Anglo-Saxon Ideals In Beowulf By Martin Luther King

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Martin Luther King Jr., minister and leader of the african-american civil rights movement, stated “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Such a sentiment parallels the values held by English Anglo-Saxon culture. The Anglo-Saxons shared a love of many different character traits, and further, projected these ideals on to the main characters of their literary works. Beowulf, protagonist of the epic Beowulf, is no different. His prominent characteristics are clearly representative of Anglo-Saxon ideals, as he is the hero in the tale. Thus, Beowulf’s traits most valued by Anglo-Saxon culture are boldness, honor, and military prowess.…show more content…
Throughout the epic, he refuses to capitulate in times of battle, and fights in a manner as unorthodox as it is dangerous. Upon arrival at the sepulchral lair of Grendel’s mother, for example, Beowulf notices that her home is an uncharted, mysterious, swamp. Rather than desist from the attack, he plunges deep down into the abyss, unsure of his fate. The subsequent fight which ensues further demonstrates his heroic nature. His sword, gifted to him by Unferth, fails him; the text states, “But he soon found / his battle-torch extinguished: the shining blade / refused to bite” (1522-1524). What was meant to be an infallible weapon did absolutely no damage to the monster. Once again, rather than retreat or surrender, Beowulf acts in a very daring manner: he continues the battle with his bare hands, determined to slay the “swamp-thing from hell” (1518). Contrary to what the average warrior would do, Beowulf fights without the aid of a weapon; he “[relies] / on the might of his arm” (1534-1535) and wins. Granted, his victory was won through the use of a sword only he could wield in battle, one that he discovered in the swamp, the fact that Beowulf had the audacity to attempt to surmount such a formidable opponent without a weapon shows his truly gallant…show more content…
His very reason for entering Geatland is to do what he does best - fight. He aims to attack and kill Grendel, the monster who had terrorized geatland for years. Beowulf boasts of his military dexterity early in the epic, and as revealed later on, is justified in doing so. He slays Grendel in the most heroic of fashions: after a prolonged, arduous battle with the beast, Beowulf rips his arm off, or as he words it, “[Grendel] struggled fiercely / and broke and ran...he left his hand / and arm and shoulder to show he had been there” (968-971). Such a victory is especially meritorious, as all prior attempts to eliminate Grendel, such as those by Unferth, had failed. Beowulf was also able to kill Grendel’s vengeance-seeking mother in the aforementioned battle at the swamp. Furthermore, he is even able to fight well when mortally wounded. In Beowulf’s final fight, the dragon “clamp[s] sharp fangs / into [Beowulf’s] neck. [His] body / ran wet with his life-blood: it came welling out” (2691-2693). Regardless of such a wound, with assistance from the courageous Wiglaf, Beowulf successfully delivers the final blow to the dragon, thus winning his last battle. In each respective fight that occurs within the epic, Beowulf proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he possesses the skills necessary to conduct himself competently in

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