Beowulf Influence On Society

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Literature has maintained a strong influence on society and its perceptions of heroes for centuries. In consequence, the time period in which a literary work is written reveals much about that society’s ideal. For example, the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, illustrates the deeds of a heroic knight and reflects the values of his community. Throughout the poem, Beowulf displays commendable behavior by saving another kingdom, defeating three villains, and maintaining allegiance to the lord and his people. Even though a millennium has passed since the release of this epic, heroes today display characteristics similar to those of Beowulf. Yusra Mardini, for instance, is a Syrian teenager who, while escaping her war-torn…show more content…
After Beowulf arrives at the Danes’ land, he meets Unferth, a thane of King Hrothgar, who challenges Beowulf by saying, “‘No matter, therefore, how you may have fared in every bout and battle until now, this time you’ll be worsted; no one has ever outlasted an entire night against Grendel’” (Heaney 525-528). Unferth’s envy motivates him to challenge Beowulf by convincing him that he cannot defeat the man-monster, Grendel. However, Beowulf ends up severing the beast’s arm off, committing a feat others thought was impossible. The hero displays his courage and strength by fighting a murderous creature unarmed and triumphantly winning. Similarly, Yusra Mardini did what others thought was impossible by pulling a full dinghy for three and a half hours and managing to survive. She recalls, “‘It was three and half hours in cold water. Your body is almost like … done. I don’t know if I can describe that’” (Saul). Mardini heroically jumps into the sea to stop the boat from capsizing and to save the powerless, innocent refugees, displaying her bravery. The boat eventually made it safely to Lesbos, a Greek island, and the refugees, Mardini included, reached Germany after weeks of suffering. Even though she is considered a child, the hero performs a deed that many adults do not have the boldness to even think of committing. As can be seen, both heroes possess the quality of…show more content…
In particular, Beowulf’s action of traveling to the land of the Danes to save them from Grendel and his mother is a noble act. However, the motive of this decision is fueled by the hero’s desire for greed, fame, and power. After returning from his quest, Beowulf informs his king, Hygelac, “‘Thus the king acted with due custom. I was paid and recompensed completely, given full measure and the freedom to choose from Hrothgar's treasures by Hrothgar himself’” (Heaney 2144-2149). Therefore, it can not be denied that Beowulf is selfless for facing three deadly beasts, but it should also be acknowledged that self-interest plays a major role in this case. Some might consider him completely selfish for boasting a lot about his accomplishments, but it should be taken into account that this was part of the Anglo-Saxon culture. It is strictly Beowulf’s reasoning behind his actions that makes him a bit selfish, but overall he is a selfless individual. Similarly, Yusra Mardini can be characterized as selfless due to the fact that she not only puts her life in danger but also amuses the innocent children while doing so. During an interview, Mardini admits, “I had to be funny whilst almost dead as they were six-year-old boys in the boat too. I had to smile because I didn’t want them to feel like we are dying or something” (Saul). In reality, few would think
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