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Beowulf - a pacifist poem
In Beowulf, after slaying Grendel and his mother, Beowulf returns to his home land, the land of the Geats, bearing great treasures that he has been given by Hrothgar. Beowulf goes to the hall of Hygelac and describes his courageous deeds to his lord and kinsmen, telling them of his welcome into Hrothgar's family, and of his battles with Grendel and Grendel's mother. Beowulf then proves that he is humble and loyal to Hygelac by dedicating all of his courageous deeds to his lord and people. Beowulf says, "My prince, there with my deeds I did honor to your people" (Howe, 36), and this shows the proper attitude of a thane to his lord. All of the gifts that Beowulf has received from Hrothgar are given to Hygelac and his wife, Hygd. The passage ends with Beowulf receiving land, treasures, a sword, and a throne, making him a king.
The passage is important because it introduces a lot of action which has previously been unknown. It is revealed that Beowulf has had a bad reputation as a young man; this is the only time that his reputation as a young man will be mentioned in Beowulf. The narrator says that Beowulf "had long been despised, so that the sons of the Geats did not reckon him brave, nor would the lord of the Weather-Geats do him much gift-honor on the mead-bench" (Howe, 37). Beowulf doesn't earn his glorious reputation in the land of the Geats according to these lines, and these lines also show that it is not until he is older that his name is highly regarded. The passage also introduces Freawaru, the daughter of Hrothgar, who is to act as a peace-weaver between the Danes and the Heatho-bards. Beowulf is skeptical of any possibility of peace between the two tribes. There is a discrepancy within the text of Beowulf because Beowulf here tells of cutting off Grendel's Mother's head, when previously the text tells us that he has cut off Grendel's head. The story of Modthryth, a horrible princess who has her suitors killed, is told at the very beginning of the passage after a brief introduction of Hygd, Hygelac's queen. Offa the Angle and his people are commented upon slightly, and the reader learns that Hygelac has recently led a battle against Ongentheow while invading his lands.
In the passage there are many excellent displays of comitatus and the relationships between kinsmen. Beowulf gives all of his treasure to his lord and declares that all of his courageous deeds have been done for his lord's honor. Beowulf explicitly refers to the comitatus when he says, "On your kindness all still depends: I have few close kinsmen besides you, Hygelac" (Howe, 36). This line shows the application of comitatus. The thane is dependant on his lord for material goods, and the lord needs the loyalty and protection of his thanes. This line also shows the strong bonds of kinsmen, and puts into perspective how few reliable relationships there were in Anglo-Saxon culture.
Religion in the passage is a mix between Christianity and paganism. Beowulf "bade bring in the boar-banner-the head-sign-the helmet towering in battle" (Howe, 37). The boar figures prominently in battle in the story, and it is mentioned near the end of the passage. Heaven is mentioned at the beginning of the passage when Beowulf describes Heorot by saying, "I have not seen in the time of my life under heaven's arch more mead-mirth of hall-sitters" (Howe, 34). The passage mixes Christian beliefs with the pagan ideas with its mention of the boar which guides the spirit of warriors and a presumably Christian heaven.
This is the last passage that describes the youth of Beowulf. The passages leading to the end of Beowulf will all take place fifty years after this passage. The passage brings together all of the most important elements of the story: the role of women in Anglo-Saxon culture (as peace-weavers), the relationship between thane and lord (comitatus), the constant warfare between tribes (Danes and the Heatho-bards), and the mixture of pagan and Christian faiths (boar, fate, and heaven).