I really enjoyed reading this epic tale. I found Beowulf to be one of the more intriguing reads on the list so far. For starters, I definitely enjoyed the copious amounts of pictures throughout the epic. The edition I purchased at the bookstore made reading it much more enjoyable, and grasped my attention way more than reading the tale just as a normal paperback. Maybe I’m just more of a visual learner, but having pictures to connect to the lines I read helped me better understand Beowulf as a whole.
I think a big question throughout reading this particular piece, is deciphering who the real monsters are. Initially, we think that Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon are all very monstrous characters. Initially, this thought makes sense. However, I have come to realize, that my thoughts regarding this matter are quite inaccurate. I’ve come to realize, that all these characters are not monstrous, for they all show a sense of vulnerability, and a reason for the way the act. Grendel merely just wants to fit in, his mother just wants to avenge her son’s death like any other mother would want to, and the dragon is only protecting what is rightfully his. I have come to better understand these characters, and their lack of monstrosity. Rather than showing disdain towards them, or view them as antagonists against Beowulf, I actually grew to like them. From reading this, I have learned that what we sometimes wrongfully perceive characters as being monstrous, and lacking any logical and acceptable reason for the way they act. However, in the case of Beowulf, I have indeed learned otherwise.
Having read Beowulf, I learned of the importance his assistance and presence was to others. The influence and impact that he had on many lives as a man to look up to, a man people seek for answers and help in difficult times. Beowulf clearly demonstrates his immense heroic sense of character, as heroism is most definitely a major theme in this epic poem as a whole. This epic tale is also quite a tragedy as well. We witness Beowulf’s life come to an end, in spite of the great contributions he made. Beowulf is a man who fought for his community, and did everything in his power to protect them from any evil.
All in all, I found Seamus Heany’s translation of Beowulf to be a very good read. I thoroughly enjoyed the piece as a whole, and I greatly applaud Beowulf for his heroic gestures, and the noble man that he is.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beowulf, specifically I enjoyed the version of the book that I purchased which included complementary photos that made the reading even more interesting. I had already read both Beowulf and the related story of Grendel, which I actually enjoyed much more than Beowulf, in high school. In Beowful, Grendel is represented as a complete monster, and does not offer any sympathy towards him. Whereas in Grendel, he is not a monster, but a confused and curious creature that is simply unable to interact with the humans in an intelligible way, making him seem like a scary monster when that is not his intention at all.
Both the dragon and Grendel’s mother are represented as monsters in the story as well. I don’t feel that the dragon is a monster, because all he really does is generally keep to himself and protect the large treasure. He only becomes involved with the humans after the thief comes and disturbs him. Though I do think the story of Beowulf is an interesting read, I really think that Grendel should be included as part of the Arts One curriculum in the same unit in which we read Beowulf. The stories complement each other really well, and give you a different perspective on the story of Grendel, Beowulf, and the men in Hrothgar’s kingdom. Specifically, Grendel is made out to have much more human-like characteristics in Grendel, which makes us more sympathetic towards Grendel instead of disliking and fearing him as a murderous beast.
Beowulf seems to be a hero in every sense of the word. He embodies the perfect hero in the way he carries himself and his strength and athletic abilities. He went extremely out of his way in order to offer a helping hand to Hrothgar and his people, and it was fairly obvious from the beginning that he was going to be able to handle the monstrous Grendel, but that was to be expected. I enjoyed re-reading Beowulf, and I also enjoyed the conversations that we had in class about the story.
Growing up I would often hear about Beowulf and I never really got a chance to read it before, also the idea of reading Old English text was not my idea of a fun read. However when I heard that we were going to read Beowulf in class I was quite excited! Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf was not only easy to read but also kinda fun. I love books about old time heroes and dragons and monsters and this epic poem took that idea and put it in a whole different sphere where by the end I was left wondering who the monster really was.
At first Grendel, his mother and the dragon are the obvious monsters, however when thinking about the idea of monsters and the poem further I took a second glance and realized that I think Beowulf is the actual monster. While Grendel is monstrous in his own, human eating way, he also appears to be lonely and misunderstood. He merely wants to become a part of the group and in many cases our own weird factors are what make it impossible for us to become part of a certain society (while in Grendel’s case this is his penchant for human flesh).
Grendel’s mother and the dragon, on the other hand, are quite similar in some ways. They are both taking revenge for an injustice. Grendel’s mother is obviously angry that Beowulf killed her son and if she were a human or god or goddess the people would automatically understand her anger and in fact side with her over Beowulf – however since she is not human and deemed a monster by the people she is thus wrong to want to avenge the death of her son (someone close to her) by taking away someone close to the king. Her actions make absolute sense when thinking about the reasons for them.
The Dragon is also like Grendel’s mother in the fact that if he were human or perhaps eve humanoid his actions would be totally acceptable. He is angry at the people for stealing from him. If the King had had something stolen from him and had acted out and been angry at the people it would be understandable. The Dragon is taking revenge in the only way he knows how to and he should not be deemed a monster for trying to guard or protect something, it is not like he is planning on using it for something or stealing it.
Beowulf was quite revalatory with relations to the idea of monsters since usually we would not consider Beowulf a monster, however at a second glance he is becoming more and more monstrous as the “monsters” are becoming less.
Reading Beowulf was very reminiscent of our first book, The Odyssey. That might be one of the reasons that I really enjoyed Beowulf, as the epic tale is one of action. The edition from the bookstore is absolutely gorgeous, and the pictures and illustrations inside give the book a lot of depth and context in helping understand the objects and culture of Beowulf’s world. A large part of why I enjoy reading stories like The Odyssey and Beowulf is because there is a central hero which the story tends to follow.
As it says in the tale, Beowulf is “no mere hanger-on in a hero’s armour.”, and he is continuously lauded for his feats of strength and courage. The presence of a character like this, a powerful and wise hero is calming, and really gives me someone to cheer for. It might be a really simple thought, but I like having a “good guy” and especially a community which is ultimately “good”. Whether it is because we as people always strive for a happy community, or if it’s just easier to see who the is monster in the story, having a character like Beowulf or Odysseus makes stories much more enjoyable for me.
And what more could you ask from a character like Beowulf? He is truly the peak of a man, travelling to slay evil, and restore peace throughout the world. It is from this that we also see how exchanges and gifts were made in the tale. Once Beowulf kills Grendel he and his men are greatly rewarded by the king Hrothgar, who also is happy to let them stay in Heorot for as long as they wish. These exchanges show respect and gratitude in their true form, giving treasures and gold stories behind them rather than just meaningless objects with a predetermined amount of value. It reminds me why I like concrete gifts more than just receiving money from relatives.
Yet ultimately the story of Beowulf is a tragic one. While the Odyssey might end in (relative) happiness, Beowulf seems to be quite different as our hero who fought so valiantly for the community is abandoned and left to die. While this is pretty sad, I really loved Beowulf as the story is a great example of what an epic tale should be like.
This poem reminded me so very much of The Odyssey. It included a very similar style of delivery in that it was composed orally by yet another bard and later written down for our viewing pleasure. Of course, the story was also paralleling many aspects of the Odyssey. i believe the biggest and most obvious was the theme of the heroic figure. Beowulf turned out be yet another Odysseus-like figure, possessing super-human strength, giving him an ability to fight off things we can only speculate regarding their magnitude (fire-breathing dragon rings a bell). both Beowulf and Odysseus were famed and renowned throughout the lands for their valor, fighting spirit, and ability to persevere and traverse difficult situations. They were both father-figures for their respective reasons, leaving behind legacy and a feeling of awe to those younger than they.
I did not seem to view this book with a literary mindset. I simply proceeded to read through the epic poem, accepting demonic figure after demonic figure. I did not question exactly how Beowulf, as an old man, was able to literally break a sword against the dragon. These cinema-worthy actions simply breezed by as if I were watching a Michael Bay film. I failed to realize significant literary elements. However, I attempted to pick up on a few, one of which is the varied role of the gods. A large difference between Beowulf and the Odyssey was the role of gods in the poems. Beowulf did not hesitate to include and reference god throughout the story, however, we did not see or hear of any actual gods interacting with humans. God appeared to be more of a constant force, pushing the sails of the (figurative) boat in whatever direction he/she saw fit. God was often mentioned for creating the fates of the many characters, all presented with simple assumption.
I questioned Beowulf’s motives for travelling in search of various monsters to kill off. Was it really as simple as seeking materialistic rewards such as gold and armor? I doubt it. I believe that Beowulf based his life around the desire to prove himself. As stated early in the poem, Beowulf challenged his friend to swim days on end in the ocean to see who would be successful. This is one of the many actions taken by the famed warrior in seeking to prove himself. I believe that the poem itself is Beowulf’s attempts at pushing and proving his own courage, his own valor, his own ability.
Beowulf has been a familiar text to me since grade 11; however, the translation I read back then was a different one to Seamus Heaney’s translation. What I took from my grade 11 English class was the importance of community, and the importance in making one’s fate. Also how the religion played into Beowulf, how light and dark, up and down imagery are utilize to show good vs. bad, or heaven vs. hell.
Community, the individual boasts (warrior values), and story sharing were three themes I found that resonated throughout the poem. With the Dane’s mead-hall set up as the very first setting, which was shown to be sacred and prized, as community building and the gather spot of people was important. The place people are from, and the community of people they are associated with, are also an important trait in the poem, which can be seen through the formalities of greetings as people proudly introduce where they are from and who their family are. Another factor I thought was interesting was the warrior culture, one that echoes the dying warrior culture we see in The Odyssey and Jason in Medea. Like these men Beowulf builds on his fame and shares his exploits. In the lecture when talking about how a man sticks to his word/promise, I thought back to Jason in Medea and how one of the topics for discussion in the play is oaths. But here in Beowulf it is not quite the focus; although, like Homer’s The Odyssey they do show everyday expectations of people. Expectations such as the way to treat a guest, how to formally greet someone, how to introduce yourself, proper boasting, etc…
The monsters in Beowulf are very interesting, along with the fact that Beowulf is being told through Christian Monks eyes, as bits and pieces are added or adjusted to make it more in tune to Christianity. Religious influence on the way Beowulf was transcribed was interesting to see as it was put onto a pagan warrior culture. The juggling of fate and god is something I thought was interesting to look at and compare.
I enjoyed Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf more than the translation I read before. I am not too sure why, but I remember not enjoying Beowulf the first read over.
Beowulf was definitely an exciting read and a nice change up from some other things we’ve read. A prevalent theme that we’ve dealt with so far is reputation and honour in life as well as in death. Beowulf wants to make sure that his actions are remembered and that his name lives on even after his death. In many ways I think parallels can be drawn between the characters of Beowulf and Odysseus. They are both deeply concerned, and at times consumed, with the notion of a strong reputation in both life and death. It can be said of both characters that their willingness to enter into harms way is predicated more on honour and respect than it is on the protection of those they set out to protect. However, at the end of the day, the people who both Beowulf and Odysseus are helping probably don’t care so much about the motive behind their actions but rather the final outcome of their actions.
Reputation in the Odyssey and reputation in Beowulf are viewed slightly differently, and even though both characters in both poems value their reputation, what the author’s are saying about reputation are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Odysseus’ desire to spread his fame is the root of his troubles as it causes the cyclops to put a curse on him.
In Beowulf, however, the desire to have fame in death and always be remembered is the difference between him attempting to fight the dragon and choosing instead to let someone else handle the situation. One of the most major sections in The Odyssey comes when achilles is talking to Odysseus in the land of the dead and tells him that even with all his fame in death, he would much rather be alive and be nobody than be dead. This passage underpins the message of the entire poem and reinforces the idea that fame is nothing to die for. Life, in The Odyssey, shouldn’t be traded for any amount of fame our honour. Beowulf’s death definitely doesn’t fit this mould, and it sends the opposite message. Death is the ultimate sacrifice, and anybody willing to step into a position of power must also be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The poem begins with a description of a man who is cut down in his prime defending his people and the poem ends with the word fame.
Talk about contrast from our last book! Fate plays out exceedingly well for Beowulf, compared to Oedipus. Both men are good intentioned and heroic, but fate deals Beowulf the better hand by far. He’s a hero in the old fashioned sense, being incredibly strong and courageous, defeating monsters and saving lives. Something that stuck with me was the constant emphasis on glory. This isn’t a new theme in this course, but I still feel the need to comment on it. The thing with glory and fame for me is that, as much as Beowulf is emphasized as a perfect hero in many ways, his motives seem much less honorable when they seem to be done simply for the glory. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there’s little fun in a perfect character who isn’t at least a little selfish or flawed. I guess I’m just wondering at the definition of a hero. We’ve spent all this time wondering at the definition of monster, we may as well think about hero as well. If we were to presume Beowulf’s only motive for killing all those monsters was fame, we would probably think of him as slightly less heroic. But if we say his only motive was to bring peace, and the glory simply came as a bonus, he’d seem more heroic for his selflessness. In the poem, I think Beowulf has a fairly healthy dose of both, but this is just for the purpose of my wonderings. Since this was written, how has the general definition of ‘hero’ changed? Just something to think about, as a “modern hero” is probably fairly different from Beowulf, evil dragons and monsters aside.
Beowulf reminded me of The Odyssey in many ways. They’re both poems, of course, and the main characters can be easily compared and contrasted. Odysseus was made to seem heroic because of his wisdom and cunning, while Beowulf was glorified by his strength and bravery. They both achieved fame and admiration in the end, prominently though adventure and overcoming monstrous obstacles. However, one significant difference between the two is that Beowulf does not seem to change much. His character doesn’t have a drastic change of perspective or understanding, I’d say, the same way Odysseus does.
On a side note from the text itself, I have to say to was nice to have pictures on the side, childish as that sounds. They didn’t contribute much to my understanding of the text itself, but there was definitely some interesting historical context to be found.
Prior to Arts One, I had already read Beowulf. It is an absolutely epic poem, and regarded as the longest standing piece of English Literature (albeit Old English…). It tells of the triumphs and tragedies of Hrothgar and beyond; and how Beowulf fought the antagonizing monster, Grendel. There have been a variety of translations and unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to purchase the curriculum assigned version; however I have read at least 4 different translations of what is, essentially the same tale.
Before this school year had started, I had looked ahead at the reading list and the sight of Beowulf brought me much excitement. It is the perfect piece of literature to encompass the theme of “monsters” as well. It also has come connections back to previous material we have studied; such as Genesis. Grendel, one of the three monsters Beowulf encounters, was a descendant of Cain, of the noteworthy fratricidal story in Genesis. The term monster was one that referred to birth defects, which were interpreted as an ominous sign from God—a sign of evil or of bad things to come.
An aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed in Beowulf is that the description of Grendel never comes full circle. It is up to the reader to form in their head what Grendel looks like. We get all sort of adjectives (subjective to the translation you read), but it is truly up to your imagination in the end. My only really beef with Beowulf as a text is that it seems all the characters are pretty one-sided… they all have respective foils and their seems to be a lack of ambiguity in all of them. Mind you, it is an ancient text and it doesn’t follow the expectations of literature today, but it would have been nice to see some questionable motives from Beowulf. As it stands, the text convinces one of the complete evilness of Grendel. The dragon’s tale is possibly ambiguous but it never gets enough development for us to care for it.
And for those who have yet to see the movie version; be warned. It is chocked full of cheesy cover-ups and the animations falls right into the uncanny valley….
Anyways, definitely an awesome read. Looking forward to going to town on the essay for it! (Sorry Oedipus, Beowulf is more of a man than you’ll ever be.)
After I have finished diligently reading my texts and sit down to write this blog, I usually feel obligated to create some sort of commentary on the profound subtext. I feel the need to talk about what this REALLY means and why some character is a metaphor for the complexities of life etcetera etcetera. I mean, that is one of the main points of ArtsOne after all, and I like doing it. But sooner or later I have to admit my inner 10 year old self still has just as much power as my university self when it comes to thinking about literature.
The point is, Beowulf is gratuitously cool. I think later i’d like to talk about how such a classic, now cliched type of story attracts our attention, but for now i’d like to talk about whale beasts! And underwater battles! And dragons! And sword fights! Maybe I identified with this style of descriptive poetry, maybe I am a sucker for this type of imagery. Whatever it is, the idea of a hero diving under the water on a stormy ocean to kill nine (NINE!) sea monsters still makes me want to find a stick and run around the forest killing imaginary foes.
This leads me to some more respectable ruminations. Beowulf is proud and confident. He eschews weapons for bare hands. He is the original hero. Again, we see a hero getting rewards and fame using his brute strength. But there is an intersting contrast between him and Hrothgar. Hrothgar is an old man who can’t defend his kingdom. He is helpless in the face of challenge. And yet he is still portrayed as a “good king.” It is not strength that makes him good, but wisdom and kindness. If I had to pick a theme for this tale, i’d say it centres around ideas of young and old, and how we carry ourselves as time passes. The poet seems to place more value on the feelings of pride and bravery than pure strength in itself, and while he recognizes that Beowulf is strong, he spends more time on his heroic nature than is actual physical nature.
And there is depth here, without a doubt. Often old Hrothgar will take half a page at the end of a battle or before a feast to reflect on the danger of having too much power, the fragile nature of life, and other such ideas. All his premonitions and predictions come true, and although they were nice, I was sometimes left wondering what they were meant to accomplish in the broader storyline. Beowulf dies, and some wars will probably happen. People will continue to get power and then die. Is this story just a cool story with monsters? Are we MEANT to take more from it? I’m not sure.
God is still around too. Everything Beowulf does is aided by (one) God, and made possible by God. It seems we’ll never shake this God fellow.
See you tomorrow!