Tolkien's Essay 'Beowulf: The Monsters And The Critics'

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In his famous essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and The Critics,” Professor Tolkien remarks about the Beowulf poem that “it is a poem by a learned man writing of old times, who looking back at the heroism and sorrow feels in them something permanent and something symbolical.” The Beowulf poet uses an elegiac tone in the poem looking back at the great times of the past. The poet’s attitude toward his heroic story seems to be that even though the old times were great, they were not without flaws. The notions of strength, power, and wealth derived both the greatness and the flaws of the old heroic age as described in the poem. The Poet seems to be celebrating the warrior culture of old times but at the same time critiquing its limits. Even though…show more content…
He says, “the Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.” In the first few lines of Beowulf, the poet immediately make courage and strength the ultimate forms of greatness which could be found in the past. The most important thing that the Spear-Danes are celebrated for is their bravery and heroism. In the story, all great things that happen are followed with downfalls. Beowulf begins with the description of an orphan, Shield Sheafson, who was able to secure the respect and support and earn his name as a warrior king of the Danish people. Shield description as a “scourge of many tribes, a wrecker of mean-benches, rampaging among foes,” gives a clear image as to what kind of a person was seen as being courageous and thus great in the old days. When matters are going well in the story and the Danes are content with Shield as their leader, inevitable death seizes the King. The poet gives the impression that the old times and the people that lived then were great, yet, he emphasises though the remarks on Shields funeral, that they were not without flaws. Despite the fact that Shield was a mighty king, he eventually died leaving his clan without his

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