Date of publication: 2017-08-27 20:50
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Beowulf follows her to her lair and beheads her with a sword that he finds there. Although she isn't nearly as strong as her man-eating son, Grendel's mother fights like an Amazon warrior, and Beowulf has a tough time defeating her.
Grendel's mother, another demonic descendant of Cain, attempts to avenge her son's death by attacking Heorot Hall. Although she manages to kill one man, she is alarmed by the strength and prowess of the Geatish warriors, and retreats to her lair, a cave underneath a lake filled with sea monsters.
To many readers, the three monsters that Beowulf slays all seem to have a symbolic or allegorical meaning. For instance, since Grendel is descended from the biblical figure Cain, who slew his own brother, Grendel often has been understood to represent the evil in Scandinavian society of marauding and killing others. A traditional figure of medieval folklore and a common Christian symbol of sin, the dragon may represent an external malice that must be conquered to prove a hero&rsquo s goodness. Because Beowulf&rsquo s encounter with the dragon ends in mutual destruction, the dragon may also be interpreted as a symbolic representation of the inevitable encounter with death itself.
Despite his borrowing from other sources, perhaps in large quantities, the Beowulf poet nonetheless manages to add his own specialized view of his characters world. First and foremost, Beowulf s author is a Christian, and he makes the Christian world extremely visible. He alludes to Cain and the Flood he shows the Christian God s influence upon the pagan world of the Danes. Yet he is obviously aware of his culture s pagan past and attempts to describe it in great detail through rituals, such as the elaborate Germanic sea-burials and the grand feasts in the mead-halls, and the ever-present belief in fate. Thus Beowulf s poet tries to recreate the past of his people for his people, almost with a nostalgic feeling for the bygone pagan days.
Beowulf is an epic poem originally told in the Old English between the 8th and 66th centuries. Beowulf study guide contains literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
While heritage may provide models for behavior and help to establish identity as with the line of Danish kings discussed early on a good reputation is the key to solidifying and augmenting one&rsquo s identity. 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. While Beowulf&rsquo s pagan warrior culture seems not to have a concept of the afterlife, it sees fame as a way of ensuring that an individual&rsquo s memory will continue on after death an understandable preoccupation in a world where death seems always to be knocking at the door.
In Christian medieval culture, monster was the word that referred to birth defects, which were always understood as an ominous sign from God a sign of transgression or of bad things to come. In keeping with this idea, the monsters that Beowulf must fight in this Old English poem shape the poem&rsquo s plot and seem to represent an inhuman or alien presence in society that must be exorcised for the society&rsquo s safety. They are all outsiders, existing beyond the boundaries of human realms. Grendel &rsquo s and his mother&rsquo s encroachment upon human society they wreak havoc in Heorot forces Beowulf to kill the two beasts for order to be restored.
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The poem contains two examples of mead-halls: Hrothgar&rsquo s great hall of Heorot, in Denmark, and Hygelac&rsquo s hall in Geatland. Both function as important cultural institutions that provide light and warmth, food and drink, and singing and revelry. Historically, the mead-hall represented a safe haven for warriors returning from battle, a small zone of refuge within a dangerous and precarious external world that continuously offered the threat of attack by neighboring peoples. The mead-hall was also a place of community, where traditions were preserved, loyalty was rewarded, and, perhaps most important, stories were told and reputations were spread.
Over the course of the poem, Beowulf matures from a valiant combatant into a wise leader. 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 great banquet at Heorot after the defeat of Grendel represents the restoration of order and harmony to the Danish people. The preparation involves the rebuilding of the damaged mead-hall, which, in conjunction with the banquet itself, symbolizes the rebirth of the community. The speeches and giving of gifts, essential components of this society&rsquo s interactions, contribute as well to the sense of wholeness renewed.