ENG 283E: Our Premodern Epics: How Epics Create Culture and Vice Versa

The Three Battles in Beowulf

    Beowulf is a very long epic poem, which consists of about 3,000 lines in Old English and it is mainly about the story of Beowulf’s life. Beowulf is a poem about a hero and it can often be seen as a fable or a folktale. The language of the poem is Anglo-Saxon England and the period in which Beowulf was composed is unclear.
    The story takes place around the sixth century in Northern Europe. Moreover, the poem shows diverse and elaborate complex vocabulary, including cliches, epithet, and kenning. With the diverse techniques and the heroism, which is the main theme of the poem, Beowulf is considered a representative epic poem.
    There are three important battles between Grendel and Beowulf, Grendel’s mother and Beowulf, and the dragon and Beowulf, which are the main events in the book. It will be relatively easy to understand the book clearly, if we view the three battles in terms of the motives of weapons, treasure and society.
    There were three battles. The first  battle was between Beowulf and Grendel, but Beowulf never used weapons and armor. Also, he did not fight for treasure and did not receive help from his companions. It shows that he only trusted in God’s help and believed in the strength that God gave him. Moreover, in the battle between Grendel’s mother and Beowulf, Beowulf gets dressed in armor and has a sword. In addition, because Hrothgar promised the treasure as a reward for success, the purpose of the second battle was a bit different from the first one. The armor that he wore protected him, but the sword was worthless. Finally, the last battle between the dragon and Beowulf was the final battle in Beowulf’s life. His armor and sword did not protect him from the Dragon’s attack. In addition, even though he wanted some assistance from his companions in this battle, only one loyalist helped him. Eventually, he was buried with the treasure that he received. 

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