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Lessons from Beowulf
The oldest English epic poem, “Beowulf” demonstrates the values of the Anglo-Saxons in the medieval era about heroism and the love for the vassals. The poem is about a young hero, called Beowulf, who comes to a community to kill Grendel, a monster that has been giving the community sleepless nights. Beowulf takes Grendel head-on at night and kills him, thus becoming the hero of the community. Beowulf returns to his community, Sweden, where he rules for 50 years (Sayre 150). However, a dragon who has been torturing people appears and just like Grendel, Beowulf takes courage and fights the dragon, but the dragon kills him. Beowulf demonstrates that everyman must develop the prudence to surrender when necessary.
Beowulf demonstrates courage and heroism, which were admirable qualities to the Anglo-Saxons during the medieval times. Lines 23-26 say, “The water pull at the ship, watched it, slowly sliding to where neither rulers nor heroes nor anyone can say whose hands opened to take that motionless cargo.” (Lines 23-6, Sayre 150). The comrades filled up the ship with gold to demonstrate the nobility of Beowulf. Also, the poem states that no one if worth enough to take Beowulf’s body- this is because he was a hero, compared to none. Heroism was an admirable quality for the Anglo-Saxons and the neighboring communities such that could go to the extent of giving a heroic burial to anyone who becomes a hero in the community.
However, Beowulf could have acted with prudence to know when to fight and when not to fight. Killing Grendel made him a hero, but he refused to recognize that age was catching up with him, and there were things he needed to give up such as fighting. When Beowulf fought Grendel, he was youthful and full of energy. In the fight against the dragon, Beowulf was an old man. The poem opens with the words, “When his time was come the old king died, still strong but called to the Lord’s hand.” (Lines 1-2, Sayre 150). The poem opens with a description of a funeral, but the funeral was not of an ordinary man- it was of a hero, Beowulf. Beowulf needed to yield and with prudence because of his old age.
The display of courage and heroism are still present today. Revolutionaries were agents of change in the society. For example, the first President of the United States, George Washington, demonstrated courage and heroism when he led the colonial forces to win the British army, making Washington a national hero. Washington became the first President of the U.S in 1787 when he was elected by the Convention that drafted the Constitution, but retired after two terms (Whitehouse.gov). Conversely, some contemporary leaders, especially in Africa do not want to leave power, even after becoming national heroes. For example, the former President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir served the country for 30 years, after using the coup to seize power. Both Washington and al-Bahir demonstrated courage and heroism. While Washington was prudent to retire after two terms and allow someone else to lead his country, al-Bashir is an embodiment of Beowulf, who thought we would take everything head-on. The poem, therefore, demonstrates prudence in the values of courage and heroism.
“George Washington.” The White House, The United States Government, www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/george-washington/.
Sayre, Henry M. Discovering the Humanities. S.l.: Pearson, 2015. Print.