Anglo-Saxon poetry, composed within the fifth century through the eleventh century, reflects many ideas of Anglo-Saxon culture and life. Poetry is a part of typical Anglo-Saxon culture, and is commonly passed through generations orally. Among many works of poetry lies the story of Beowulf, a tale of kings, dragons, battles, and superhuman qualities. Beowulf exhibits many characteristics, themes, and ideal traits of Anglo-Saxon poetry by the importance of weapons, the Comitatus Code, and fame after death.
According to the Anglo-Saxons, presentation of weapons was very important when it came to warriors. A warrior with poor weaponry would have less respect than a warrior who had better weaponry. In Beowulf, the Geats greatly represent that when they come to Denmark. The watchman states as he examines Beowulf and his followers, “Out of all the men on earth, one greater/Than has come with you; no commoner carries/Such weapons, unless his appearance, and his beauty/Are both lies. ” (248-250). This shows great importance because that showed that Beowulf was the epic hero in this novel.
Along with presentation, history is very important to the Anglo-Saxons. Later in the book when Unferth (warrior of Hrothgar, jealous of Beowulf) gives Beowulf Hrunting, “And Unferth helped him, Hrothgar’s courtier/Lent him a famous weapon, a fine,/Hilted old sword named Hrunting. ” (1455-1457), it shows that Unferth finally approves of Beowulf’s strength and bravery. This theme reflects the Anglo-Saxon values by showing the depth of 8th century weapons. The phrase “Comitatus” was really important in Anglo-Saxon culture and is demonstrated a lot in Anglo-Saxon texts.
The Comitatus Code is the symbol for loyalty; Comitatus means fellowship or an allegiance between a king and his followers. It was so important because these men were constantly protecting their people from outside attacks and invasions and the code was the bond that held these men together and that was what they lived for. In Beowulf, when Beowulf was fighting against the dragon, and all of his men ran into the forest, Wiglaf stayed and fought beside his king. “His name was Wiglaf, he was Wexstan’s son/And a good soldier; his family had been Swedish,/Once.
Watching Beowulf, he could see/How his king was suffering, burning. Remembering/Everything his lord and cousin had given him,/Armor and gold and the great estates/Wexstan’s family enjoyed, Wiglaf’s/Mind was made up; he raised his yellow/Shield and drew his sword. ” (2602-2610). And for that, Beowulf decided that he was worthy and loyal enough to become king. How is one remembered after death? In Beowulf, it is believed that the only way for a warrior to be remembered after death is by achievement of fame and glory, and for the tales of his great works to be told by bards in halls.
The ultimate goal is for the stories to be told for generations to come. Beowulf makes sure that everything he does will only aid him in obtaining fame and glory. This is seen clearly when Beowulf is about to fight Grendel. Beowulf explains,”My lord Higlac/Might think less of me if I let my sword/Go where my feet were afraid to. ” (435-437), which shows that he indeed cares about people’s thoughts of him. It would have been easier to use weapons against Grendel, but he had to make sure that the battle would be remembered for ages.
This epic reflects the values many Anglo-Saxon cultures value as it portrays it’s characters standing up for their nation and fighting for justice. Because people are living in a culture that has Anglo-Saxon roots, we too share similar values. In the epic, characters such as Beowulf are seen heroic and brave. For him, having victories in so many battles and being a just and fair king to the Geats and Wiglaf for standing by Beowulf even when all the other warriors retreated. With the positive outlook on these characters, the novel implies to the reader to model themselves after their honorable characteristics.