Beowulf is the epic story of a young hero who battles the monster
Grendel and his mother. Beowulf, a prince of the Geats, the son of
Ecgtheow who voyages to Heorot, the hall of Hrothgar, king of the
Geats and the great grandson of the hero . There at Heorot, Beowulf
destroys the monster Grendal, who for twelve years has haunted the
hall by night and slain all he found therein. When Grendal’s mother, in
revenge, makes an attack on the hall, Beowulf seeks her out and kills
her in her home beneath the waters.
There are many different events in this story. First, there is the
pagan warrior system. In this system, the relationship between the lord
and his men, known as the thanes, is very important. It is the
responsibility of the thanes to defend their king and their lands and also
to fight his wars whenever possible.
The relationship between the lord and the thanes is one of mutual
trust and respect. The warrior vows his loyalty to his lord and
eventually becomes his companion. In return, the king/lord is
responsible for repaying these men for their favors and eventually
provide for their households. He offers them shelter, helmets, gold
rings, bracelets, swords, beer, mead, and a home. (Norton, 23.)
In the warrior society, there are two forms of retribution, quiet
vengeance and the wergild or the "man price" (Norton, 23.). A killer is
responsible for paying for the death of a warrior, by paying a member
of his family: "Each rank of society is evaluated at a definite price,
which has to be paid to the dead man\'s kinsmen by the killer who
wishes to avoid their vengeance - even if the killing has been
accidental." (Norton, 23.)
There are also the ideas of fate and courage portrayed
throughout the story of Beowulf. The warriors believe that fate controls
their lives and their beings. Beowulf, the ultimate hero, shows this trait
throughout Grendel\'s attack and also in his battle with Grendel\'s
mother after her vengeful attack on the hall of Heorot. He even tells
Unferth, the boastful warrior, of his fate before defeating Grendel,
when Beowulf says, "Fate often saves an undoomed man when his
courage is good." (Norton, 34.)
After, Beowulf\'s successful victory over Grendel, the warriors enjoy
their feast and then settle down for their night\'s rest in the great hall
Heorot. They do not know that Grendel has a kin who will come that
night to avenge his death. Grendel\'s mother then arrives and snatches
the first person she sees and hurries back to the mere. When it is
discovered that the man, who happens to be Hrothgar\'s dearest advisor,
Aeschere is dead, everyone is sorrowful.
Once again, all of Danes are now in sorrow for the death of
Aeschere. Hrothgar mourns his friend\'s death, but Beowulf encourages
him when he says to Hrothgar, "Sorrow not, wise warrior. It is better
for a man to avenge his friend than much mourn." (Norton, 45.)
Beowulf now attacks Grendel\'s mother and gives victory and freedom
to the Danes over the monsters that have been plaguing them for over
twelve years. Hrothgar is described as a "hoary warrior". (Norton, 45.)
He is old, tired and cannot control his kingdom. His thanes can boast,
but cannot face the monsters that try to overthrow his kingdom.
Not only does Beowulf shows his courage and his fighting ability
as a young warrior, but in the end of the poem, at an old age, he again
shows his courage by attacking the dragon who eventually takes his life.
At the time he is about to attack the dragon, Beowulf says, "In my
youth I engaged in many wars. Old guardian of the people, I shall still
seek battle, perform a deed of fame, if the evil-doer will come to me out
of the earth-hall." (Norton, 59.)
Beowulf\'s successor is Wiglaf. Wiglaf is the young warrior who
sticks by Beowulf\'s side while he fights with the dragon. Wiglaf is very
similar to Beowulf in that he is also courageous and is humble. He is
very courageous and shows his courage when he tries to help Beowulf
attack the dragon.