November 9, 1998
In the poem Beowulf, written by an unknown author, there are many battles and strifes. The different engagements have different meanings, whether they are religious or social. There are three different battles in which Beowulf takes part. The first fight is with Grendel, a grim spirit (25), the second is with Grendels mother, and last one is with the dragon.
Early in the poem, everyone is in the mead hall (also known as the Heorot) drinking and carrying on. Grendel, who is described as The creature of evil, grim and fierce (25) is envious because everyone is making noise and having such a good time. Over a period of twelve years, Grendel continuously comes to the mead hall and kills many of the men with each visit. Beowulf hears about the havoc and decides to take action. Beowulf arrives at the mead hall and carefully watches Grendel maneuver when killing the men, so he will have an idea of how to attack when Grendel comes for him. Grendel comes toward Beowulf, and Beowulf grabs his arm and eventually rips it out of the socket and hangs it from the door. Grendel ran home to his mother at the mere. At this point in the poem, Unferth becomes very jealous of Beowulf because he is coming into his territory and taking charge. This battle is not as significant as the next but it helps lead to what happens in the second battle.
The second battle is probably the most significant battle of the three. After Grendel ran to his mother, she got very furious and went to the mead hall. She kidnaps one of King Hrothgars most trusted men and takes down the arm hanging from the door, and then returns to the mere. Beowulf and his men set off to Grendels mothers residence. Beowulf learns that he has to go down under the lake to reach this creature . Unferth gives Beowulf his sword to kill Grendels mother. Beowulf starts swimming down to the bottom of the lake, where her mere is located, and it ends up taking him one day to reach his destination. She sees him coming and drags him to her den. Beowulf pulls out the sword given to him by Unferth, but realizes that she is much more powerful than her son and that the sword does not work. He spots a sword on the side and uses it to kill the raging beast. Grendels body is lying over to the side, so Beowulf decides to cut his head off and take it with him to civilization. While telling the Danes what happened he adds that Grendels mother is some form of the devil. With that he heads back home where he is King for fifty happy years.
At the end of the fifty years, a Geat decides to steal a cup from some treasure a dragon has been guarding for three hundred years. The dragon got angry and could not find the guilty party so he goes after the whole town, including Beowulfs house. Beowulf decides to fight the dragon one on one and ends up killing the dragon by sinking the sword in a lower portion of his stomach, shining and engraved (58). Beowulf dies soon after.
His dying soon after the fight with the dragon shows that the author wanted Beowulf to die a hero in that he sacrificed his life to save the lives of others just as Christ did. If Beowulf had not died after fighting the dragon he would have eventually lost a fight and the story would not have the same meaning that it does today. There are also several social factors that come into play in this poem. Beowulf was not commonly known as a hero until he decided to come and fight Grendel. After saving the Danes everyone was forever thankful and really appreciated him as the hero he is. The second battle shows the Danes as well as the Geats what kind of hero Beowulf really is.
The second battle, besides being the most significant, also helped bring religion into the poem Beowulf. Back when this story was written, giants were made to be on the evil side of society. Grendel and Grendel’s mother both bear a striking likeness to, and may derive from, concepts of a race of cannibalistic giants, (Mellinkoff 183) which would make them evil characters. Cain plays a large role in Christian development for this play, being that One of the most distinctive features of Beowulf is the presentation of Grendel and his mother as members of Cains monstrous progeny (Mellinkoff 143). Many sources believed that Cains evil progeny had survived (Mellinkoff 183) the flood, which supposedly killed all evil figures. Beowulf realizes how evil Grendels mother is when he fights her.The mother was much more difficult to fight than her son was because she was closer to hell both in that her home was physically closer to hell, and she is closer to the devil in terms of her line of descent. That would lead her to be a descendent of the devil. After fighting Grendels mother down under the lake, and it being so close to the devil, Beowulf felt greater power after defeating this evil force. When getting ready to fight the dragon, Beowulf figured he could defeat anything after the harsh battle he had previously fought.
After reviewing all the details of this poem, everything fits into place. This includes the three battles where one is much more significant than the other two, but the other two both play very important roles in the plot of the play. After reading and analyzing there is much more to be discovered than a story with a happy ending. This poem includes different religious aspects, starting with the biblical age and follows up until the poem is written, relating each back to the other. The religious view of Beowulf brings the poems background together. The social status of this poem does not really come across until the end of the poem where Beowulf dies and they give him the most honorable burial ever given.