Now let's consider Beowulf's leadership. Beowulf ruled the Geat people for 50 years before he died after defeating the dragon. Beowulf does not give much insight into the protagonists' qualities as a leader or his specific actions while king. Nevertheless, the author reveals that his people were extremely sorrowful at his death, and they repeatedly declared that he was a good king. But perhaps Beowulf's virtues as a leader are not so cut-and-dried, for Beowulf's death left the Geat people in dire straits.
During Beowulf's fight with the dragon, only one of his hand-picked warriors--the young Wiglaf--did not flee in terror. Could this indicate that Beowulf--relying on his own strength as a warrior--had done a poor job of training his mean to be valiant warriors themselves?
Moreover, following his lord's death, Wiglaf lamented that the Frisians, Franks, and Swedes would probably now invade and conquer the Geats. Beowulf had to have known that his death would embolden the Geats' foes, yet he chose to ignore the risk of death and fight the dragon anyway. Was he being a heroic leader by fighting the dragon himself instead of sending in his men, or was recklessly pursuing his own glory at the expense of his kingdom's future?
A sample thesis for this topic could be as follows:
Although Beowulf was valiant warrior, he was a poor leader because he put his own glory before the well-being of his kingdom.
1. Discuss how the importance of lineage, as seen in Beowulf, has changed in modern culture. Cite specific examples of cases where lineage is still discussed and considered important today—i.e., the few remaining royal families, members of families with long histories of political involvement, and children of notorious or celebrated people. Also note ways in which lineage has, and unfortunately, continues to be used against people in modern culture.
2. Beowulf comes to the Danes to assist Hrothgar’s men in the defeat of Grendel. Yet it has been 12 years since Grendel’s last attack on Herot. Discuss what might have happened during these 12 years to keep Grendel’s need for vengeance alive, and why a young leader brought 14 men across the sea to assist in the battle.
1. Despite the fact that Beowulf is a boastful and confident young man, he has a history of keeping his promises. Discuss how this is evidenced in this section of the poem.
2. When Beowulf first arrives at Herot, Unferth tells the story of Beowulf’s swimming contest with Brecca; then Beowulf gives his version of the same contest. How do you account for each of the differences in Unferth and Beowulf’s versions of this contest?
1. At the second feast, poetry is sung; each poem seems to have a specific moral for the listeners, rather than just entertainment. What are the lessons inherent in the songs of Siegmund and Finn?
2. Hrothgar, an older king, relies upon Beowulf, a young warrior, to save his country. While Hrothgar is considered a good and fair king, Beowulf is something of a legend already. How does the poem indicate, specifically, that each respects the other’s accomplishments?
1. Discuss the specifics of how and why Unferth’s opinion of Beowulf changes after his defeat of Grendel and Grendel’s mother, and Unferth’s loan of a sword to Beowulf.
2. Explain how Grendel’s mother’s actions are both similar and dissimilar to those of a grieving human mother, had her child been murdered.
1. Discuss the lesson of Hermod’s story, and the “message” his death would give the audience.
2. Although Hrunting...
(The entire section is 980 words.)