, retainers who have vowed to fight to the death for him.

Although the now elderly king insists on taking on the dragon alone, he brings along the 11 in case he needs them. When it is apparent that Beowulf is losing the battle to the dragon, however, all but one of his men run and hide in the woods.

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Only Wiglaf, an inexperienced thane who has great respect for his king, remains loyal. Wiglaf calls to the others in vain. Realizing that they will be no help and that his king is about to be killed, he stands beside the old man to fight to the death — theirs or the dragon's. For Beowulf, sadly, it is the end. Although he and Wiglaf kill the dragon, the king dies. As he dies, Beowulf passes the kingdom on to the brave and loyal Wiglaf. Another motivating factor for Beowulf — and a central theme in the epic — is reputation. From the beginning, Beowulf is rightly concerned about how the rest of the world will see him.

He introduces himself to the Scyldings by citing achievements that gained honor for him and his king. When a drunken Unferth verbally assaults Beowulf at the first banquet, at issue is the hero's reputation. Unferth's slur is the worst kind of insult for Beowulf because his reputation is his most valuable possession.

Beowulf Is Not A Hero Essay

Reputation is also the single quality that endures after death, his one key to immortality. That's why Beowulf later leaves the gold in the cave beneath the mere, after defeating the mother, preferring to return with Grendel's head and the magic sword's hilt rather than treasure.

He has and continues to amass treasures; his intent now is in building his fame. Unferth's slur accuses Beowulf of foolishly engaging in a seven-day swimming contest on the open sea, as a youth, and losing.

If Beowulf can't win a match like that, Unferth asserts, he surely can't defeat Grendel. Beowulf defends his reputation with such grace and persuasion that he wins the confidence of King Hrothgar and the rest of the Danes.

He points out that he swam with Breca for five nights, not wanting to abandon the weaker boy. Rough seas then drove them apart, and Beowulf had to kill nine sea monsters before going ashore in the morning. His reputation intact, Beowulf prepares to meet Grendel and further enhance his fame. As he discusses Beowulf's later years, the poet lists the virtues ff. Beowulf is courageous and famous for his performance in battle but equally well known for his good deeds. Although aggressive in war, Beowulf has "no savage mind" and never kills his comrades when drinking, an important quality in the heroic world of the mead-hall.

Beowulf respects the gifts of strength and leadership that he possesses. As he prepares to meet the dragon, near the end of the poem, now King Beowulf again considers his reputation. He insists on facing the dragon alone despite the fact that his death will leave his people in jeopardy. Hrothgar's Sermon warned Beowulf of the dangers of pride, and some critics have accused the great warrior of excessive pride hubris in the defense of his reputation.

A more considerate judgment might be that Beowulf is an old man with little time left and deserves the right to die as a warrior. The final words of the poem, stating that Beowulf was "most eager for fame' , might be best understood by a modern audience by remembering that, in Beowulf's world, fame is synonymous with reputation.

Grendel and Beowulf Were Two Pretty Boys

The code of the comitatus is at the heart of the Beowulf epic. In this system, the king or feudal lord provides land, weapons, and a share of treasure to his warriors called thanes or retainers in return for their support of the leader in battle. The leader's generosity is one of his highest qualities.


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There are more than 30 different terms for "king" in the poem, and many of them have to do with this role as provider. He is the "ring-giver' 35 or the "treasure-giver" ; his seat of power is the "gift-throne" When booty is seized from an enemy in battle, everything goes to the king. One can also see that Beowulf was a hero on…. Beowulf is characterized as an epic hero by possessing qualities in which common mortals lack, battling for the common good, and displaying honor in every act. An epic hero is the central character in an epic, a long narrative poem that recounts the adventures of a legendary hero in pursuit of a goal.

Epics have been used to preserve values and traditions…. The hero is an age-old concept that describes someone that will defend their honor to the end. In Beowulf, the author portrays the warrior Beowulf and his three battles in such a way as to clearly define what it means to be a hero.

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Major Themes in Beowulf

Fred Robinson and J. In this poem, each…. Michelle Carollo Mrs. Gartenberg British Lit. There are many examples in the poem when he displays a super talent. In the story it says that he has the strength of thirty men combined. The second example is where Beowulf has to face fate and accepts it. He went in to battle many times knowing that he might not make is out alive.

An epic hero is often described as the big hero in a story or reading and is also the main character. They often illustrate great qualities including strength, determination, and bravery. Heroes are said to always have a quest, sometimes more than one, and they most likely have helpers or assistants helping them through these quests. During these quests, the evil characters always seem to be after the hero. They must show the qualities of a hero or they would not be able to accomplish their…. He proves himself a strong and brave hero, but as a king, it is debatable whether he is ideal.

His predecessor, King Hrothgar, was a paragon king, he was generous, humble, wise, and was loved by the people. Beowulf is many of those things, and more, but he is not always humble which leads to faulty, stubborn decision making. In the end, this is a fatal flaw, and it causes the Danes and Geats a lot of trouble…. Essays Essays FlashCards. Browse Essays.

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