Friday, July 19, 2019
Epic of Beowulf :: Epic of Beowulf Essays
As the welcoming celebration for Beowulf goes on, Unferth begins to ridicule Beowulf about his swimming competition with Breca. Unferth is jealous and feels threatened by Beowulf " for he would not allow that any other man of middle-earth should ever achieve more glory under the heavens than himself." (Norton p. 33) Unferth is a very peculiar character. Although he has committed the horrific crime of killing his brother(s), he is privileged enough to sit at the feet of the king, a very respected position. His sin,an enormous violation of the comitatus, suggests that there is something wrong in Hrothgar's kingdom and perhaps helps to foreshadow its destruction. Ultimately, it will be destroyed, as the text says, by a fire after " sword-hate between son-in-law and father-in-law to awaken after murderous rage." (Norton p. 28). Unferth tries to put Beowulf down by saying that Beowulf once risked his life for pride and foolish boast. He also points out that Breca has beaten Beowulf in the swimming and that he therefore expects him to lose the fight with Grendel as well. Unferth is arrogant, obnoxious and the only one who challenges Beowulf. However, later when Beowulf fights with Grendel's mother, Unferth lends him his sword. This can be seen as a noble gesture, and a redemption of Unferth for the way he has behaved. However, it can also provide further proof of Unferth's incompetence as a warrior. Because he is scared to fight himself, he passes on his sword to Beowulf. Beowulf answers Unferth's words of envy with his side of the story. He says that Unferth is drunk and obviously knows nothing about the competition. Continuing, Beowulf explains that he won the contest despite the heavy attack by sea-monsters. From this story, we see further proof of Beowulf's supernatural powers. The competition occurs during the winter in the freezing water, yet Beowulf is able to swim for five nights armed with a heavy sword, in full armor and mail . When the battle is over, Beowulf finds himself on the shore lying next to nine sea monsters that he killed with his sword and modestly attributes his victory to both courage and fate. His comment that, " Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good" (Norton p. 34) shows his belief that 'Fate' will forever govern him and aid him as long as he is courageous.