The Importance of Fate

English 12

16 September 1996

The theme of Beowulf, the Anglo- Saxon, epic poem is that man should always follow his fate and follow God’s word or he is bound to die in misery and burn in Hell. This theme is often found in poetry of that time, and it exemplifies the mix of the pagan beliefs of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes mixed with the Christian beliefs of the missionaries. The objective of this poem was to not only tell a beautiful tale but also to show the distinct difference between good and evil.

Grendel, the evil monster who comes to terrorize the good servants and followers of Hrothgar, the king of Denmark, is shown in every aspect as loathsome and abhorrent. He is spoken of as the descendant of Cain and therefore caries not only his sins, but the sins of all the generations past and is damned from his birth. If he does not have faith in God he cannot have a good life, and is “...forever opposing the Lord’s Will, and again and again defeated.” (Beowulf 24). Grendel is also shown in an exaggerated manner to intensify the felling of hatred towards him in the reader, or in this case listener.

On the other hand, Beowulf, the Geat who comes to defend Harot from the aforementioned monster, is presented in an almost God- like fashion. The author repeats time and time again about Beowulf’s conquests and his glory. He is the typical “good guy”, he is the bravest, he is the biggest and he is the strongest. Beowulf’s family has been known for good deeds for generations, and even his “...father was a famous soldier, known far and wide as the leader of men.” (Beowulf 30). There is no mention anywhere in the poem, of Beowulf ever doing anything bad, not even so much as making a mistake. For all these reasons he is the hero and he kills Grendel.

These two main characters are portrayed in black and white, to show the power of God and fate. Grendel was against God and that is why he lost the battle and lost his life in such pain. Beowulf, as pure as he was, knew that fate would take over and God would not let him die in shame. This approach has been used by all people of all time, from the Greek myths to modern forms of entertainment, such as cinema. It is a technique that clearly explains to the reader the moral of the story or poem.

Works Cited

Beowulf “The English Tradition” Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs New Jersey, 1989; 24-36.