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Day by day, man must wrestle with the mind. Often, the body and mind have different ideas of what should be done. Beowulf, being a hero, tried to balance the two. But obviously, mortal man makes mistakes. Pride, greed, cowardice, selfishness and betrayal are all sinful traits that come into play when man wrestles with his inner self.
Beowulf had many physical trials. He fought three monsters: Grendel, Grendelís mother and the dragon. But more interesting are the fights we could not see; his inner fights with himself. Beowulf strove to be a sin‑free man, but human nature took over occasionally. Beowulf, wrestled with himself over issues of pride many times. He never succumbed, though. When he called Unferth a drunk and explained what really happened in the swimming match with Breca, he could easily have pridefully bragged about saving Breca. Instead, he told of the monsters he had slain, and then that he had gone back for Breca. He was not displaying pride in himself. Rescuing Breca seemed natural, so he did it.
Greed happens to be one of the most common motives in many murder cases today. Beowulf, unlike many men of the time, was very giving with his fortunes. He was never stingy with the little wealth he accumulated. After defeating Grendel and put a stop to his wreaking havoc in Heorot, the King gave him armor and horses. When he returned to Geatland, he gave all but one horse to his king and queen. He also gave away most of the armor. His other men kept their riches to themselves. They are guilty of greed.
One must contemplate whether fear and cowardice increase with age. As evidence to that theory, view Beowulfís behavior at the time of Grendelís attack on Heorot. Beowulf sailed to the rescue with fourteen of his best men! But when the dragon attacked his own home, he was scared and he only took a few men who were not fully capable to assist him. In that instance, he is guilty of being a coward. He didnít trust his own strength and ability to defeat the monster. But he still came through and fought a fire breathing dragon at the age of 90. The men he took with him to fight the dragon were extreme cowards. All but Wiglaf ran away when their lord needed them.
In order to be capable of betrayal, one must also be selfish. There were many times that Beowulf could have been selfish and taken the treasures the King of Heorot gave him and betrayed him by letting them deal with Grendelís mom. But he knew that since he had provoked Grendelís mothers rage...it was his job to the town of it.
Its quite possible to believe that Beowulfís inner strength is more than that of his outer strength. Odd though it may seem, seeing as how he has the strength of thirty men on each of his hands. Beowulf wrestled with his inner self many times to avoid being sinful. Through it all, he only succumbed to one thing, cowardice. Basically, he didnít trust himself. Thatís what made him a coward. He didnít have faith in his own abilities as a warrior. He doubted. He can be forgiven for his one fault, when he has done so many other great things and overcome so much.
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Beowulf, Geats, Anglo-Saxon paganism, English folklore, English-language films, The Dragon, Unfer, Grendel, Breca the Bronding, Wiglaf, Heorot, Hrothgar
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