We know that the storyline of Beowulf includes both literature and some history, but for which was it generally written? Was it written exclusively for the entertainment of the reader, or was it written to share with about the annals of Sweden and Denmark through the personas and happenings of the story? Beowulf is a bit of literature, not a historical document; therefore, Beowulf should be considered an epic poem.
One thing that supports Beowulf as a literary work is the fact that the writer uses fictitious personas such as Grendel, Grendel's mother, and the dragon. Grendel is the monster in the very beginning of the history that arrives and kills the Danes. "[Grendel] slipped through the entranceway and there in the silence snatched up thirty men, smashed them unknowing in their bedrooms and ran out with their bodies, the blood dripping behind him, back again to his lair, delighted with this night's slaughter" (Raffel 36-40). He previously raided similarly often, making him pretty much dominate the land. "So Grendel ruled, fought with the righteous, one against many, and acquired: so Herot stood unfilled, and stayed deserted for years" (Raffel 59-61). Grendel's mother is also a mythical persona in the storyplot. She lives with her child in their lair. "I've been told that my people, peasants employed in the fields, have observed a set of such fiends wandering in the moors and marshes, giant monsters moving into those desert lands" (Raffel 411-414). This pair of fiends is Grendel and his mother. By the end of the storyplot, there is a dragon that battles against Beowulf as well. All three of the heroes are mythical.
There are two unrealistic feats that Beowulf performs throughout the poem. He performs his first feat right after Grendel attacks people for the second time in the storyplot. "-And was instantly seized himself, claws bent back as Beowulf leaned up on one arm. That shepherd of wicked, guardian of criminal offense, knew simultaneously that nowhere on the planet had he found a guy whose hands were harder" (Raffel 323-327). The second major feat that Beowulf performs in the poem is certainly going underwater to combat Grendel's mother. Not only does he stay underwater for an impossible time, but he eliminates the monster. "He leaped into the lake, wouldn't normally wait for anyone's answer; the heaving waters covered him over. All night he sank through the waves" (Raffel 467-469). Neither of the feats can be done for a individuals, demonstrating that Beowulf himself cannot have been a real persona, and that the poem was written for the purpose of books. "Beowulf himself, however, is generally assumed to be always a fictitious persona" (Purnis).
The tale of Beowulf is by means of a monomyth, giving it a predictable results. The story type of a monomyth comes after the seasons of the year. During the warm months the hero increases in strength and kills the monster. Within the fall, he battles in battles and becomes famous throughout the land. In the winter, he dies and goes to the underworld, and in the spring and coil he emerges victorious through rebirth. The storyline of Beowulf is structured much like a monomyth. Even though in the springtime Beowulf does not physically get back to life, his persona and deeds are still alive in the remembrances of the people. "And so Beowulf's followers rode, mourning their loved innovator, crying that no better king had ever lived, no prince so moderate, no man so available to his people, so worth reward" (Raffel 865-869). This structure of a monomyth tells us what will happen in the storyline. It really is a cycle which makes the storyplot predictable. In the event the story of Beowulf were to be generally historical, telling what actually happened, it would not likely follow the design of an monomyth. The outcome would not be predictable. This demonstrates that the story was written for the intended purpose of literature.
The structure of the poem itself shows that it is literary. In literature, there tend to be units of three. Usually this might be pieces of three big, main situations, or three important battles, or so on. In this case, the group of three important happenings would be Beowulf's three fights - his battle with Grendel, his battle with Grendel's mother, and his battle by the end with the dragon. All three of the battles are crucial parts of the storyplot that create a literary framework for the poem.
The plot itself is very creative, merely designed by the writer. It is not realistic to have a plot that includes a monster that hates a certain people. Inside the story, Grendel wants nothing in connection with the Danes except to consume them. "A long time [Grendel] bore bitter hatred, violence and malice, an unflagging feud; calmness he would not need with any man of Danish competition, nor lay besides murderous loss of life, nor consent to be bought off" (Gordon 3). He also acquired a long record of warfare with the ruler. "To the kids of men, regretfully in tracks, that Grendel waged long battle with Hrothgar" (Gordon 3). Realistically, neither of the situations would appear. To begin with, there wouldn't normally be a monster. Second of all, the monster would not have a sustained hatred for a certain people and their ruler.
Beowulf is not primarily historical. I am not saying that it does not contain any historical referrals, but that background was not the primary reason this story was written. Beowulf, in simple fact, may contain some historical results, such as Hygelac, the king of the Geats, who ruled in southern Sweden (Gordon iv). You can find additional referrals, as Gordon mentions in his book: "The poem has references to Weland, the smith of Teutonic tale, and Sigemund, the Volsung" ( iii). Despite the fact that the poem may contain some historical references, we need to keep in mind that the main purpose of the story is literary; it is not to give a historical profile of that time. "Beowulf is no genuine picture of historic Denmark or Geatland or Sweden but it is a development bearing obviously the grades of design and thought" (Tolkien 25). The author wrote an innovative story, and in the process, included some historical statistics. His main purpose was not to create history. "[The writer of Beowulf] helped bring probably first to his activity a knowledge of Christian poetry" (Tolkien 24).
The story of Beowulf is not historical in any way. None of the major incidents in the story actually happened. There was not really a man named Beowulf who emerged to Denmark to save the Danes from a man-eating monster. Beowulf didn't deal with this monster, its mom, or a dragon. The story was completely composed by the individual who wrote the story. You will find, in reality, no historical occurrences that match the situations in the poem.
Considering that Beowulf was written for the intended purpose of literature which is not really a historical record, you can come to the final outcome that Beowulf can be an epic poem. To find out this, one must first know this is of any epic poem. According to Dictionary. com, an epic poem is "An extended, narrative poem revealing to of the hero's deeds. " This poem is both narrative and says of the hero's (Beowulf's) deeds.
As I mentioned previously, one reason Beowulf is narrative is basically because it is dependant on a monomyth, following seasons, and giving the storyplot a predictable result. The next reason is usually that the structure of the poem itself is literary, with a set of three specific, main happenings or battles. The 3rd reason Beowulf is narrative is because it has a creative story, designed completely by the author, that cannot have took place in true to life.
The poem instructs of the hero's deeds. Throughout the whole account, we see the heroic actions that Beowulf performs. These are the main happenings in the story, some of that happen to be battles. The first event is when Beowulf fights Grendel and kills him, and then later kills Grendel's mother. The next event is Beowulf becoming the hero of Denmark and being crowned as king. The 3rd event in the storyplot is when Beowulf fights the dragon. He will not kill the dragon by himself, but it is known as one of is own heroic deeds.
An epic poem must encompass all the areas of life, which are war, peacefulness, love, hate, and loss of life. All of these aspects are visible in Beowulf. The facet of war is obviously seen through Beowulf's three fights with the two monsters and the dragon. Peace is tied in to the report after Beowulf eliminates Grendel's mother which is appointed king over Geatland for fifty years. He ruled these years in serenity. We see love in the poem through the Danes' love for Beowulf, and Beowulf's love for the country of Geatland when he reigns as their ruler. In the long run, he sacrifices himself on their behalf when he fights the dragon. Hate is evident in the report when Grendel will come in at the beginning and problems and eats the Danes. He despises them and desires nothing in connection with their people. Death comes in at the end of the storyline when Beowulf dies through the battle resistant to the dragon.
In summary, there are several factors that contribute to the actual fact that Beowulf was written for the purpose of literature and not for record. The story's mythical animals, unrealistic feats, and predictable final result all point to this. Although there could be some historical referrals, the reason the story was written was not in order to about the annals of Denmark, and the story itself is not at all historical. The storyline is narrative, tells of a hero's deeds, possesses all the aspects of life. As a result of this, Beowulf is highly recommended an epic poem.
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