“Beowulf” References Essay
“Beowulf” is rich in references to Fate, which is described or as a “armor of Creator” and identical to divine intent, or is shown as an independent force. Really, belief in Fate took primary place in before-Christian ideology of Germans. During the battle with Grendel’s mother, Fate as force unites with Fate as divine intent. Although Beowulf is an instrument in divine hands, in hands of Fate, for his people he IS the Fate – he embodies Fate. He says: “Fate goes ever as fate must” (line 455).
Beowulf believes in fate and he challenges it – when he comes to Chrodgar and asks him to give him honor to protect fortress from monster Grendel, he tells that fate should judge and decide who’ll stay alive. And if he’ll be killed, so this is fate. He says about fate also when he remembers his contest with Brecca, where they wanted to find out who is the better swimmer, when they swam for 5 days, and then lost each other in the sea; a sea monster attacked him, but again, fate saved Beowulf: by his own words “Fate often saves an undoomed man if his courage holds.” (“Beowulf”)
He believed in honesty and fate, so he took off his chain armor and sword and gave all this to his companion – he could kill Grendel by sword, but he wanted to win in an honest contest – this was his free will.
Grendel is (as we can see in text) sent by Fate; they call him “Cain’s son” and a devil, which came to punish the people. Grendel is “darkness” and Beowulf is “light” – this tension between dark and light is repeated in the text several times. Although Grendel came, expecting “plentiful meat”, “It was his fate that he eat no more of the race of men after that night”. Grendel is called “Grendel, Hell’s friend, God’s enemy” (“Beowulf”)
Beowulf kills Grendel being a Fate instrument: “The end of Grendel’s life was miserable, and he would travel far into the hands of fiends. Grendel, the foe of God, who had long troubled the spirits of men with his crimes, found that his body could not stand against the hand grip of that warrior”. (“Beowulf”)
When Beowulf embodies “good”, Grendel embodies “evil”. Grendel and Daghrevn (lets compare with English “dark raven”) – it indicates the real essence of Daghrevn. Remember that in middle age “Northern” poetics raven is a symbol of trouble and Fate (Hamilton, M.P, p.113). And when Beowulf kills Daghrevn – it embodies the new stage in the life of Beowulf – stage of struggle with Fate. In case killing of Grendel is necessity, killing of dragon has element of chance. Mystical power of Daghrevn is higher then even Grendel’s mother had, so here is the Fate.
The destiny of Beowulf is decided after he killed dragon – from now on the instrument of fate is not Beowulf- it is dragon, who (how it was repeated not once, from formal point of view) was right. But Beowulf also was right. So, Beowulf acts from the God, and dragon from the Fate (Blackburn, F.A, p.45). But, because Fate is a divine justice, both Beowulf and dragon die. In another case it would be that the God had contradictions with himself, it means, with his instrument – the Fate, which is immanent to him. Continuum is stabilized. The God is united with his divine instrument – the Fate.
- Anonymous, Beowulf Klaeber, F.R. ed. D.C. Heath & Co. 1950.
- Hamilton, M.P. “The Religious Principle” in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism. University of Notre Dame Press. 1963.
- Blackburn, F.A. “The Christian Colouring in the Beowulf” in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism. University of Notre Dame Press. 1963.