Good vs. Evil in Beowulf
When Albert Einstein was ten years old, his philosophy teacher said to him that god was evil because if god created everything in the world, he also created the evil. All student kept silence except Albert Einstein. He instead stood up and asked whether cold exists. The teacher said yes in laughter. Albert said no, because according to laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality of absence of heat. Then he asked teacher whether darkness exists. The teacher said of course yes. Albert said darkness does not exist either because it is in reality of the absence of light. Then he told the teacher that evil does not exist. As it is just like cold and darkness, evil is lack of faith. Good and evil are two faces of the same coin. In order for one to be identified, the existence of the other must also be accepted. In other words, good or evil, cannot exist individually. By reading the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, masters the depiction and symbolism of good and evil forces.
Beowulf, who is the main character in this poem, embodies all the characteristics that a hero should have, and displays a variety of things that the Anglo-Saxon people valued. Bravery, loyalty, confidence, strength, all those things are expressed both in physical and mental. He is the archetypal hero, and not only does he fight for good, but he represents it as well. When Boewulf arrives at Heorot, Unferth, Ecglafs son, jealous of Boewulfs renowned bravery and fame, accuses Beowulf of vanity and boastful pride. He tells of a dangerous swimming match Beowulf had with his friend, Brecca. The two young warriors swam side by side for seven nights in the ocean, were separated, and Brecca won. Unferth says he thinks Beowulfs luck will change with Grendel. Beowulf laughs off Unferths attack, calling him friend generously, and proclaiming: Well, friend Unferth, you have had your say about Breca and me Through my own hands, the fury of battle had finished off the sea-beast (Line 530-558). Beowulf brushes away Unferths words with his pride, claiming he and Brecca were young and overzealous. Beowulf boasts how he killed a fierce monster in the sea with his sword: attacked by a whole host of monsters in the ocean, he fought them off and killed nine sea-monsters until he reached land.
For Beowulf to signify good, there must be a contrasting evil to complete the balance. The demo Grendel and his mother are those evils. The mere look of them leaves you with an impression of fear and sin. He strode quickly across the inlaid floor, snarling and fierce: His eyes gleamed in darkness, burned with a gruesome light.(Line 724-732). On the other hand, Grendels mother is described as more powerful and atrocious. As cited in the poem: Her onslaught was less only by as much as an amazon warriors strength is less than an armed man there was little thought of helmets or woven mail when they woke in terror(Line 1282-1291). Grendel's and his mother completely define what a typical evil is and how horror the evil can be.
As is the case with most heroes, the conflict between Beowulf and monsters symbolize the contest between forces of good and evil. In Beowulfs bloody battle against Grendel, his mother and the dragon, the first battle against Grendel reaches its climax. At the beginning of this part in poem, Grendel, with full angers, bursts into Heorot. He tears the door off its hinges with his bare hands. Facing the Geatish warrior, Grendel kills thirty men, then confronts to Beowulf. Beowulf observes his weakness and finds a good opportunity, griping Grendels arm with greater strength than he knew possible and rips it off its socket. Since huge pain and wound that torment Grendel, he finally died. In the poem, the poet writes the monsters whole body was in pain; a tremendous wound appeared on his shoulder. Sinews split and the bone-lapping burst. Beowulf was granted the glory of winning; Grendel was driven under the fen-banks, fatally hurt, to his desolate lair (Line 815-820). The poet choose to put more words on Grendels struggling in the battle rather than on Beowulf, which emphasizing the fear and pain that Beowulf conflicts with the demon. This narrative technique makes Beowulf seem even more heroic. Grendel, a horrific beast, a large and distorted creature in that era, is powerful and unbeatable. Grendels evil is described not only at the beginning that how easily he kills thirty warriors, but also even after he gets hurt by Beowulf, his sound terrifies all who hear it. Beowulfs men heroically hack at the demon, but no weapon on earth is capable of harming Grendel. However, such a monster, which seems no one can defeat him, is killed by Beowulf eventually. Grendels supernatural monstrousness makes Beowulfs conquest of him all the more impressive.
The second fight between Beowulf and Grendels mother happens in a lake which has a magical quality. As what poet writes: "The water was infested with all kinds of reptiles. There were writhing sea-dragons and monsters slouching on slopes by the cliff, serpents and wild things such as those that often surface at dawn to roam the sail-road and doom the voyage."(Line 1426-1429) The water burns and even the animals seem to be afraid of the water there. In this part, the poet put a lot of words to describe Grendel's mother's horrible place in order to emphasize her evil. Beowulf, however, does not hesitate. He blows his battle horn and jumps in the lake to find Grendel's mother. When Grendel's mother senses his approach, she lunges at him and clutches him in her grip. She drags Beowulf to her court, while a mass of sea-monsters claws and bites at him. Her evil power torments Beowulf. Beowulf wields Hrunting, the sword from Unferth, and lashes at Grendel's mother's head even though he is unable to pierce her skin. At last, Beowulf notices a sword hanging on the wall. He seizes the huge sword and swings it in a powerful arc. The blade slices cleanly through the Grendel's mother's neck, and she falls dead to the floor. Beowulf's strength and bravery defeat Grendel's mother's evil. And he succeeds in bring victory back to the King.
"There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast." (Charles Dickens). In the poem "Beowulf", the hero travels far and wide, challenging himself to destroy devils for humankind. He puts himself in harm's way for the benefit of others. A true hero is embodied completely in Beowulf. In Germanic and Anglo-Saxon perceptions, Grendel, Grendels mother and the dragon are chosen as symbols of evil that brings misfortune and disaster. However, due to the fact that good and evil must coexist, there will always be right and wrong, and lights will always eliminate shadows in the end.