The epic poem “Beowulf”¯ is fairly called a national treasure by the scholars studying and analyzing this literary heritage dating back to the ancient history which is rich in events and heroic deeds. This poem is rather mysterious and till now it awakes deep interest but unfortunately not much is known about its creation to a contemporary even its author is unknown. Scholars still argue about the century of its appearing in the written form; first it appeared as an oral poem, passed on from one singer to another. This poem is a reflection of times long before the Angles and Saxons came and it obviously makes the reader feel the spirit of the epoch, the frames and feelings of the characters described.
“Beowulf”¯ naturally contains all the characteristic features of the historic period; it is composed in Old English which considerably differs from the present one. One more fact that influenced the poem is the belief of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, who were pagans, they had special feasts and amusements, preferred righteousness combined with horror. Being brave and martial themselves, they needed some object of superiority to admire it and follow its example. Under these circumstances there appeared Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero in English literature, a brave warrior who is ready to sacrifice his life for the benefit of his people, for their welfare and prosperity.
The idea that the main hero risks his life for his own glory, for the quite life of the Danes runs through the whole epic poem. Beowulf is capable of setting the Danes free from the sea-monster, grim a greedy, and strived to destroy Heorot. Grendel tortured the people and due to the enormous strength Beowulf managed to kill the monstrous creature. The same is done with “devil-shaped”¯ (Section XX 9) Grendel’s mother who tries to take vengeance on Beowulf, about whom it is written that “Famed was this Beowulf: far flew the boast of him, son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands”¯ (Prelude 18). He becomes the King of the Jutes and reigns for fifty years. Then Beowulf has to test his strength by fighting with a dragon, though he is no longer a young knight. In ferocious battle the dragon is killed but Beowulf also perishes this time. Death is said to be more pleasant to every earl man than infamous life is. A memorial built by his people is visible from afar and reminds everybody of the glorious life of the hero.
People at that time believed in monsters and evil forces on the whole and victory over the dragon symbolized the triumph of the good. Beowulf is a great example, an embodiment of courage and power, justice and altruism. In the epic poem there is no clear differentiation between the historical events and fantastic elements more characteristic for fairy tales and fantasy. Beowulf shows reader what does the matter of valor mean and though he dies, there is no sadness as life goes on and history waits for new challenge and new heroes capable of withstanding evil in all its manifestations.
“Beowulf”¯ is immortal and will always remain the work which touches upon burning problems of moral values, of friendship and mutual help. It is reasonably read by people of all ages and influenced the composition of a classical music piece, writing of a novel and film staging.