The Anglo-Saxon Cultural Truths In Beowulf

Superior Essays
Victoria Duong
Ms. Barr
English 11
02/10/2016
Anglo-Saxon Cultural Truths

Baltasar Gracian says: “Man is born a barbarian, and only raises himself above the beast by culture”. Cultural truths have always played an indispensable role since the dawn of human being; the Anglo-Saxon period is no exception. A popular Anglo Saxon poem – Beowulf – best represents these truths for its era. The poem recounts the life of Beowulf, who consistently remains loyal to his king and kinsmen and devotes his life to defend his people from monsters. A formidable and fearless warrior, Beowulf fights monster with his bare hands. Through the main characters of the story, especially Beowulf, the poem illustrates three important cultural truths of its time:
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The warrior is expected to fight fearlessly and perish in honor rather than to give in and survive in shame. Courage makes truly venerable warrior, establishing the foundation for the whole warrior culture. The more a warrior fights, the more respect and appreciation he earns. A warrior can only fight or be defeated by his enemies. The main character – Beowulf epitomizes courage. Beowulf always shows great bravery in every battle he fights: “I have heard moreover that the monster scorns/ in his reckless way to use weapons/ therefore, to heighten Hygelac’s fame/ and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce/ sword and the shelter of the broad shield,/ the heavy war-board shield, the heavy war-board: hand-to-hand/ is how it will be, a life-and-death/ fight with the fiend.” (Beowulf 433-440.) Beowulf proves using weapons or protections would make the battle too easy. He confronts Grendel with his weapons off and fights in bare hands to show his bravery. The battle describes Beowulf’s strength as a legendary epic hero’s. Beowulf amazes with his bravery and fearlessness when he faces with Grendel. Fifty years later, he still …show more content…
The beginning of Beowulf emphasizes the relationship between the king and his kinsmen. Loyalty to kinsmen affects both the king and his kinsmen. “ A young prince must be prudent like that/ giving freely while his father lives/ so that afterwards in age when fighting starts/ steadfast companions will stand by him/ and hold the line.” ( Beowulf 20-40). The author starts with the description of king Shield Sheafson and ends with that of king Hrothgar. Multiple quotes mention the connection between loyalty and kinship, which is an essential cultural truth in Anglo-Saxon. Especially, loyalty motivates Beowulf and his actions. It starts with Beowulf’s decision to help the Danes at the very first beginning of the poem. Beowulf is a loyal warrior to Hygelac, who is not only his king but also one of his closest kinsmen. The beginning describes Beowulf as Hygelac’s loyal follower - “ Hygelac’s thane”. Beowulf and his warriors travel a long way to help the king fight Grendal. Beowulf further demonstrate loyalty to the kinsmen as a king and an epic hero by honoring his responsibilities to protect his people. His responsibility leads him to face the dragon in a battle that ultimately kills him. Beowulf dies in victory of great honor. Wiglaf, Beowulf’s most loyal thane, also epitomizes loyalty to kinsmen. He is the only warrior who stands by Beowulf while the latter is fighting the dragon; he is the only

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