Beowulf

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.

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