The folk epic Beowulf reflects many Anglo-Saxon values. The Anglo-Saxon epic stresses the physical world, fairness, boasting, love of glory, belief in wyrd, deep sense of loyalty to the tribe and the tribal leader, and the importance of generosity and bravery.
The Anglo-Saxon value of fairness is reflected by Beowulf. He asks Hrothgar the favor of fighting alone with Grendel with only the help of his men, as stated in this line, “That this one favor you should not refuse me-that I, alone and with the help of my men, may purge all evil from this hall.” Beowulf also demonstrates fairness when he decides that he will use no weapons with his battle with Grendel. Beowulf hears about the fact that Grendel’s scorn of men is so great that he needs no weapons and fears none, therefore neither will Beowulf.
Another Anglo-Saxon belief is also demonstrated by Beowulf, this being the value of boasting. Beowulf boasts a lot to Hrothgar about all his successes. He brags about his strength and valor. He describes many treacherous journeys in which he killed many of his enemies, drove five great giants into chains, swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one. This boasting is important because it assists Hrothgar in believing that Beowulf is the right man to defeat Grendel. While Beowulf boasts about is great strength, he is also loyal to the king, reflecting another Anglo-Saxon value of being lenient to the lord.
Hrothgar demonstrates the Anglo-Saxon value of love of glory in the poem. When Hrothgar leads the Danes to glory, he decides to build a hall that would hold his mighty band. And in that hall he would divide the spoils of their victories to his comrades and kinsmen. He fulfills his promise naming the mead hall Herot and commending a banquet.
Many of the Anglo-Saxon values expressed in Beowulf revolve around boasting, loyalty, strength and fairness. The comprising of these qualities makes Beowulf the hero, and Beowulf an excellent literary work of Anglo-Saxon history.
Beowulf as a Reflection of Anglo-Saxon Values
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In history, evil men have reigned supreme across many cultures. Some people say that being evil is inherent in every human. If this is true, then writing may be the ultimate way of releasing hatred of the world without hurting anyone. In Beowulf, all of society's evil men can be personified within the demons of Cain. The main demon presented in Beowulf is Grendel. Grendel personifies the exact opposite of what the Anglo-Saxons held dear. Beowulf, the story's hero, is the embodiment of what every Anglo-Saxon strove to become in their lifetime. Grendel is constantly angry, afraid and unsure of himself; while Beowulf is fearless and loyal to his king.
Through Grendel's own hatred and anger, he brings his own downfall. The "sin-stained demon" has his roots in the vile creature Cain. Since Grendel is spawned from Cain, he can never feel the love of God or of people: ". . . God, / Whose love Grendel could not know." (84-85). It is because of this, that Grendel hates every mortal being he lays his eyes upon. Hatred leads to anger, constant anger, ". . . bearing God's hatred, / Grendel came, hoping to kill" (393-394). Fear is Grendel's other major flaw, "His mind was flooded with fear . . ." (435). Through his hatred and fear, Grendel seals his own fate.
Anger then yields itself to insecurity and low self-esteem. The moment Grendel realizes that there is someone just as strong as him, he tries to run away, ". . . Grendel's one thought was to run / From Beowulf, flee back to his marsh and hide there:" (437-438), but it is too late. Just like when the average bully meets his match, he runs in fear of not being able to win. Grendel does not have the audacity to stand up to Beowulf with all his might and therefore falls to Beowulf.
The exact opposite of the points mentioned thus far are made manifest within the character of Beowulf. Beowulf is easily able to defeat Grendel once Grendel has lost all hope of winning, ". . . remembered his final / Boast and, standing erect, stopped / The monster's flight. . ." (440-443). Beowulf is also, instead of insecure and under-confident, overly confident and a braggart.
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Anglo-saxon Values Epic Poem Beowulf Too Late Own Fate Many Cultures
The boasting would come naturally to any ancient Anglo-Saxon if they had done a great feat though. Thus Beowulf is a symbol of the good in people's hearts for all time.
All in all, Beowulf is a first-class example of how Anglo-Saxons lived their life. From Herot to the demons lurking within the earth, this epic poem was passed down orally from generation to generation in meetings and social gatherings. It is a feat in itself that this work of literature has survived the ages, even in print.