Good vs Evil in Beowulf is exemplified in every action in the plot of the story. Beowulf is the symbol of all heroic virtues, and what is a better hero than one who defeats evil? In the famous poem, he is a warrior fighting against bloodthirsty monsters.
Read more to learn examples of good vs. evil in Beowulf.
Examples of Good vs Evil in Beowulf
There are plenty of examples of good vs. evil in Beowulf, including his battles with the two monsters and the dragon. As mentioned above, the monsters in Beowulf are “all evil” while Beowulf is “all good.” He is the light in war with the darkness, at the same time he works hard to bring justice to the world, highlighting how he only fights monsters, not humans.
The first battle is a battle between Beowulf and Grendel, the monster originating from the deep, “Hell’s captive,” who has already come to slay all those who celebrate in King Hrothgar’s (of the Danes) hall, Heorot.
Beowulf lies in wait for the monster, and when he comes at night, he pulls the monster’s arm from him. As a result, Grendel dies, and then Beowulf finds his mother who wants to take her vengeance. Bravely he follows the mother monster to her lair, and he kills her, by beheading her.
Good triumphs once again, as Beowulf is rewarded for his goodness, a message is implied that being honorable and humble is worth the risk. At the end of his life, when Beowulf is a king, he finds himself locked in another battle with a dragon who wants treasure.
He is fighting against evil once again, and he had to fight a “slick-skinned dragon, threatening the night sky With streamers of fire.” But even though he was victorious and killed the dragon, he died as a result of his injuries.
What Makes Beowulf Good? The Nuances of Good vs. Evil in Beowulf
Beowulf is a good character in the heroic code, together with the stereotypical idea of what good is supposed to be in all cultures. He fights for others, taking away dangerous monsters instead of fighting humans. He remains a selfless hero till the very end, as he fights the dragon on his own, portraying how he would do anything for his people.
Beowulf may have his faults, for example, sometimes argues with people, or wishes to boast about his accomplishments. Nevertheless, he is always on the side of good, and he is always willing to fight aiming to take away the evil that’s present anywhere in the land.
Noting that Beowulf isn’t the only good character in the poem, for there is also his subject, Wiglaf. Wiglaf is also all honorable, willing to fight alongside his king at the end of his time.
Beowulf went on his own to fight the dragon, but Wiglaf eventually came too, and he witnessed Beowulf’s death. They are the only characters in the poem who are concerned about the peace of others or something beyond their own selves. The latter shows selflessness, which is an element of the heroic code, and part of what makes someone “good.”
Good vs Evil in Beowulf: The Battles Against Bloodthirsty Monsters
Just like a good epic hero, Beowulf was often locked in battle against terrible monsters. This is part of what turned him into a hero abiding by the heroic code, focusing on honor, bravery, courage, and strength. However, while he is all good, representing these traits, his foes are solely evil.
The monsters are literal demons that foreshadow darkness and malice, as they aim to reign on the Danes. The author of the poem, calls the monsters, “Cain’s clan, whom the creator had outlawed And condemned as outcasts.”
Grendel, the main antagonist in Beowulf, is out for blood and simply for killings’ sake; he is evil incarnate. The Danes fear Grendel and his strength, and they feel like helpless victims against his power.
With his brave heart, Beowulf rushed to help the Danes, being the strong, courageous warrior, he was. Eager in his search for honor, he was willing to sacrifice himself to fight against the monster and bring justice to the land.
He fights Grendel, followed by Grendel’s mother who is in search of vengeance against her son, contrary to her plan, Beowulf defeats her. At the end of his days, he kills another, and so there are several times where the battle between good and evil in Beowulf is seen.
What Is the Good vs Evil Archetype, and Why Is It So Popular?
An archetype is a symbol or theme that keeps occurring in literature or other media, where good vs. evil is one of the famous archetypes. We can see it in many popular stories such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings” and of course, in Beowulf. It is a theme that has been used in literature and oral stories for thousands of years.
The reason to use the theme good vs evil is that it transcends different cultures, locations, and even populations. It is a battle that unites us as humans, even if we come from different backgrounds. The reason why “good vs evil” is a powerful archetype is that anyone can read, understand and feel it as they’ve lived something similar.
However, in many stories, especially older ones, we see this battle of good vs. evil in very stark ways. The villain is always a complete villain, such as the monster, Grendel, with no redeeming qualities, only aiming to destroy. The hero, on the other hand, is always perfectly good, and they can never do anything evil, for it is evil they are fighting against. This illustrates how good vs. evil is seen very often in fairy tales, where you know who is bad, and you know who you’re supposed to root for.
What Is Beowulf? Background to the Famous Warrior and His Story
Beowulf is a poem written between 975 and 1025. We don’t know the author, but that hasn’t kept the poem from being one of the most important poems written in Old English. It takes place in the 6th century in Scandinavia, following the adventures of a warrior named Beowulf in his quest to fight a bloodthirsty demon monster.
He travels to the Danes, defeats the monster, the monster’s mother, and is rewarded for it. He was seeking honor, and it was found through his bravery. Even to his death as he died from a battle with a dragon, he still found honor and glory in his passing due to martyrship. Beowulf is a prime example of the heroic code or the Germanic heroic code.
And due to these reasons, he is also seen as a perfect example of good fighting against evil. In the poem, Beowulf is seen as the absolute symbol of goodness and light. On the other hand, his monsters and adversaries are prime examples of darkness and evil. Beowulf removes the evil in his world, and thus in his story, good triumphs over evil.
Check out the list of main points covered in the article above about good vs. evil in Beowulf:
- Beowulf is a poem written in Old English by an anonymous author, between the years 975 and 1025, it was an oral tale before it was written down.
- The story covers the tale of Beowulf, a warrior hero who seeks glory and goes to find it by the Danes, who feared a bloodthirsty monster.
- Beowulf offers to kill the monster, in search of honor, glory. Being the true warrior he was, he succeeds by killing two monsters and a dragon, this exemplifies the archetype of good vs. evil.
- Because he is all good, fighting against all evil, he is an example of the Germanic hero, following the heroic code.
- Beowulf is the representation of goodness because he is focused on nobility, honor, fighting for what is right, and removing evil from the world, just as the monster (Grendel) is the epitome of evil.
- The archetype of good vs. evil is so popular because it can translate to all cultures, locations, and populations.
- Beowulf is always victorious, showing that good is always meant to triumph over evil, this could be seen as both a pagan and a Christian belief.
- Finally he dies in the final battle against the third vilain, a dragon, killing it, he shows good triumphs once again.
- Beowulf is not all perfect, because he fights with others verbally, and is prone to boast. Through all this, he is still the image of heroic goodness.
- Beowulf is not the only good character in the poem, there’s also his kinsman, Wiglaf, fighting alongside Beowulf at the end.
Beowulf is a famous epic poem that perfectly exemplifies the battle between good and evil. The good characters are all good, with perfect lightness, they are always successful against the dark powers they fight.
Both sides show a little bit of starkness, but in all stories and cultures, good is meant to triumph, and even today, that message still rings true.
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