Lessons of courage from Beowulf
«Each of us must await the end
Let who can, will earn eternal glory!
For warrior the best fee – worthy memory!»
European men of X century, these words were a direct management, according to which they wanted to live. It was not long before the knight era, when concepts such as «honor» and «virtue», has not yet entered the official code of conduct of worthy men. It was the people of the «Dark ages», many members of Germanic tribes that once roamed across Northern Europe. They didn’t know what the code of chivalry, but each of them tried to cultivate this skill, where strength of character was the biggest and often the only reward.
The hero Beowulf of the poem with the same name is a personification of this virtue. This work, written in a rather primitive composition, became a «grandfather» most heroic tales in English literature. Even every modern superhero got a bit of Beowulf, because the story and the ideas contained in it remain relevant to this day.
In the pages of «Beowulf» we see the protagonist grapple with three different monsters in different periods of their life. In his youth he frees Denmark from creature Grendel and his vengeful mother, and on the slope of life he is forced to save his own people from the evil fire-breathing dragon. A description of these heroic deeds submitted to us as fiction, but nevertheless lines of the poem contain the idea that virtues should follow the person, regardless of his skills and achievements.
1. A man is defined by his actions (or lack thereof)
This poem – book action where all events filled with meaning. Each character is characterized by his actions, there’s a man proves its value only. For example, the Danish king Hrothgar shows his generosity by organizing a huge feast, on which he bestows his subjects. At the meeting with the king tells Beowulf that is able to deliver the Danes from the raids of the Grendel, remembering how once he had become to protect his people. These words and promises were subsequently followed up by action as for a hero’s words and deeds are inextricably linked. The antithesis of the hero, Unferth, in turn, accuses Beowulf in proud and silent like a coward when the next morning sees the severed arm of Grendel hanging from the ceiling.
2. Honor is the greatest reward
For Beowulf had a meaning only that he is able to make the act worthy of the memory of posterity. In the poem good deeds leave an indelible mark in the world, constantly influencing and shaping it, and such act is destined to live in the memories of those who will live after us. Material possessions pale in comparison to the reward. Moreover, Beowulf gave generous fee for killing Grendel’s your uncle. Of course, he later became his successor, but the hero inherited the crown after the death of two other heirs, because it ordered debt.
3. Male decisiveness is more important than the end result
Living in the «dark ages» of man could be sure only in those things that are fully under its control: a force of will, honor and courage. Beowulf in any situation acted as he was told conscience, and the rejection of their decisions would be a shame.
«I took an oath, when the team ascended to the boat to sail over the sea:
or will I isbody your troubles, or perish in the tight embrace of the hands of the enemy – my vow is strong!
will produce a victory, or will end the days of my life in the Palace!»
The main character uttered this oath before his fight with Grendel, and, as we have seen, there are no promises of victory, and an incredible determination to do everything possible, or to meet death face to face, but not to retreat. Because «it is better for a warrior to die than to live in shame».
4. The greatest of all virtues is courage.
We are well-known Oxford scholar by the name of Tolkien determined that the courage is the Central theme of the poem, although literary critics have previously said about bravery, about simple physical strength. So have the courage? First of all, the desire to do the right thing even in the face of total defeat. Unlike many of our modern heroes, whose stories often end their glorious departure into the sunset in the background of epic music, the history of Beowulf ends tragically. An aging, unarmed and abandoned by all, he dies in battle against the dragon, leaving his nation without an heir, to the mercy of incursions of hostile tribes. But not the victory makes the hero a hero. Beowulf is a strong man of action and honor, which, by definition, Tolkien was «caught in the net of circumstances.» He knows that he has no hope to survive in combat, but prefers to fight with the dragon, because it does not see other exit.
The guys who lived in the wild, barbarous century of the dark Ages well knew that each of them are expecting a loss and sooner or later they will die (most likely sooner). But for their courage was stronger than death. Grendel, dragon, war, plague, famine – whatever. Nothing can conquer a strong will, and it is better to choose death than to give up and retreat. For, as said Tolkien, «the defeat was a proof of courage of the main character».