Archetypes in Beowulf

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Beowulf, a mighty warrior, a courageous and noble person, and later the king of the Geats is the poem's hero. Beowulf stands apart from other men because of his extraordinary loyalty to his king. He rushes to help Hrothgar each time he needs him. He manages to fatally wound Grendel, kill Grendel's mother and slay the dragon. Unfortunately, Beowulf is also killed by the dragon, but not before he has conquered the evil monsters. Beowulf is tame and civilized, the epitomy of goodness and purity. Beowulf doesn't fight evil in a wild manner. He is pure and shows this before his battle when he removes his armor and vows not to use a weapon to defeat Grendel. Defeating Grendel, he shows that man, without armor and weapons, can defeat evil in any form including that of his foe Grendel. This deed serves throughout the epic as a symbol of Beowulf's goodness.

Hrothgar's great mead-hall, Herot, symbolized the kingdom's success, civilization, and joy. This great hall functioned as an important cultural establishment that provided light and warmth, food and drink, and singing and revelry. It represented a safe haven for warriors returning from battle, a small place of shelter in a dangerous and unsafe world that continuously offered the threat of attack by neighboring peoples. The mead-hall was also a place of community, where traditions were preserved, loyalty was rewarded, and, where stories were told and songs were sung. Thus, it symbolizes the goodness of heaven, as opposed to the lair of Grendel, which was pure evil.

The monsters that Beowulf slays all seem to have an archetypical meaning. Since Grendel is descended from Cain he has often been understood to represent evil in society by slaughtering and killing others. His home, comparable to hell, shows his wild, untamed, and therefore evil nature.

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