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Less direct references include frequent acknowledgement by characters in the poem that their lives are in the hands of God, who determines their destiny and who will reward or punish them for their deeds.Additionally, celebrates those who exhibit friendship, self-sacrifice, concern for their community, and generosity, virtues shared by Germanic peoples and by the Christians who converted them.Evidently, these settings, along with others, make the stories come alive for the readers.
This is the great lesson of Beowulf’s life, and it is brought home to readers by the contrasts the poet sets up between Beowulf’s actions and those of many of the other leaders described in the poem.
At three points in the narrative, the stories of Norse rulers and fighting men are highlighted: first in the opening prologue; again by the scop, or poet, at the banquet given by Hrothgar to honor Beowulf after he has slain Grendel; and once more in the section that follows Beowulf’s return to his homeland.
Beowulf does not believe he can conquer these forces on his own; rather, he recognizes that he will succeed only as long as God allows him to do so.
He also knows that he will eventually die, and he accepts that knowledge stoically.
In all three instances, one reads of leaders who take vengeance on their neighbors and even on their own kinsmen, perpetuating blood feuds that lead to social unrest.
By contrast, Beowulf is presented always as a peacemaker—albeit of a distinctly medieval character.The anonymous author of the poem convinces us through the masterful use of various literary elements that emphasize its meaning and message.Conflict, imagery and setting are three literary elements that contribute to the effectiveness of the poem.He fights against the monsters not to gain personal favor but to first to rid Hrothgar’s kingdom of the monsters menacing it, and then to save his own people from the threat of the dragon.The audiences that would have listened to the poem in the eleventh century would have accepted the notion that violent behavior was compatible with Christian principles.All people, even heroes, have to face the inevitable fact that death awaits them at the time God has chosen to call them.While it would be unwise to make specific links between Beowulf and Christ, there is one parallel that can be seen in the poem; both are aware of their mission to take responsibility for and act with love toward their fellow men and women.Throughout the narrative, he measures his success by his ability to make life better for those he serves.The idea of fatalism that permeated northern European religions is transformed into a version of divine providence that stresses God’s control over human events.In the Danish kingdom Beowulf puts his own life at risk to relieve Hrothgar’s people from the scourge of the monster that has been threatening their safety.Similarly, when he has become king of the Geats, he takes it on himself to lead a band of warriors in combat against the dragon to retrieve the treasure that will benefit his people once it is rescued from the serpent’s clutches.