Hrothgar Beowulf Comparison Essay

Compare and Contrast Characters in Beowulf and The Niebelungenlied

1630 Words7 Pages

The hero of Beowulf, one of the oldest written Germanic epics, is a leader of the Geats and a hero unlike all others before him. He is able to conquer foes that no one else can, and he charges into every battle with the full force that he can muster, without any of the encumbrances that others may have. His greatest desire is fame and glory, and he performs whatever difficult tasks he believes will bring him closer to that goal. Beowulf’s quest for power drives him to seek fame by challenging Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and finally a giant dragon that causes his death. Though Beowulf’s strength and courage lead him to power and its accompanying responsibility, the power that he accumulates has negative consequences for those who rely on…show more content…

Hrothgar is a wise old king who has seen the dangers that the world has to offer. He warns Beowulf that power and pride are not the only things worth seeking because they are temporary, and when one’s guard is down, other forces will attack viciously. Hrothgar recognizes Beowulf’s obsession with power and warns him against single-mindedly pursuing it. However, Beowulf is unable to restrain his desire for more power, even after he has achieved the glory that killing Grendel had to offer and has been made the leader of a vast kingdom. He goes after the fire-breathing dragon at the end of the story, knowing that in his old age he is likely to die and leave his land and kingdom unguarded. Though the dragon is threatening the Geats, he states his reasons for fighting it: “I risked my life / often when I was young. Now I am old, / but as king of the people I shall pursue this fight / for the glory of winning” (2511 - 2514). It is clear that Beowulf knows he is risking his life — even more so because of his old age and waned strength — “for the glory of winning”. He doesn’t do it to save his citizens from the dragon, but to make his name eternal and to win him a ticket into Valhalla for his bravery. This is not only a selfish action, but since he does this without considering the bigger picture regarding his citizens, it also has negative consequences for them. Wiglaf, the only soldier brave enough to fight by his side, remarks upon Beowulf’s decision to

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In the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf is the Geatish hero of the story, while Grendel is humankind's archenemy.

Beowulf, the story's protagonist, arrives to assist Hrothgar, King of the Danes, defeat the ferocious and murderous monster Grendel, who raids the mead hall until it sits empty for a very long time. Our hero arrives with a long list of victories in battle to his credit. He is a man with unshakable valor and integrity....

In the epic poem Beowulf, Beowulf is the Geatish hero of the story, while Grendel is humankind's archenemy.

Beowulf, the story's protagonist, arrives to assist Hrothgar, King of the Danes, defeat the ferocious and murderous monster Grendel, who raids the mead hall until it sits empty for a very long time. Our hero arrives with a long list of victories in battle to his credit. He is a man with unshakable valor and integrity. He is self-sacrificing. His actions are guided (as are other heroes of the time) for glory and for God. Greeted by Hrothgar's wife, Beowulf explains what motivated him to come to the Danes' aid:

This was my thought, when my thanes and I

bent to the ocean and entered our boat,      

that I would work the will of your people    

fully, or fighting fall in death,                        

in fiend’s gripe fast. I am firm to do             

an earl’s brave deed, or end the days            

of this life of mine in the mead-hall here.

On the other hand, Grendel is a savage creature without honor or compassion for any human:

The monster of evil [Grendel]

Greedy and cruel tarried but little,              

Fell and frantic, and forced from their slumbers

Thirty of thanemen; thence he departed

Leaping and laughing, his lair to return to, 

With surfeit of slaughter sallying homeward.

The narrator reports that when Cain murdered his brother, Abel, God exiled him. Grendel is a descendant of Cain. As Cain was before him, Grendel is isolated from God and the friendship of others. Consequently, the creature finds the sounds of joy and camaraderie coming from Heorot loathsome, which causes him to begin his attacks.

While Beowulf is a brave, proven warrior, Grendel is a creature that fights for the pleasure of killing. Beowulf answers a higher calling in life, but Grendel is answerable to no one. He delights not in glory, but in devastation and suffering.

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