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Beowulf

Beowulf is an epic poem which links heavily to "Fate", which in the poem is described as the "armor of Creator", and is akin to divine intervention and intent, a force which is all encompassing. Fate was an ideology which was primary before the Christian influence took hold. In the battle with the mother of Grendel, Fate's different forms - as a force and as divine intent - merge. While we see that Beowulf is the instrument of Fate in regards to his people, it is clear that he is also the embodiment of Fate. As in his own words "Fate goes ever as fate must".

Beowulf is a believer of Fate, though he is always interesting in putting his faith to the test. When he approaches Chrodgar and asks for honor to help protect him from Grendel, he says that Fate will be the judge, deciding on who will be the victor and who will perish. So, even if he is killed, he believes that this is Fate. Fate is always present, for example with Beowulf's swimming contest with Brecca out into the sea, where they get lost and fate saves Beowulf from the attack of the sea monster. Beowulf states that if a man's courage holds fast than Fate will often be the savior.

Not only did he believe in fate but he believed in honesty, and this is the reason why he takes off his armor and weaponry before the fight with Grendel. He could have had a much easier time to vanquish Grendel by sword, but his will is to engage in an honest fight.

The text presents Grendel as a devil, though also sent by Fate, who was summoned to terrorize the people. The fight between good and evil, dark and light is characterized by Grendel and Beowulf and is a frequent motif in the poem. Grendel enters the mortal plain expecting bountiful meat to feast upon, though through Beowulf it was his fate that no more men were eaten after the pivotal fight. Grendel, who "had long troubled the spirits of men with his crimes, found that his body could not stand against the hand grip of that warrior" (Beowulf), is the embodiment of evil, and in contrast Beowulf is the embodiment of good.

The other antagonist Daghrevn, which links to the middle age connection between the raven and ill-fate (Hamilton, M.P, p.113) is also killed by Beowulf, and so it is revealing to note that once Beowulf kills Daghrevn, this begins a new stage in his life, of struggling with fate. While the killing of Grendel is necessary in the poem, Daghrevn’s demise is more of a chance affair, which makes an intriguing case for fate. Once he vanquishes the dragon, the destiny of Beowulf is sealed, and the power of fate moves from him to the dragon. From that point on Beowulf is the Divine and the dragon is the Fate (Blackburn, F.A, p.45), but because fate is divine justice, Beowulf must suffer for the dragon's fate and die. While this can be seen as contradictory with divine ruling, the power of fate cannot be overlooked, and upon Beowulf's death, order is once again found, and God and Fate are united.

References

  1. Anonymous, Beowulf Klaeber, F.R. ed. D.C. Heath & Co. 1950.
  2. Hamilton, M.P. "The Religious Principle" in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism. University of Notre Dame Press. 1963.
  3. Blackburn, F.A. "The Christian Colouring in the Beowulf" in An Anthology of Beowulf Criticism. University of Notre Dame Press. 1963.