Reflecting on Beowulf

For class, today (9/14/21) we were asked to read the last third of Beowulf. In high school, I was asked to read Beowulf as well but never really thought much of its other meanings/ideas until this course. Beowulf is full of twists and turns, particularly a bunch in the last third of it. This leading us to have very intense and extensive discussions during each class time dealing with topics such as sex/sexuality, religion, politics, and many others and how they can relate to Beowulf.

During today’s particular discussion one thing we spoke about caught my attention a bit more was one of my peers brought the question to the table today “is Beowulf a martyr”. We spoke of this idea for quite some time today since most seemed to have some input on the subject. Personally, I had never really thought about Beowulf in this “new light”/idea of who is being considered a potential martyr. I gave myself a quick refresher in class as to what exactly a martyr can be as well to make sure. After a quick search bar find and listing to my peer’s thoughts and ideas the way I would put the word martyr into basic terms is “someone who causes/caused distress or someone who has been affected by it”. We see constant distresses throughout the story of Beowulf whether he or the characters surrounding him are dealing with what so ever…

Everything I have got from the reading and particularly the last third, in my opinion, I can see Beowulf being considered a martyr. from the beginning, we have seen Beowulf deal with struggles from an even younger age. Also though Beowulf has had his fair share of causing pain to others as well. By the end, we see Beowulf is faced with many different struggles like before, but he’s throwing his life on the line and risking it for what he had thought needed to be done. There definitely is a giant argument here as to whether or not Beowulf is a martyr… A quote I’m choosing to share was the following “The ancient hoard had changed ownership now, bought by Beowulf’s blood” (122 lines 243-244). The way I interpreted this qoute was becuase of beowulfs sacrifice they could propure now. I’m not really sure if that makes sense the way I thought it sounded in my head but there is 100% an argument to be made whether Beowulf can be considered a hoarder or not.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on Beowulf

  1. I think the question of Beowulf being a martyr is super interesting. My take is that Beowulf was a martyr in life, but not in death. (I know thats not how martyrdom works, but the idea of it at least.) In life we see Beowulf make the “sacrifice” of being king, which he super didn’t want to do, “never surrendering/his reluctance to become the ruler” (pg 103). As a ruler he kept his kingdom safe and prosperous. However, in death, we see other characters lamenting about how his death now means death and destruction for their community (thinking specifically about the wailing woman at the end.) I think this reaction to his death shows that Beowulf did not become a martyr after dying, since he left his kingdom feeling vulnerable, scared, and not providing a light in the dark.

  2. The question on if Beowulf is a martyr was interesting and I didn’t look at it like that. The lines you chose from the reading help with your post and what you’re saying. You put a lot of detail into your post, and now that I think about it, I think I agree with a lot of this stuff. Keep up the good work.

  3. “Bought by Beowulf’s blood” is an interesting phrase. You could push this question even further: Is Beowulf a *Christian* martyr? As in, does his martyrdom take on Christ-like connotations? It could fit the syncretic nature of religion in the piece, if so.

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