Beowulf, one of the longest poems ever written in the English language is a great epic that allows us as readers to learn many different aspects on life. Although we may not all gather the same information from the poem, it is apparent that everyone will at least learn one thing from Beowulf’s epic. As the reader reads this poem, he/she may learn anything from how pride and coward ness can lead to a downfall, how outside forces can lead to the endangerment of a society, to how the courage of one can gain the respect and loyalty of others. Throughout Beowulf, we constantly see pride from certain characters.
In the beginning of Beowulf, Beowulf himself is bragging about himself to others in lines 415-426. Although he just wants to gain the peoples confidence and he does defeat Grendel and other monsters, at the end of this poem, Beowulf is killed. Perhaps because he had so much pride in himself, that he believed that he could defeat the fire-breathing dragon alone. However, Beowulfs death might have been due to the coward ness of his men. When Beowulf and his men go to fight dragon, the men become so scared and nervous, that they retreat without helping Beowulf at all, in turn causing him to be killed.
Unferth is yet another character that suffers from pride. Unferth is so full of himself, that when Beowulf arrives at Heorot, he tries to taunt him because Unferth is envious and thinks that he is better than Beowulf. He tells the story of when Beowulf and Breca compeated in a swimming match (lines 506-526), and Breca defeated him. Unferth also does not believe that Beowulf can defeat Grendel. However, Beowulf does, and Unferth has done nothing but kill his own kin. Pride might have lead him to kill his own blood, thinking it might earn him respect. Endangerment of societies also takes place in Beowulf.
The major endangerment, obviously, is the monster Grendel. Grendel becomes a major threat to the society at Heorot for twelve years. With his ability to grab up thirty men at a time, and completely distroy the mead hall and the city perhaps, none of the Danes were able to defeat him. They suffered major embarrassment from these attacks, but worse, they could not do anything about Grendels brutal rage against them. The city at Heorot was beginning to fall apart due to this outside force that haunted them after dark for twelve years. Another example of how an outside force can lead to the downfall of a society is after Beowulf is killed.
The people knew that their enemies would hear of Beowulfs mens coward acts by retreating when their king was in danger. With news of this, their enemies would attack them. The Swedes in this case could act as an outside force because if they were to attack, they just may be the victors in the war, causing Beowulfs kingdom and society to parish as he so sadly did. All this good kings glories would go down as he did. Courage is a point that seems to be stressed in Beowulf. As we read, we learn that all the good kings have held a good amount of courage to earn that position.
Beowulf himself had an enormous amount of courage. He killed Grendel and Grendels mother alone, which is a very courageous act. This act, saving Heorot, earned him much respect from the people thus enabling him to become well known through out the lands, and a great ruler. Many people remained loyal to him until the very end. Heremod was a different story though. He only brought death, destruction and grief to the people. He committed no courageous deeds. In the beginning of Beowulf, there is a funeral of a great king, Sheafon. He is also another example of a courageous person who earned his peoples respect and loyalty.
Even at his death, they mourned, as they did at Beowulfs as well. Perhaps there is much more to be gathered and learned from Beowulf. These are only a few examples of what might be learned from this story. In turn, we learn the value of respect, the importance of courage, and how things can and do affect society and its people. Although this story is that of fiction, its very obvious that there is much to be learned, even though it is not true. Perhaps a lot of the stories we read that is fiction, we can all learn from. It might take a little more in depth reading, but in the end, it is worth it.