Warfare is defined as military operations between enemies. The second
definition is an activity undertaken by one country to weaken or destroy another
(The Merriam Webster Dictionary). In Beowulf, warfare is extremely important for
it is a way for a man to prove his strength and courage against others. War is
also to protect others, and in Beowulf, the anonymous author seems to be rooting
for, rather than against, warfare due to the many battles that Beowulf
Beowulf begins with Grendel attacking the Danes out of vengeance and hatred.
Grendel is the relative of Cain which means that he is outcast to eternal
darkness as punishment for the crime of Cain killing his brother Abel.
Therefore, when Grendel hears laughter in the hall named Heorot, he is angry and
a little envious, so he goes on a killing spree in order to put an end to the
warriors’ happiness. Because of Grendel’s attack upon the Danes, Beowulf arrives
in order to put an end to the killing spree: “And now alone I shall settle
affairs with Grendel the monster, the demon” (Donaldson, p.8). The author offers
no other solution to solving this issue with Grendel but battle, and after the
battle is fought and Beowulf wins, Grendel’s hand is preserved as a trophy.
Beowulf is rewarded with gifts for his courage, and now the Danes are at peace.
The poem then takes another turn when Grendel’s mother comes to avenge her
son’s death by killing one of Hrothgar’s most trusted companions. By doing this,
she is following the warrior code of the Anglo-Saxons which is an eye for an
eye. The other alternative is to pay for the crime committed which is called a
wergild. Once again the Danes are made uneasy because another monster is at
large, and Beowulf agrees to put an end to her. Although Beowulf seems to respect
the action that Grendel’s mother has taken by saying, “It is better for a man to
avenge his friend than much mourn” (Donaldson p.25), nonetheless, he has to kill
Grendel’s mother because he has a duty to protect the Danes. Beowulf is not
afraid of fighting Grendel’s mother because glory comes before death and to him
that is best for a warrior: “let him who may get glory before death; that is
best for the warrior after he has gone from life” (Donaldson p.25). Beowulf
fights Grendel’s mother, wins, is rewarded, and once again, the Danes are at
Finally another situation arises in the poem when a slave steals a jeweled cup
from a dragon. The dragon gets mad and wants his jeweled cup back so he starts
to spit flame all over Beowulf’s town, and in the process, burns down Beowulf’s
hall. Once again, because the dragon has burned down Beowulf’s hall, the Geats
are threatened and he must kill the dragon and restore peace to his people the
Geats. Beowulf fights the dragon, wins, but unfortunately, he is wounded in the
fight and killed in the process. The dragon now lies dead as is Beowulf, but the
Geats are not at peace. Now that their king is gone, they will be enslaved by
other tribes for they are without the protection of their lord.
The poem Beowulf shows readers that a man is born to fight and eventually will
die in battle, and that fighting is necessary for protection and peace. Beowulf
spends his entire life fighting monsters and eventually dies in a battle
fighting a monster and for this he is respected and praised. He is viewed as an
honorable, courageous, and kind man who is very eager for fame: “Many a man
said not only once--that, south nor north, between the seas, over the wide earth,
no other man under the sky’s expanse was better of those who bear shields, more
worthy of ruling” (Donaldson pp.15-16).