Beowulf: Gratuitous monsters

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!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *