Beowulf as Just a Man

Beowulf, as a character, is often described as the original model for the hero found in literature from antiquity to the modern day. New interpretations of the text, however, focus more on Beowulf the man rather than Beowulf the hero of Heorot. If we focus less on the struggle between good and evil found in the poem, and more on this new idea of Beowulf as a man and representative of mankind, then each of the three monsters that he faces in the poem symbolize three distinct turning points or stages in any man’s life.

Beowulf is largely untested in the eyes of the Danes when he arrives on their shore to rescue them from the terrorizing Grendel. If Beowulf and his band of warriors were as well known as Beowulf himself would like to believe, then Wulfgar would not have needed to consult with Hrothgar before allowing them an audience. Indeed, it appears that Wulfgar knew nothing of the supposedly heroic Beowulf, as he describes the shore party as simply “people from Geatland,” rather than the courageous warriors they supposedly are (line 361). He comes to them with a clean slate, neither good nor bad, neither heroic nor cowardly. He is, in effect, a newborn. This idea is explored more in his battle with Grendel in the mead hall.


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