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Understanding Anglo-saxon Approaches The Category of The Human in Beowulf and The Biblical Poem Judith

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In chronological order, Beowulf’s most important plot points can be broken down into four crucial events: Beowulf’s weaponless battle with Grendel, Beowulf’s vindictive battle with Grendel’s mother, the stealing of the Dragon’s goblet, and ultimately, Beowulf’s fatal encounter with the Dragon. These four fundamental events in Beowulf contribute greatly in the shaping of an epic poem, as they typically consist of a valiant hero, some sort of contact or conflict with extraterrestrial or other-worldly beings, as well as references to heaven or hell.

In this long poem, these demonic or hellish elements typical to this genre are channeled through Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and The Dragon. As Beowulf encounters battle after battle with each of these creatures, the conflict strikes with greater intensity. The first battle that takes place is between Grendel and Beowulf, in which Beowulf decides that he will defeat Grendel without the use of weapons. Then, seeking revenge, Grendel’s mother sets out to retrieve her sons talon and kills Aeschere. With a vindictive mindset, Beowulf set out to seek revenge for the killing of Aeschere; he locates and kills Grendel’s mother, and this time he uses an infallible sword. Around fifty years later, a slave steals a goblet from the Dragons den, and it does not go unnoticed by the treasures keeper. This event is important because it is what sets off the Dragons cindering anger. Finally, Beowulf’s intense battle with the dragon concludes with the death of both Beowulf and the creature, as well as the gain of a lump sum of treasure for his people. This battle was fought with a sword in a fiery fury.

Through in-depth analyzation, I noticed a trend within Beowulf’s character development: as the hero ages, naturally, he weakens physically. However, his mental perseverance only gets stronger with age, as he is more than willing and eager to take on and slay the dragon. I feel as though Beowulf can also be classified as a tragedy. Throughout history, tragedies highlight the main hero’s tragic flaw, and in Beowulf’s case, his tragic flaw can be interpreted as his ego. Beowulf’s battle with the venom-filled Dragon was driven partially by his loyalty to protecting his people, but also by the nobility and courage that was simply expected of him, thus this expectation results in Beowulf’s egotistical and rather tragic/fatal flaw.

The Biblical poem Judith represents the categories of “us” and “them” as well as “hero” and “enemy” through her sacrificial destiny: fighting the enemy for the greater good of her people. Individually Judith represents the “hero” and King Holofernes represents the “enemy.” Together, Judith and her people represent “us” and King Holofernes and his warriors represents “them.” These categories began to form once King Holofernes drunkenly commanded that his warriors fetch women and bring them to his bedroom. Judith sacrificed her safety by visiting King Holofernes, knowing that he was a lustful and unjust man. Judith called upon the Lord, asking if she could be granted permission to kill the evil man; immediately after asking and praying, she felt a burst of spirit and strength; she beheaded him. All of the women entrapped by his warriors fled, and both men and women alike rejoiced in his death.

Considering both Beowulf and the Biblical poem Judith are written from the same book, both heroes tend to have very similar destinies: they both must protect and sacrifice for their people or else their lands will be destroyed. Beowulf and Judith both undoubtedly accept their predestined fate and bravely endure the battles set before them. Although the villains presented in the two texts are much different from each other, King Holofernes from Judith, as well as Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon from Beowulf, each represent evil with demonic or hellish references that the heroes must overcome with the help of God through battle. In a sense, this ongoing clash of good versus evil creates the framework for the overall concept of “us” and “them.” in both texts.

After analyzation and gaining inspiration from these two poems, I can build a deeper understanding of how Anglo-Saxon culture approaches the category of the human. I am lead to believe that predestined humans chosen by God exist among regular humans, and that they are expected to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of their people and land. In Anglo-Saxon culture, I would not be surprised if humans were viewed as divine envoys for God to utilize as messengers or channels for Him to complete earthly duties. With references to religion sprinkled throughout Beowulf and Judith, it is easy to believe that Anglo-Saxon culture believed that God was divinely intertwined in their lives.

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Understanding Anglo-Saxon Approaches The Category Of The Human In Beowulf And The Biblical Poem Judith. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from
“Understanding Anglo-Saxon Approaches The Category Of The Human In Beowulf And The Biblical Poem Judith.” GradesFixer, 13 Sept. 2019,
Understanding Anglo-Saxon Approaches The Category Of The Human In Beowulf And The Biblical Poem Judith. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 Jul. 2022].
Understanding Anglo-Saxon Approaches The Category Of The Human In Beowulf And The Biblical Poem Judith [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Sept 13 [cited 2022 Jul 7]. Available from:
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