"Beowulf Attacks the Dragon"
Many Anglo-Saxon beliefs have been encapsulated into
Beowulf. The ideas of the role of the hero, the comitatus, as well as
the Wyrd sisters at the fates show what type of values the Anglo Saxons
held close to heart. In the scene "Beowulf vs. the Dragon," these
values held of the Anglo-Saxons are portrayed through the actions of
Beowulf and Wiglaf.
In the Anglo-Saxon's battle-centered lives, fate is essential to
keeping the warriors in high hopes. Beowulf is given additional courage
in his fight against the dragon because he strongly holds the
Wyrd,(more about the Wyrd): "I won't shift a foot/ when I meet the cave-guard:
what occurs on the wall/ between the two of us will turn out as fate,/
overseer of men, decides. I am resolved.(86) "I am resolved" shows
how little anxiety Beowulf has going into this fight with the dragon.
He has accepted his fate and has decided whatever happens will happen
and there is nothing he can do about it. Without this feeling of ease
there is a strong possibility that Beowulf would not have performed as
well against the dragon. This shows how strong a trait fate is in the
Anglo-Saxon world. Because without understanding fate, a warrior may not
be as good at battle, and to be a good warrior was the most important
aspect of life.
Being a good warrior in the Anglo-Saxon culture also meant living
up to the comitatus.
| (More about the
Comitatus) Living up to the comitatus is portrayed
by Wiglaf in the "Beowulf attacks the Dragon" excerpt. With all the
other thanes of Beowulf having run into the woods only Wiglaf remains to
help protect his King. Wifglaf knows of and lives by the
comitatus:. "When he saw his lord tormented by the heat of his scalding
helmet,/ he remembered the bountiful gifts bestowed on him"(88). Beowulf
is his lord. He has given Wiglaf shelter and riches in his life and it
is his duty to help him when he is in need. Furthermore, Wiglaf is
upset with the other thanes that have run into the woods, because he
strongly believes in the way of the comitatus:. "I remember that time
when mead was flowing,/ how we pledged loyalty to our lord in the
hall,/promised our ring-giver we would be worth our price,"(88) Wiglaf is a
man of his word. He has told Beowulf he would protect him at all costs.
Wiglaf is the only man of Beowulf's court that has lived up to the
honor code of the comitatus. Beowulf may not have been able to kill
the dragon if it wasn't for Wiglaf living up to the comitatus.
This helps teach the Anglo-Saxon culture that they must live by this
code in order to defeat their enemy.
The hero is thought of as a man of perfection within a society.
| (more about heroes) In the "Beowulf
attacks the dragon passage, Beowulf, as well as Wiglaf, is looked upon
as heroes. Each of them are perfect examples of what it means to live
in the Anlgo-Saxon culture. Beowulf protects his people and sees it as
his duty to defend his men. "Men at arms, remain here on the barrow,/
safe in your armor, to see which one of us is better in the end at
bearing wounds/ in a deadly fray. This fight is not yours"(86). Beowulf
believes he is the only man that can defeat the monster so he sees it as
his duty to defend his own kingdom. Wiglaf knows the heroism of
Beowulf, but he also knows that Beowulf is his lord and he has made an oath
to defend him when he is in need, and he believes Beowulf is now in
need: "And now the youth was to enter the line of battle with his
lord(88)." Wiglaf represents the perfection of what a thane is supposed to do
in the Anglo-Saxon culture, which is why he (along with Beowulf) can be
labeled as a hero. The heroism of these two characters helps the
Anglo-Saxons better define how they are supposed to live in their
The "Beowulf vs. the Dragon" passage helps define what it is to be
a warrior in Anglo-Saxon society. The actions which Beowulf and Wiglaf
portray are perfect examples of the Anglo-Saxon man. The attributes
Beowulf portrays in this passage and throughout Beowulf will help
the Anglo-Saxon man understand what his role in life is meant to
By Damian Nash