Wow, after the tragedy of Oedipus and the hell that was Plato, this was awesome. On several occasions, I wanted to go put on my mail shirt, get my pattern-welded sword, holster my linden-wood shield and step right into my dragon boat. Unfortunately I don’t have any of those items so all I could do was read onward. I found Beowulf to be a really entertaining read, although there were some things that stood out to me in particular.
My expectations of Beowulf greatly influenced my reaction to it. So the elements of religion in Beowulf poked out at me many times. It contrasted greatly to what I knew about Viking mythology. Before reading Beowulf I assumed that Beowulf was a Viking saga, and thus expected gods such as Thor or Odin. However, what I saw instead were references to the Christian god. This surprised me greatly and threw me off at occasions when I expected a reference to the god of war THor, instead I got a reference to God or Lord.
My assumptions on Beowulf’s Viking background made me think of a ruthless warrior and fighter. Instead, what I saw was a loyal man, courteous and fair, who tends to rely on his own hands to get the job done. Albeit, he seems to lack in strategy or cunning like Odysseus, but he makes up for it, by sheer unbreakable will and courage. In a sense, I found him to be basically the earliest form of an archetypal hero. In that sense, he is much different from Homer’s hero of Odysseus, who is a cunning hero, ruthless and a sly tongue. Beowulf is from a much older stock of hero, more similar to the heroes of the pre-Homeric times and yet different. Unlike a pre-Homeric hero who relies on Arete or prowess in Battle, part of what makes me think Beowulf as a great hero is his loyalty to his people and his comrades.
That being said, Beowulf is kind of a Gary Stu. Which is a phrase used to describe overly perfect characters created by authors. Not only is Beowulf somehow in possession of inhuman prowess in strength and combat, with all the fame that goes to his head and the sudden turn of events that led him to become king, it is shockingly surprising that he doesn’t become a corrupt ruler. Either Hrothgar’s discourse on the dangers of power, were more shocking than I interpreted it, or Beowulf is seriously so hero-like that when the dragon comes along, he goes right out to meet it instead of sending someone else to kill it.
That’s my thoughts on Beowulf