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									John DeLellis                                                                        ENG 210

11-11:50                                                                             Prof. Fulk

                               The Middle Ages

       During the middle ages the values of Anglo-Saxon society were very much based on the

principals of bravery, loyalty, and respect. The honor and dignity of the warrior class was the

most respected class during this time period. The story of Beowulf is an excellent example of

Anglo-Saxon society with his treatment of Grendel and the dragon.

       The story of Beowulf all started out with king Hrothgar who is the king of Denmark who

had a flourishing reign. He built an extravagant mead hall called Heorot for rewarding his loyal

warriors after victorious battles. Hrothgar would reward his men with gifts for their loyalty in

battle and have big feasts at the mead hall in which everyone has a grand old time by singing

songs, tell stories, and drinking the night away. The men usually pass out somewhere inside the

mead hall by the end of the night. Hrothgar’s mead hall for some time was a very safe and

peaceful place for his men to sleep and take shelter, until Grendel appears. Grendel who is the

demon descendant of Cain (who is said to be the devil), hears the songs that the men are singing

about the god creation of earth and gets angered. Once the men go to sleep Grendel appears and

kills thirty of Hrothgar’s warriors, he steals the warriors and then eats them, the warriors have no

chance against the beast. Grendel wreaks havoc on the mead hall for twelve years and the

warriors cannot do anything to stop him, they do not have a place to be sheltered because

Grendel comes nightly to the mead hall and takes it over. The Danes own the mead hall during
the day and Grendel owns in at night, the warriors have to sleep outside in the woods or in

ditches nearby so they won’t get eaten. After some time word gets out around to the surrounding

kingdoms where Beowulf, the nephew of the Geatish king Hygelac, hears about this and comes

to help fight against Grendal. Hrothgar once did Beowulf’s father a big favor, and therefore

Beowulf, inspired by the challenge and to return the favor decided to help the Danes out.

Beowulf stays in the mead hall for the night and fights Grendel when he appears to terrorize the

hall; Beowulf fights Grendal single handedly with just his hands, no swords, armor, or weapons.

Beowulf proves that he is stronger than Grendal and when Grendal tries to make an escape

Beowulf grabs his arm and rips it completely out of its socket as Grendal tries to run away.

Grendal runs back to his home in the swamplands in which being fatally wounded, eventually

dies in his home. Beowulf is then lavishly rewarded for fighting off Grendal and Hrothgar has

such a high level of respect for Beowulf, he treats him as he would as his own son. Grendals arm

is then hung at the center of the mead hall to represent the defeat of the monster. Beowulf really

proves himself to the Danish people as a reliable, highly respected warrior. Beowulf came to take

care of the problem, Grendal, and that’s exactly what he did, he was confident and stuck to his

world when he said he was going to do something.

       Decades later when Beowulf was the king of the Geats he encountered another fight that

was similar to the one with Grendal. In this case Beowulf’s people were being attacked by a fire

breathing dragon in which was burning houses down and terrorizing the Geats. What started the

dragon’s destruction was a thief who stole a piece of the dragon’s hoarded treasure which

enraged the dragon and took it out on the kingdom of the Geats. Beowulf, being an old man at

this time, decides that he must take matters into his own hands and take care of the dragon.

Beowulf, being the heroic warrior he is, decides to fight the dragon by himself despite his age.
The fight is a tough one for Beowulf because he gets bit by the dragon in the neck and is fatally

wounded. One of his brave warriors, Wiglaf, hears the fight not going too well and decides to

step in and help finish off the dragon. The two of them defeat the dragon but at the cost of

Beowulfs life. Right before Beowulf passes he says to Wiglaf: “ Away you go: I want to examine

that ancient gold, gaze my fill on those garnered jewels; my going will be easier for having seen

the treasure, a less troubled letting-go of the life and lordship I have long maintained” (pg 91).

Beowulf wants to see the dragon’s treasure that he died for for his people before he passes to

prove to them what he has achieved. Since Beowulf never had children and did not have any

family around there was no one to take the title of king. So for the time being there might have

been a little bit of chaos in the kingdom of the Geats for not having a leader that the people can

trust and look up to. Beowulf was thinking that the Geats can use the treasure he died for to get

the kingdom back upon its feet. The treasure could have been used to buy off invaders for the

time being so the kingdom would not be attacked and be taken over, just enough time for the

Geats to find a new leader and be re-established.

       The Anglo-Saxon society was a society based upon bravery and loyalty. Once you

became a king you had to be seen as the most trustworthy man in the kingdom from the

villager’s perspective, Beowulf was the perfect example of an ideal king. Kings during this

period were expected to fight alongside their warriors and do whatever it takes to prove to the

villagers that they were safe under their control.

       Beowulf’s treatment of Grendel and the dragon were both very similar in the way of

protecting the society’s (Danes, Geats) as a whole against evil. Beowulfs treatment of the dragon

was a little different compared to Grendel’s fight because it was more of a personal fight with the

dragon. Beowulf’s kingdom that he ruled for fifty flawless years was finally attacked by this
dragon and Beowulf was not going to take it despite his age. Beowulf sacrificed his life for his

people so their safety was not in jeopardy of the dragon. Even to the last moment of Beowulfs

life he was still concerned about the safety and well being of his kingdom. Beowulf did fight the

dragon using a sword and armor unlike the fight with grendel in which he used just himself,

despite his age it was still very honorable to go against the fire breathing dragon.

        The dragon represents a personal evil as to grendel represent more of second hand evil.

Beowulf is a very courageous man who’s willing to help anyone; though he did fight Grendel

because King Hrothgar (the king of the Danes) did a huge favor for Beowulf’s father and

Beowulf felt the need to return the favor. The fight with Grendel was more of a fight to prove

himself to the Danes as a brave warrior. The monsters in the poem serve as challenges against

the warrior society back in the eighteenth century. The worst thing to be seen as during the

Anglo-Saxon timer period is a coward or a thief, for they were highly looked down upon and had

very little respect in the society.

        The ethical/social values of Anglo-Saxon society revolved around the principals of

bravery, loyalty, and respect. The poem of Beowulf is an excellent example of the Anglo-Saxon

society and how warriors are intended to respond to threats. The Anglo-Saxon’s were a warrior

society which represented very strong ethical and social values that were highly respected.

Beowulf the fearless warrior that he was is one of the best examples of this warrior society

during the Anglo-Saxon era.

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