Beowulf Thinking Critically

Topic: ArtFrida Kahlo
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Last updated: April 22, 2019
In what specific ways does Herot contrast with the place where Grendel lives?
Herot is a bright and lavish drinking hall.

Grendel’s home is described as a dark swamp that even hunted animals would rather die than jump into. (Some words used to describe Grendel’s lair: dark, dirty, slimy, evil, haunting, wild, marshes, like hell, etc.Words used to describe the mead-hall: a happy joyful place where people celebrate by drinking, singing, etc.

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Images are words that help us see something, and often hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch it as well. Identify images describing Grendel that associate him with death or darkness. How are these images supposed to make you feel about Grendel?
Many kennings are used to describe Grendel such as “shepherd of evil,” “guardian of crime,” “Hell’s captive,” “the Almighty’s enemy,” “sin stained demon,” “infliction of men,” “tormentor of their days,” and “descendant of Cain.” These terms are used to make you understand how evil he is.

Why do you think it’s important to Beowulf and to his image as an epic hero that he face Grendel without a weapon? What symbolism do you see in the uselessness of human-made weapons against Grendel?
It adds to his “larger-than-life” image and suggests that it was a spiritual battle between good and evil

What details describe Grendel’s mother and her lair? What might Grendel’s mother represent for the Anglo-Saxons?
Her lair is deep underwater in a building with a high arch and an ancient sword mounted on the wall. Grendel’s mother is described as a “she-wolf” and “Hell-bride” and her claws are often mentioned. They may be a representation of social disorder.

A hoarded treasure in Old English literature is usually a symbol of spiritual death or damnation. How does this fact add significance to Beowulf’s last fight with the dragon?
The treasure was buried with Beowulf’s ashes, possibly signifying the destruction of Beowulf’s people.

What details does the poet use to describe the dragon? Keeping those details in mind, explain what the dragon might symbolize as Beowulf’s final foe.
The dragon is described as a serpent being coiled and scaly. He can symbolize the devil, Satan, or evil itself.

Given what you know about the structure of Anglo-Saxon society, explain what is especially ominous about the behavior of Beowulf’s men during the final battle. What does it suggest about the future of the kingdom?
Society was built upon the loyalty of a lord or protector. His men left him in panic which might foreshadow the end of the Anglo-Saxon period.

(Anglo-Saxon era was 449-1066. Beowulf was recorded about 700-750 AD.)

The epic closes on a somber, elegiac note — a note of mourning. What words or images contribute to this tone?
Mourning, distraught, sorrow

Epic poetry usually embodies the attitudes and ideals of an entire culture. What values of Anglo-Saxon society does Beowulf reveal? What universal themes does it also reveal? Use specific examples from the poem to support your answer.
It reveals the triumphs of good versus evil, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and achievement of fame through good deeds.

Beowulf is the archetype of the dragon slayer, the hero who faces death in order to save a threatened community. Does Beowulf remind you of any heroes in real life, in fiction, or in the movies today? What characteristics do the heroes share?
Beowulf shares characteristics of courage, loyalty, strength, and leadership with most heroes in real life and fiction.

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