Beowulf / Grendel Comparison Beowulf Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Heaney's translation may seem a little more indirect since it is in verse, and given from an objective perspective but the message stays the same in both texts. Thus, Beowulf replies to Unferth's challenge by giving this time his own account of his sea experiences and the way in which he had defeated all the monsters. First of all, in both texts Beowulf begins by returning the mockery and telling Unferth that he has only spoken thus because he was under the influence of the drinks he had that night. At this point, there is a very important element that is mentioned only in Heaney's version of the episode: Beowulf declares he has been kept safe against all odds because of the golden armor he was wearing: "My armor helped me hold out/my hard ringed chain mail, hand forged and linked, / a fine close fitting filigree of gold / kept me safe when some ocean creature pulled me to the bottom."(Heaney) as it is well-known, at the times when the legend was written, the golden armor was a sign that a hero was a chosen being, protected by divine forces. In Gardner's text, the implication is similar, since Beowulf remarks that fate itself preserved him from perishing, but there is no mention of the symbolic golden armor.

The main point of the fragment comes at the end, when Beowulf makes a definite impression on the audience with his speech. Thus, if Unferth attempted to make Beowulf seem only a boastful character, it is clear now that the hero is in fact a chosen person, whose actions have been guided by a superior force. Thus, Beowulf states that he may seem indeed boastful, but that he in fact only tells the truth and that his feats are truly extraordinary. In Heaney's translation, Beowulf draws the attention of the audience that the very madness he has been accused of by Unferth is the sign of the undaunted courage of the hero who knows that fate has already marked him and that he is on a sacred mission to do good and save the men from evil:

Often, for undaunted courage, / fate spares the man it has not already marked. However it occurred, my sword had killed / nine sea monsters. Such night dangers / and hard ordeals I have never heard of / nor of a man more desolate in surging waves."(Heaney) Here, the texts converge, and in Gardner's version, Beowulf draws a similar conclusion: "Fate often enough will spare a man if his courage holds."(Gardner) Thus, Beowulf emphasizes that his glory resides both in the fact that he is obviously a chosen hero, and in the fact that, as opposed to the other thanes in the hall, he has not only proven his valor and strength but he has actually fought against evil and delivered the people from nine dreadful monsters. The others, as Beowulf notices, have only waged wars against their own kin, and therefore they will be damned: "You killed your own kith and kin, / so for all your cleverness and quick tongue/you will suffer damnation in the depths of hell"(Heaney) Towards the end, Gardner's translation brings a few more additional commentaries to the text: the atmosphere in the hall has changed during Beowulf's speech and no one is laughing anymore: "Now the Danes weren't laughing. The stranger said it all so carefully, so softly, that it was impossible to laugh. He believed every word he said."(Gardner) understood at last the look in his eyes. He was insane."(Gardner) the sudden silence is meant to describe the effect that Beowulf's words have on the others, and to emphasize the fact that he is a sacred person. Moreover, Gardner describes Beowulf's attitude, underlying his solemnity and superior detachment: "Even so, I wasn't prepared for what came next. Nobody was. Solemn, humorless despite the ironic smile, he suddenly cut deep- yet with the same mildness, the same almost inhuman indifference except for the pale flash of fire in his eyes."(Gardner)

Thus, the text differ a little when analyzed in detail, but the basic message is the same: Beowulf is a chosen hero, protected by the divinity, and who came on a sacred mission to deliver people from the evil.

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