BEOWULF AND THE DRAGON
Norton Anthology pp 55-57
SOME HELPFUL NOTES ABOUT
The Pagan Warrior Mentality
In the epic poem Beowulf, the main character Beowulf demonstrates that he is a warrior who places heroism and bravery over his own well-being and life. These actions exemplify the pagan warrior mentality.God has granted him the greatest strength, allowing him to defeat all of his enemies. However, Beowulf also possesses a sense of morality. He will not harm any of his companions, even while intoxicated. His good deeds, and successful battles make him well-liked and respected.
As a reward for his bravery and courage, Hygelac gives to Beowulf a mighty sword, adorned in gold, which surpasses any other swords of the Geats. This sword is an heirloom of Hrethel, Hygelac's father. Beowulf is also given seven thousand [hides of land], a hall, and a throne.
When King Hygelac is killed in battle, his son Heardred inherits the throne. When Heardred is later killed in battle, Beowulf then becomes king, ruling for fifty years. Beowulf rules wisely, and is a good king. He guards the land and its citizens until a dragon arrives in his kingdom. The dragon lives in a barrow and guards his treasure. A man comes and steels a gold cup from the dragon while he is sleeping.
The author describes the thief as "someone's slave". The thief is the first character in Beowulf that is not a warrior or a king. The dragon is guarding a treasure hoard left by "the last survivor of a noble race," who, before he died, locks his gold and jewels in a stone fortress. After that Last Survivor dies, his treasure-hoard is guarded by a dragon for whom the treasures are useless. The thief angers the dragon by stealing a single cup from the treasure-hoard.
The dragon becomes furious when he awakes and discovers that he has been tricked. He is determined to find the man who stole the cup . The fierce dragon takes joy in the thought of warfare.
When night falls, the dragon happily leaves his hoard to find the man who stole his treasure. The dragon begins to vomit flames, burn houses, and kill everything in his path. He even burns the house of Beowulf, which houses the throne. The dragon, like Grendel, only attacks at night.
When Beowulf learns of the destruction of his home, his first thought is that he has done something to anger God, and therefore he feels guilty. The dragon has destroyed the stronghold of the Weather-Geats. Beowulf vowes to avenge the people and destroy the dragon. He commands that a shield made completely of iron be created, since wood will not withstand the flames of the dragon. Exhibiting true pagan warrior mentality, Beowulf did not consider the danger to himself or the strength of the dragon.
SOME HELPFUL BEOWULF LINKS
The electronic beowulf project
Map of Anglo-Saxon England
Information about Anglo-Saxons
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS CITED
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