In the Poem Beowulf

In the Poem Beowulf, the reader follows Beowulf, the Belligerent warrior, on a journey through his three seemingly insurmountable battles with monsters and dragons. Beowulf is a folktale brought to Britain by the Anglo-Saxons when they conquer the British land. The tale originates long before Common Era, but when Christian Missionaries come to convert the the people in Britain, they are told the folktale of Beowulf and write it down. Because the missionaries write to appeal to a Christian audience, they add a Plethora of Christian elements to this originally Anglo-Saxon poem. When reading this poem, one might think that it is a Christian text because it talks about G-d and it has a big emphasis on the dangers of pride, which is a Christian value, but really Beowulf in an Anglo-Saxon text because throughout the entire poem the reader sees how big of a role kinship, one of the biggest Anglo-Saxon values, plays in Beowulf’s battles. Kinship is the relationship that advisors to king, called thanes, have with the king and with each other. Beowulf’s downfall only comes because of his lack of kinship, which shows that the story displays the importance of Anglo-Saxon values and the dreadful things that can happen to one who goes against them.
One of the first mentions of G-d that the reader sees in the text is when Beowulf and his men get off their ship after arriving in the land of the Danes, Where Beowulf fights his battles. The poet says, “With clatter of trappings and coats of mail/ Gave thanks to G-d that His grace had granted/ Sea-paths safe for their ocean- journey”(177-179). The men thank G-d for giving them a safe journey. This is one of the many Christian inserts from the missionaries. They put this insert in because it is a Christian value to thank G-d, and they want to make the men more relatable to the Christian readers. Later, when Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, praises Beowulf’s strength, he expresses gratitude towards G-d and says, “Say that his hand-grip has thirty men’s strength./ G-d, in His mercy, has sent him to save us-/ So springs my hope- from Grendel’s assaults”(310-312). Hrothgar says that Beowulf is as strong as thrity men and that Beowulf is sent by G-d to save them. The poet accentuates how that characters express themselves to G-d. They do this to attract the Christian readers to this Anglo-Saxon folktale.
In addition to referencing G-d, the Christian missionaries also insert text talking about the dangers of pride, which is a belief that the Christians of that time hold strongly. The reader sees that when Hrothgar gives Beowulf instructions, His first command is to “be mindful of glory”(549). If one interprets this instruction the Christian way, he would see that Hrothgar tells Beowulf to distance himself from becoming too prideful. The missionaries make it clear that being prideful is a malignant trait. When Beowulf comes back, victorious from battling the Troll-Wife, the monster her fights in the second battle, Hrothgar commends him and goes on to warn Beowulf about the dangers of pride. He says, “Avoid such evil and seek the good,/ The heavenly wisdom. Beware of Pride!/ Now for a time you shall feel the fullness/ And know the glory of strength, but soon/ Sickness of sword shall strip you of might”(1464-1468). Hrothgar tells Beowulf to pursue good, which is heavenly wisdom. Being sagacious is a Christian value and therefore, by including the contrast between the good, which is wisdom, and the bad, which is pride, the Anglo-Saxon poem appeals to the Christian readers because it includes elements of Christianity that they strongly value.
Despite these Christian elements included in the poem, Beowulf is really an Anglo-Saxon text because the poet illustrates the importance of the Anglo-Saxons’ values. One of their most important values is kinship. Kinship is the relationship between a king and his advisors, called thanes, and the relationship between thanes and thanes. Throughout the poem, the reader sees that the amount of kinship Beowulf shows in each battle varies directly with how well Beowulf fights his battles. In his first battle, Beowulf fights against Grendel, an evil monster that attacks the mead-hall, the gathering place, of the Danes. Before he goes into battle, Beowulf introduces himself to Hrothgar. Instead of stating his name right away, Beowulf says, “We are Hygelac’s men./ His board-companions; Beowulf is my name”(277-278). Beowulf shows his value of kinship because he first identifies as being the thane of Hygelac, his king from his land of origin, and only after he shows his kinship with Hygelac and his thanes does he say his real name. This kinship strengthens Beowulf, so when he hears that Grendel fights without weapons he says, “May Hygelac’s heart have joy of the deed-/ To bear my sword, or sheltering shield,/ Or yellow buckler, to battle the fiend./ With hand-grip only I’ll grapple with Grendel”(362-365). Beowulf wants to fight without weapons to bring glory to Hygelac. He displays strong kinship and because of that Beowulf kills Grendel. As a reward for defeating Grendel, Hrothgar presents Beowulf with “Foster Kinship”(744), which is like a pretend kinship between Beowulf and Hrothgar but it is still strongly valued. Beowulf’s first battle displays the high regard in which the Anglo-Saxons view kinship and value it, and it shows that kinship can strengthen a thane.
After Grendel is killed, his mother, the Troll-wife, wants to take revenge on Beowulf for killing her son. She comes into the Danish mead-hall and slays one of Hrothgar’s dearest thanes. When the king finds out about this tragedy, “Beowulf, the brave, was speedily summoned…/ The hero came tamping into the hall/… And asked if the night had been peaceful and pleasant”(1096-1100). By Beowulf not sleeping in the mead-hall along with his thanes, he shows a crack in his foster kinship between him and Hrothgar, and by not being fully loyal to kinship, Beowulf is starting to stray from Anglo-Saxon values. Unlike the battle with Grendel, when the battle between Beowulf and the Troll-wife is imminent, Beouwlf “Donned his armor for battle”(1210), and also he uses a sword that, ” Its blade was iron, with etched design,/ Tempered in blood of many a battle”(1228-1229). Beowulf has to use armor and weapons in the second battle to survive. The fact that in the first battle he wins without weapons, and now in this battle he can only win with armor, shows the reader that when kinship weakens, Beowulf’s strength also weakens.This Anglo-Saxon poem shows that bad that can happen by going against the values.
Unlike the second battle, where there is a crack in the kinship between Beowulf and Hrothgar, in Beowulf’s third battle, there is a crack in the kinship between Beowulf and his own thanes. In addition, Beowulf himself is getting weaker. When Beowulf is wounded and he is in need of help, there is, “No succoring band of shoulder-companions,/ No sons of warriors aided him then/ By valor in battle. They fled to the forest/ To save their lives”(1943-1946). Beowulf has none of his own thanes by his side to help him. Right before he fights the dragon, the poet says that, “In the heart of each was the fear of the other!”(1921). Unlike his previous two battles, Beowulf is timorous when fighting this battle, which shows that he gets weaker. When he fights the dragon, he tries to use weapons but when he, “Lifted his arm Beowulf/ And smote the dragon with his ancient sword/ But the brown edge failed as it fell on the bone,/ And cut less deep than the king ad need/ In his distress”(1931-1935). Beowulf tries to use armor but it does not work. Because there is no kinship left, Beowulf and his weapons are now weaker. This battle leads to Beowulf’s downfall. In addition, the lack of kinship from Beowulf is most apparent in this battle as well. The poem does this to show the importance of the Anglo-Saxon value of kinship.
The Anglo-Saxons strongly value kinship and Beowulf’s victories are dependant upon the amount of kinship that he displays. In the first battle, when he shows full kinship, he is fully victorious, but in his last battle there is no kinship, which causes his downfall. This poem is Anglo-Saxon because it shows the power of one of their greatest values, kinship, and the danger of going against it.