“Time and again, foul things attacked me, lurking and stalking, but I lashed out, gave as good as I got with my sword. My flesh was not for feasting on, there would be no monsters gnawing and gloating over their banquet at the bottom of the sea. Instead, in the morning, mangled and sleeping the sleep of the sword, lay slopped and floated like the ocean’s leavings. From now on sailors would be safe, the deep-sea raids were over for good. Light came from the east, bright guarantee of God, and the waves went quiet; I could see headlands and buffeted cliffs. Often, for undaunted courage, fate spares the man it has not already marked. However it occurred, my sword had killed nine sea-monsters. Such night-dangers and hard ordeals I have never heard of nor of a man more desolate in surging waves. But worn out as I was, I survived, came through with my life. The ocean lifted and laid me ashore, I landed safe on the coast of Finland.” * Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A new Translation, Lines 559-581
The epic poem, Beowulf, is an old classic hero tale. The author tells throughout the poem how Beowulf is an archetypal hero through different characteristics, good and bad combined. He usually portrays health, skill, consideration, honor, loyalty, respect and the quality of a protagonist, and then at times he also is an antagonist. He sticks to what the king asked him to do, and fought off Grendel, then he stayed around to fight off Grendel’s mother and the dragon to keep the town out of danger and terror, showing loyalty, honor, skill, respect, and health. But he was an antagonist when he taunted Grendel to get him to battle him. (Lines 301-709) He also showed consideration when he fought off Grendel’s mother after she wanted vengeance for Grendel (Lines 710-1007), and when he fought off the dragon (2211-2512). In the particular passage above Beowulf is perceived as Healthy, Skillful and Educated.
He comes off as healthy because he says that he fought monsters time and time again, which requires a healthy system to uphold against the constant fighting. He comes off as Skillful because he said that no monsters were gloating over him at the bottom of the sea, instead he was lying on top of the sea, still living and then landed on shore. He also is skillful because he killed nine sea-monsters and protected the sailors from all of the sea monsters that they were once terrorized and killed by. Then Beowulf comes off as Educated because of all the sailors and men that passed through that part of the sea, he was the only one that had the education and skill to kill off the monsters that were dangerous and a hard ordeal.
And it’s not only in this passage that the author shows that Beowulf is healthy, it’s all the way up until the very last battle where his health pretty much crashes and burns because he can’t withstand the wound. But even with all the good, Beowulf is also bad, he doesn’t have the best moral quality, being in a Christian poem. He boasts about how he killed Grendel, and still takes money from the people in the town even when they don’t have the most money in the world (Lines 1925-2210). Any person with any moral uphold wouldn’t accept the money, gold and horses from the town people and he wouldn’t boast about killing someone, he would boast that he protected the town from danger. The author successfully proved Beowulf to be the great hero he was said to be through his depiction of Beowulf as the skillful, educated epic hero and the way he told the story.
Heaney, S. (n.d.). Beowulf: The New Translation.