Is the Author For or Against Warfare?
Angel Rosado

Warfare in Beowulf is looked upon as being a part of life. In Beowulf, warfare is a means of protection from invasion by other tribes. Beowulf is a very wise individual when it comes to his usage of force. Survival of the fittest is the crucial element the Danes and the Geats lived by. To be able to survive is to be able to defend one's territory and one's people. Warfare is used to protect one's own. On the other hand, religious warfare, as evident even today in Afghanistan, is dependent upon the help and guidance of God. These two aspects in Beowulf contradict each other and illustrate the attitudes between the pagan belief and the Christian belief. Through the poem "Exotous The Glories Of Battle", the author also conveys that warfare, in the end, does not provide a solution.

In Beowulf, warfare is central to the daily lives of the people. The constant fear of invading tribes plays a crucial role in the importance of warfare to Beowulf and his people. The pagans believed that if one were to die in warfare, one would go to Valhalla, or heaven, and continue to engage in warfare there. According to Christianity, God is the true defender, and by his will, not man's, warriors will either triumph or be defeated. In Beowulf, fate is described as "fully fixed" and as crucial to the lives of the warriors. It was looked upon as honorable to die in battle and enter Valhalla. Warfare is the road to Valhalla.

In Beowulf, Beowulf ultimately fails in battle. When fighting the dragon, Beowulf demonstrates fear for the first time when he confronts the dragon: "To each of them as they threatened destruction there was terror of the other" (43). However, we see how his motivating force to obtain fame allows him to gain strength against the dragon: during the fight, "Then the war-king was again mindful of fame, struck with his war-sword with great strength so that it stuck in the head-bone, driven with force" (45).

After Beowulf's death, there is not much more his men and his people can do. Beowulf, a leader of much strength and confidence, is not with them anymore, and has left Wiglaf as leader. Without Beowulf's presence, warfare means nothing. To fight without a leader is to be overtaken and submit to captivity as the text says: "Now may the people expect a time of war, when the king's fall becomes wide-known to the Franks and the Frisians" (48). As their protector, Beowulf has met his match. The dragon's strength matches Beowulf's. Fame is the only factor that motivates Beowulf as well as his men to take part in warfare. Beowulf's ambition to obtain fame and superiority lead him ironically to his decline. Beowulf is noted as "of world-kings the mildest of men and the gentlest, kindest to his people, and most eager for fame" (52). The pagan element of reaching Valhalla meant to welcome warfare. The egotistical aspect of warfare meant obtaining fame.

The author's point of view in Beowulf demonstrates how warfare even as it is seen today in the world leads to the downfall of leadership because of the desire for fame and superiority over others. Beowulf, although kindhearted and gentle, is egotistical and thinks he will never meet his match until he meets the dragon. He seems to be more concerned with how he is admired and praised by other men than with reaching Valhalla, or heaven, and being praised before God's eyes, not men's.

Works Cited

Donaldson, E. Talbot. Beowulf. Ed. Nicholas Howe. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2002.