These heroes come in many different shapes and forms. Often times a hero is inhuman, or takes on a supernatural power of some kind at one point in time. The changing into these superhuman powers is often caused by the many years of passing down a story by mouth.
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. The Importance of Establishing Identity As Beowulf is essentially a record of heroic deeds, the concept of identity—of which the two principal components are ancestral heritage and individual reputation—is clearly central to the poem.
Characters in the poem are unable to talk about their identity or even introduce themselves without referring to family lineage. Characters take pride in ancestors who have acted valiantly, and they attempt to live up to the same standards as those ancestors.
For example, Shield Sheafson, the legendary originator of the Danish royal line, was orphaned; because he was in a sense fatherless, valiant deeds were the only means by which he could construct an identity for himself.
Tensions Between the Heroic Code and Other Value Systems Much of Beowulf is devoted to articulating and illustrating the Germanic heroic code, which values strength, courage, and loyalty in warriors; hospitality, generosity, and political skill in kings; ceremoniousness in women; and good reputation in all people.
Traditional and much respected, this code is vital to warrior societies as a means of understanding their relationships to the world and the menaces lurking beyond their boundaries. Thus individual actions can be seen only as either conforming to or violating the code.
The poem contains several stories that concern divided loyalties, situations for which the code offers no practical guidance about how to act. For example, the poet relates that the Danish Hildeburh marries the Frisian king.
When, in the war between the Danes and the Frisians, both her Danish brother and her Frisian son are killed, Hildeburh is left doubly grieved.
The code is also often in tension with the values of medieval Christianity. While the code maintains that honor is gained during life through deeds, Christianity asserts that glory lies in the afterlife. Throughout the poem, the poet strains to accommodate these two sets of values.
Though he is Christian, he cannot and does not seem to want to deny the fundamental pagan values of the story. His transition demonstrates that a differing set of values accompanies each of his two roles.
The difference between these two sets of values manifests itself early on in the outlooks of Beowulf and King Hrothgar. Whereas the youthful Beowulf, having nothing to lose, desires personal glory, the aged Hrothgar, having much to lose, seeks protection for his people.
Though these two outlooks are somewhat oppositional, each character acts as society dictates he should given his particular role in society. The heroic code requires that a king reward the loyal service of his warriors with gifts and praise.
It also holds that he must provide them with protection and the sanctuary of a lavish mead-hall.The quiz and worksheet are tools designed to assess your comprehension of Beowulf and its heroic code.
For the quiz, you need to know about what this code means and Beowulf's strength. Living by the heroic code was a way to carry on your legacy through legend. Christian Sensibility Although Christianity promotes non-violence, it is widely considered a christian value to be a defender of the weak.
Later, when Beowulf becomes king, he leads his warriors against a dragon.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that the Anglo-Saxon heroic culture came to an end. There is no doubt, however, that the ideals prominent during the time of Beowulf, Hrothgar, and Wig. Beowulf's loyalty to Hrothgar comes out of duty to him for Hrothgar's aid to Beowulf's father when he was in need.
This is the other reason Beowulf goes to Hrothgar's aid against Grendel. Beowulf hears of this and decides to aid King Hrothgar. As Beowulf and his men feast in the Heorot, Grendel comes forth.
Beowulf fights Grendel without armor and finishes him by ripping his arm off. Does the heroic code expressed in Beowulf conflict with a Christian sensibility? Try to construct a relative timeline (without specific dates) for the events narrated and alluded to in the poem.